Naturally, we sat down with the creator of We Speak Puppy, home of the world's cutest puppy photography!
When did your interest in photography start?
My grandfather was a photographer, and he started me out at a very young age. I remember going to Kansas in the summers to spend time with him. One of the activities we always did was going to his local camera club. He taught me how to frame photos to look their best, and the importance of light. Even though he passed over 15 years ago, I definitely feel a connection and his spirit whenever I am photographing!
What were your earliest interest in animals?
I cannot remember a time when I WASN'T interested in animals -- particularly dogs! When I was seven years old, I was determined to convince my parents to get me a dog. I read every single book on dogs in the library, memorized over 150 dog breeds, and how to care for dogs to show them I was ready. It all paid off, as I got my first dog for my eighth birthday -- an Australian Shepherd/Samoyed mix.
What was the impetus of developing We Speak Puppy?
"What do you mean I get to play with puppies for a living???" :-) Yeah, as soon as I figured that out, I was sold. Don't get me wrong, though: while it's a ton of fun, it's definitely hard work. You stretch muscles you didn't even know you have, and there is A LOT of "clean-up on Aisle 7," if you can't my drift! (TIP: NEVER wear anything you really like on a puppy photoshoot!)
Who handles the puppies at the photo shoots?
I always bring SOMEONE on the shoot. It is very rare that a puppy will sit still on his or her own! (Then again, it does happen perhaps every one out of 100 puppies. We call those our "supermodel" puppies!) Normally, it's my long-suffering husband. Although, you'd be surprised at how many of my friends are willing to give up a Saturday or an afternoon/evening just to hold puppies still!
Who develops the backgrounds and designs the sets?
Fortunately, being a photographer does put me in touch with a lot of artists. I have several friends who have designed beautiful backgrounds for our sets. And, of course, I'm a total "Post-Holiday Sale at Michaels" junkie. I have an entire garage filled with props and backdrops for every holiday!
How many different breeds of dogs have you photographed so far?
Great question! It's actually been a while since I got the exact number, but I know it's over 60. That being said, my #1 breed that I have yet to photograph, and I'm DYING to photograph, is CORGI puppies. So, if anyone out there wants their Corgi photographed in the Southern California area, hit me up!
How many costumes do you own for these puppies?
People think I'm crazy and/or lying when I say this, but it's well over 500. Puppies come in many shapes and sizes. An 8-week old Yorkie puppy is going to fit into a much different outfit than a 16 week old Saint Bernard puppy! Again, I'm always searching the post-holiday specials out there to load up each holiday. I'm thankful -- and quite frankly surprised -- that our washer & dryer have not exploded from so much puppy hair clogging the system?
Do you need a special temperament to photograph these puppies?
The humans or the puppies? ;-) For humans, extreme patience, and being OK with getting piddled on are key! Seriously, though, I am not a patient person in my life. It's something I really struggle with. Photographing puppies, and animals in general, has done me a world of good in training me in that virtue. You are on THEIR timeline. As for special temperament for the puppies, the number one thing I look for in a puppy is sitting still. I know it sounds simple, but it rarely happens on its own! I also look for puppies that have very expressive faces, and will look at the camera when I make a noise. One big tip I give people for when I come over to photograph their puppies is schedule me to come over right after they've eaten. They're much calmer, and often will fall asleep midshoot. What's cuter than a fat-bellied puppy asleep in a sailor suit? I have yet to find out!