For professional pet photographer Mark Rogers, the San-Fransisco area is home to an array of dogs who are especially lucky to live in this temperate, coastal region. With almost year-round sunshine these furry friends enjoy a life of long walks and always find the best sunspots to curl up in for an afternoon nap. Mark took the opportunity to feature these Bay-Area pups in a campaign for subscription service BarkBox who hired him to showcase their newest dog bed, with sunshine, smiles, and sleeping dogs.
I was very familiar with the brand — a lot of the dogs I photograph have their own BarkBox subscription!
The client is based out of New York, however, this particular product was an outdoor dog bed, and they felt it would be better represented in the Golden State of California. The production manager reached out to Mark after seeing his collection of pet portraits and felt his style and approach were a good fit for the lifestyle content intended for their amazon store.
It was still too cold and wintry there to photograph dogs using the product outside — no pupsicles allowed!
To provide Mark with the style for the campaign BarkBox sent him a mood board along with a detailed shot list of the images needed. The product comes in an array of colors and sizes and is made from a durable and washable material good for outdoor use. Mark approached the product imagery with both fun and functionality in mind and sourced talent who could fit each size bed comfortably.
The goal was to try to get a bit of variety both in the look of the dogs as well as how they lay down and used the beds.
BarkBox asked Mark to source local pets instead of pet actors because the intent of the images was to show dogs outdoors in a natural setting. Many owners answered the casting call for this project but Mark took his time to find just the right dogs to bring a silly and free-spirited look to his images.
Ideally, there’d be some goofiness and humor involved as well so a lot of the creativity in this came with the casting and how I interacted with the dogs.
The client had requested several different locations, one of which was a backyard area with a pool. One of Mark’s favorite neighborhood dogs is an incredibly goofy German Shepherd, named Bismarck, who is lucky to live at a beautifully landscaped home with a large pool.
Biz’s mom jokingly calls him the world’s laziest dog so I knew we’d likely have a slam dunk with him and the large bed.
Bismark was one of the few dogs who took to the unfamiliar bed right away. As the product is made for outdoor use it is not as cozy as a fluffy indoor bed, so Mark needed to be patient with the untrained talent as they tested their new naptime space. Some dogs would sit next to the bed, while others would paw at the material first. It took some coaxing with treats to entice the pups to roll around on their new mattress.
Dogs are funny and like things a certain way. It can take them some time to get used to new things like a bed.
I knew that not all of them would hang out on a new bed right away and I’d need to be patient with the pups. Waiting for dogs to chill out and relax on the beds was the hardest part!
This project took some trial and error, with Mark laying down next to the dogs to help relax their playful natures. Thanks to the product’s practical features, Mark was able to wash the dog bed when one curious canine marked it as his new territory. While he is capable of helping dogs to smile for portraits, there’s only so much he can do to deter their instincts.
On my very first shoot for the project I put the bed down in the yard and the dog walked up, sniffed it and then peed all over it. I didn’t make that mistake again!
One neighborhood dog, Olive — who is typically wary of new men in her home — surprised Mark by immediately falling asleep on the BarkBox bed. Her parents know her favorite pastime is sleeping in the sun, so they conveniently laid the bed on their back deck and Olive did the rest.
We put the bed on their back deck on a warm day and she climbed right on, rolled over on her side, and just fell asleep.
Mark is easily drawn to this specialty for the energy he feels when working with our furry friends. He skillfully captures the essence of these animals in their natural environments, whether curious, playful, or sleepy, and loves witnessing the special moments when they look right in the camera waiting for his command.
There’s always a lot of laughing at my shoots — usually by me at my own expense — but there truly were absolutely some great moments on this project.
In my world, it’s best to not have specific expectations for a shoot and dogs almost never disappoint on that front.
Photographer: Mark Rogers