As a pet photographer, Kaylee Greer has been peed on a few times. Some unwilling subjects have come close to biting her. And her pockets are always stuffed with treats and poop bags. Some photographers specialize in weddings; others in children, modeling, healthcare, or sports. For Greer, it’s all about dogs. Greer, who operates Dog Breath Photography , is a private and commercial pet photographer whose work is framed in people’s homes and featured in pet food commercials . Her colorful and whimsical images are immediately recognizable. She’s taught pet photography workshops in far flung places like Costa Rica and beyond. She’s careful to not to say that she “shoots” dogs — in the past, that comment has turned many heads.
The Boston photographer has an 18-month waiting list of clients who want to capture their furry friend in a professional photo, and they’re willing to pay more than $1,000 for a package of images. The Globe spoke to Greer about her pet peeves and dogged endeavors.
“When I tell people I’m a pet photographer, many of them think I put dogs in baskets with a fake backdrop at some mall studio. I can just imagine what they’re thinking: ‘You’re a dog photographer? So basically, you’re unemployed.’ But over the last six years, my images have appeared on billboards, pet store signs, mass market greeting cards, dog food bags, and national magazines. My photos have been used as artwork as well as holiday cards, custom jewelry, T-shirts. Some have even been turned into tattoos. I call my business Dog Breath Photography, inspired by my former pup Toby’s bad breath, but perfectly symmetrical face.
“My fianc? is a fashion photographer and I was watching his intricate lighting set up when a light bulb went off in my mind: `Hey, why can’t I use this kind of lighting with dogs?’ Logistically it’s hard but it’s highly effective, especially when photographing a black dog with dark eyes. Of course, dogs move fast — you can’t just say ‘hold that pose.’ I have one or two strobe lights and am usually laying on my stomach to get the angle I’m trying to get. The camera flash itself can be quite scary for a dog. Some dogs are bomb proof and aren’t bothered by anything, while others are skittish and fearful. The flash gives a ‘pop’ when it goes off, and so it takes a lot of positive conditioning to get dogs comfortable.
“The first half hour of a shoot is just getting the dogs used to me and my equipment. I spread the gear on the ground, cover it with yummy treats and let them sniff the camera, tripod, probe. My camera bag has been ‘christened’ more than once.
“I’m shooting with a Canon 1DX at 1/200th of a second so I just need the tiniest moment of time. I use a leash and long stake and coax the animals into place with treats, cool toys, or sound. I carry a duck call, a kazoo and lots of squeaky toys. A skeptic might ask, ‘Don’t all dogs look the same? Do dogs smile for the camera?’ Dogs have expressions, for sure. I use a very wide angle lens and come in very close so everything is magnified — heads look bigger than the body and it’s very cute.
“Pit bulls are my absolute favorite breed to shoot. They have enormous amounts of character and expression. I don’t use Photoshop to superimpose elements or add in fake backgrounds or landscapes, although I do remove any leashes, drippy eye gook, and any remnants of peanut butter around the mouth, which I might have used to lure the dog.
“I must have photographed over 400 dogs and spent hours and hours editing. But my all-time favorite canine is my own dog, Joshua. He’s a six-year-old pit bull-terrier mix, and I couldn’t love his little velvet sausage butt more. My dog is the sweetest, kindest and purest creature to have ever walked this planet. But I might be a little biased.”