Art has “rules.”
More than anything, those “rules” are guidelines for what the viewer of your art will find pleasing. Probably, the most popular guideline in photography is the “rule of thirds.”
To understand and use the rule of thirds, simply break up an image into thirds both horizontally and vertically, as seen here. The four intersection points of these lines, and the four lines themselves, are where subjects, or strong compositional lines of a photograph, can be placed to create a strong, balanced image.~ SLR Lounge
The rule of thirds, says an Adobe blogpost, “places your subject in the left or right third of an image, leaving the other two thirds more open.”
The concept is the topic for this week’s worldwide pet photographers’ blog circle.
But I’m not going to write about this old composition. Instead, I’m going to tell you about my rule of thirds when it comes to the dog-human bond and portrait sessions in Spokane and North Idaho.
My rule of thirds
Your first step is to call, text or email me and say, “I need you. You are the dog photographer for me.”
Next, we’re going to chat about you, your dog, the things you love to do together, the way your dog makes your life better. We’ll find out if you have any cool spots to hang out, walk and play. If not, we’ll go over some of my favorite locations.
Then we’ll book our date and the plan will be set in motion.
In my head, though, I have three goals for the images I’ll show you in your gallery.
- Great images of your dog alone
- Amazing shots of the two of you together in fun, casual poses I will guide you through
- Those in-between moments that you don’t even know I’m getting, the ones where we see the dog-human bond
That’s my rule of thirds.
A piece of her heart
I first met Jamie in Fall 2018 at Cannon Hill Park, a great little greenspace with a pond and these super cool stone bridges, where Erika and Joey had their session with Edgrr the Basset Hound.
I remember it so clearly. Jamie, there with her son for some fresh fall air, saw Edgrr’s session and exclaimed to Erika and Joey, “You’re doing a photo session with your dog! That’s so cool!”
She turned to me, packing up my camera, and said hello.
She told me about her pack of beagles, her crazy pack of crazy beagles, and how she’d just lost two.
We cried. We hugged.
I gave her my business card and went on my way.
It was almost another year before I heard from Jamie again, but now she was ready to book a session. And it was a busy, crazy, exhausting two-hour session in her backyard with five beagles. FIVE!
All five of them are rescues from the Washington and Area Basset Rescue group here in Spokane.
Including one little impish beagle who took the treat bag right off my waistbelt and enjoyed all the little niblets it contained … then destroyed the treat bag.
When I showed Jamie her gallery, she booked another session right away. She wanted one dedicated to her and her Sophie, a beagle mix with fewer days ahead of her than behind.
Sophie, you see, has nose cancer.
The most recent addition to the pack, she has completely stolen Jamie’s heart.
“She came into my life at a time when I needed her and she needed me,” says Jamie, who has a deep understanding of the dog-human bond. “She needed me to fight for (and fund) her health so she could live out the end of her life in a better way than it began. And I needed her to bring the joy back after losing Nick and Brando so close together.
“In our own broken way, we fixed each other. And nothing could ever make me regret her.”
And so, we met this past fall for Sophie’s own special session.
The gold and orange leaves had fallen from their branches and carpeted the park at the west end of the Plantes Ferry Sports Complex in Spokane Valley.
It was still warm but we could feel the crisp, cool air of autumn starting to descend upon us.
I set my rule of thirds in motion.
Sophie turns 14 in April. She’s still truckin’ along, although she’s getting regular nosebleeds.
Jamie says she has slowed down in the last few months.
That’s difficult to imagine with the high level of energy she had for me.
“Oh, she’s still the same ball of fire,” Jamie says with a laugh.
Jamie and Sophie together
It’s so easy to work with dog lovers.
You know there’s a difference between regular people, dog owners and dog lovers, right?
And we dog lovers, we just kind of understand each other, don’t we? Sometimes, it’s like we operate on a different emotional level.
So Jamie and I get each other.
Those special moments
I know when I get that image that’s going to make you stop your slideshow. It’s the Magic Moment.
It’s the one that makes me need to keep a box of Kleenex at my computer.
The one that makes the tears stream down my face, because you have privileged me with the special connection you have with your dog.
These are the images that remind me why I do what I do, giving dog lovers a visual representation of these precious moments we have with our best fur friends.
Jamie was over the moon when she saw her gallery. I remember sending her a sneak peek image of her hugging Sophie on the bridge.
She said she instantly became a teary mess. I knew I’d done my job.
Jamie left me a most lovely review on Google.
“Some of the images were funny and captured the hilarity that is life with Sophie. Some of the images were more quiet and serious where what I share with Sophie really came through. In those images, there is no denying what she means to me or I to her. Life always moves on and we sometimes lose the ones we love. But I’m so so thankful to Angela for creating amazing images of all of my dogs and for giving me photos to look back on that truly show what my dogs mean to me.”
