Pet Photography During a Pandemic: Dogs and Facemasks
May 27, 2020
This is the second in an ongoing series of posts I’m writing about commercial pet photography in San Francisco during the coronavirus pandemic. As a photographer it’s important for me to keep shooting no matter what but the COVID-19 stay-at-home order makes it especially challenging when I can’t go out and work the way In normally do.
We’re now officially more than two months into this city-wide shelter-in-place order. It’s only in the last ten days or so that things truly loosened up enough in San Francisco for me to feel comfortable venturing out of the house to photograph anyone besides my own animals and my wife.
Pet Photography During a Pandemic: A Personal Project
In mid-May I photographed my dog Leeloo in her bed out in the dining room where my wife, Anne, has her stay-at-home office. Anne happened to be working at the time and looking at the images I had one of those lightbulb moments. I realized that during this whole coronavirus lockdown the relationship we have with our animals is deepening even more — something I didn’t think possible. Now they’re even more integrated into our lives than ever. Bingo: personal project time!
As a someone whose bread and butter is capturing the human-animal bond in action I thought it would be interesting to challenge myself and see if that connection could still be xxxx consistently when the human half of the pair is constantly wearing a protective mask and you can’t see half their face.
Facemasks Don't Hide Smiles
I started at home with Anne and Leeloo doing things around the house where it would make sense that Anne had a facemask on: getting ready for a walk or hanging out in front of the house. Right off the bat it was pretty clear that for the human talent body language and the eyes are more than enough. Covering the mouth physically with a mask doesn’t necessarily hide an authentic smile.
Personal Project Becomes a Real One
The very next day I got a call from an agency on the east coast looking for lifestyle images of facemasked people with their dogs (irony or karma?). One of their pet healthcare clients is planning an upcoming COVID-19 related campaign and they’re not seeing much available on the stock sites. Since the authenticity really needs to be there for these images to work I decided to cast real people I know and their own animals. I stuck close to home and went with neighbors and a good friend who lives near the beach and takes his golden retriever down to the water every day.
I’m keeping the production footprint really light. For now it’s just me masked and gloved up with no assistant, a single strobe and the talent. (Or in the case of Eva, my nine-year old neighbor, and her poodle Stella we had her mom along to help chaperone and maybe take a behind-the-scene shot or two)
That’s a good thing because as of today out of the three pets and a life partner who represent my talent pool only one is still remotely interested in modeling for me. My wife, senior dog, and cat are making it very clear that I should wait for them to call me and not the other way around for any upcoming pet photoshoot needs.