“What a good girl! What a good girl!” Tourine Johnstone repeated in a sing-song voice—shaking the bag of treats in her left hand while taking aim with the camera in her right.
June—a dachshund, golden retriever mix—cocked her golden-maned head to the side with curiosity, and Johnstone snapped the photo.
Tourine and Trevor Johnstone own Johnstone Studios in Midtown, where they’ve been based since 2009. Over the course of the past few years, the wife and husband photographers have been booking more and more sessions with subjects of the furry variety.
“Our life is so inundated with photos nowadays, you know,” Johnstone said. “We’re always taking photos of babies and families and graduations and all these special moments. Why not include our dogs? Our dogs are our families.”
Today, dog photography accounts for about 30 percent of the Johnstones’ business. Their studio space now includes a full complement of backgrounds and fake flooring options that can be combined with plush materials and various props to create countless photo options. A large folding table allows Johnstone to get on eye-level with smaller dogs, which, she explained, helps the littler canines relax and helps her capture their personalities.
“The eyes are windows to the soul,” Johnstone said. “I think that’s a pretty standard quote that we hear with people, but it also really rings true with dogs. So, creating that connection to them through the eyes. … With a little dog, like June here, it would be very intimidating if I were to stand above her and be bigger than her, so I feel like I wouldn’t be able to draw out that personality from her.”
The theory appears to hold true. The photos from the day’s session seem to speak of June’s soft, shy disposition—her doe-eyed expression set off by the cream-colored palette of the background and props. They’re lovely pictures, but an obvious question still hangs in the air—what pet-related occasions might warrant the monetary investment associated with professional photos? The answer makes sense. With people, it’s momentous occasions like births, holidays, graduations and marriages. With pets, it’s the equivalent—new adoptions and, when the time comes, end of life photos.
“It’s pretty incredible that we can create these moments for people when they are losing a pet,” Johnstone said. “Usually we’ll see them like in their last week or last couple of days.”
But people find other reasons, too. Sometimes it’s the desire of empty nesters to continue the tradition of holiday portraits. In the months leading up to Christmas, Johnstone’s schedule gets pretty packed with sessions geared toward capturing the perfect photos for festive, frame-able, 5 by 7 for holiday cards.
“You know how it is—the aunts and all the grandmas of the grandpuppies want photos too,” Johnstone said, explaining that Christmas cards are a relative inexpensive way to go.
As with their photos of human subjects, the Johnstone’s dog photos are sold a la carte. Johnstone prides herself on not forcing an upsell through the use of standard print packages with a set number of photos in different sizes.
“For us, it’s really a more intimate conversation of, ’What do you want to do with them? Why are you having photos? What makes this important to you? At the end of the day when this is all said and done, what do you want to remember?’” Johnstone said
Sessions start at $99 and do include one 8 by 10 print. The cost covers the consultation, photo session and ordering session. In addition to cards and standard portrait prints, customers can choose from options like photos printed on metal, wall installations and digital files.