The dog-human bond
I was asked recently if I have a favorite dog-related book. I sure do.
It’s For the Love of a Dog by Patricia B. McConnell, Ph.D. I was first drawn to Patricia’s blog, The Other End of the Leash, for her work in training Great Pyrenees, a breed that’s cousin to the Maremma sheepdog, Bella’s breed.
I have many dog-eared pages in my copy of For the Love of a Dog but the one piece of writing that has always held with me is at the very end.
This emotional connection between us isn’t trivial. We humans may be brilliant we may be special, but we are still connected to the rest of life. No one reminds us of that better than our dogs. … Dogs are our bridge — our connection to who we really are, and most tellingly, who we want to be.
Patricia reminds me the bond we share with our dogs is so very special. And she reminds me why the work I do is so very important.
Our dogs aren’t with us long enough, and we should honor the legacy of their love and their stories with precious images of their lives with us.
All around the circle
Woof … I hate it when I make myself cry but, dammit, when I talk about our dogs, I just get so emotional.
Our existence on this earth is all about connections. We have connections at work, with family, with friends and with our pets. Our dogs have the power to bring us all together, too, and I’ve met so many amazing dog lovers since I started down this crazy road of pet photography two years ago.
Among them are my nutty fellow photographers who are writing about the rule of thirds this week. Start with Kelly at Little White Dog Pet Photography in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.
Kelly has the word ‘beer’ in her URL, so I cannot wait to read it. At the end of her post, click the link to the next post and see where we take you.
When you find yourself back here to my version on the rule of thirds with the dog-human bond, you know you’re home.
Right where you belong.
And when you’re ready to book a session and see your incredible bond in pictures, click this little button:
A beautiful post. I’m so glad she did a session with Sophie. She’ll cherish these images.
What beautiful photos and Sophie is just adorable and they are wonderful memories. I wish I would have had the chance to do some memories with Baby RIP and I think that is why I am photographing Layla all the time out of guilt.
You’re rule of thirds is wonderful – I particularly like the piece where mention “getting the picture where the pet parent doesn’t know you’re taking the images.” This, to me, is where the magic happens. It’s where the true human-animal bond shines through. Like those of Jamie and Sophie – pure magic!
Those candid photographs – the picture where the pet parent doesn’t know you’re taking the images – are always the absolute best!
I think I will post, “please write a book” on every blog comment I make for you. Love the story!
Great Post! I also really enjoy photographing pets and their parents. I love your pictures, very cute and they make such great memories.
I always enjoy seeing the natural loving bond between a pet and their owner, especially outside in nature. (From Ava Jaine – Dachshund Station)
Thank you, Angela for using your voice to share our story and for your photography to capture the love I share with my girl. Thank you, everyone, for taking time out of your day to read our story. I adopted Sophie at 12.5 years old. She had a different type of cancer then. We got that removed and haven’t heard from it since. When she got diagnosed with nasal cancer in July, I never dreamed she’d do this well for this long. The median survival time for her type of cancer is 3 months. She’s well beyond that. She still loves to go for walks with her brothers and sisters, play with her ball, and gets in the dishwasher every night to “prewash the dishes.” She loves Trader Joe’s Gorgonzola crackers and now wears a dress with pockets to carry her tissues wherever we go? Don’t be afraid to adopt seniors, folks. It’s hard on the heart but they are so worth it❤️ Thanks again for being a part of our story, Angela. We love you!
One of the first things I learned on my photography course was the rule of thirds. It is so simple and makes life so much easier. It has helped me create images I am satisfied with. It is often the simple things you do that allows a photographer to make images that become true memories to treasure.
I loved the story. Your adaptation of the rule of thirds to your sessions is awesome. and the pictures are beautiful. I love the picture of Sophie with the treat bag I can imagine the excitement of your shoot with all the beagles.
Thank you for introducing Sophie to us. She is so lucky to have found Jamie, and will be loved for her remaining days. Jamie, I’m sure will appreciate having these beautiful memories you’ve created for her. I’m an amateur photographer and volunteer for my local shelter and rescue organizations. I’d love to learn about the pet photographers’ blog circle. I’m sure I would learn from those of you with such talent and experience.
Rules in photography are like a cheat-sheet to know what is going to work visually. It doesn’t mean that they cannot be broken but without a good reason it is best to stick with them.
Funtastic twist on the “rule”! Beautiful images and connection between Sophie and Jamie <3
As usual, you made your own rules, great post and even better images – terrific work and nice intimate captures.
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