When Angela Schneider puts her clients in the center of her camera's viewfinder, she's looking for what she calls "that moment." It's not tangible, or something that's easily described. But you know it when it happens — a look or a gesture that encapsulates the unique emotional connection between a dog and its owner.
Schneider is the owner of local pet photography company Noses and Toes, which aims to give you frame-ready pics of your furry friends. The photo shoots themselves are typically outdoors, in scenic locations that have some kind of personal meaning to the owners and their dogs, and usually last a couple hours.
"Our session is usually filled with a lot of treats, and snuggles and laughs. And sometimes tears," Schneider says, noting that some of the dogs are senior or terminal. "Seventy-five percent of the time people hug me at the end of it. I connect with every single one of my clients a different way. And it's not just because we all love our dogs."
After the photos are digitally touched up, the clients are then presented with a portfolio of prints from the session to treasure forever.
"I prefer physical art because if I give you a digital [copy], you're going to put it on your hard drive, maybe use it as a screensaver for a little while and forget it," Schneider explains.
Her trajectory toward animal photography has been a circuitous one. Originally from Nova Scotia, Canada, she got her start in sports journalism, where she was often required to take photos to accompany her stories.
"I was the prototypical city girl, wearing high heels and pencil skirts and driving a Mustang," Schneider says. But then she adopted her Maremma sheepdog Shep, and immediately fell in love. "He changed me into a girl who wore hiking boots and drove an SUV."
While still living in Canada, she and Shep frequently found themselves taking excursions to the Canadian Rockies, or hiking around Lake Louise in Banff National Park.
"You can't go there and not take pictures," Schneider says. "I've always had a camera in my hands. The next thing I know, the only subject I have with me for foreground is my dog."
After Shep passed away — "He was my best friend, and my soulmate," she says, wiping away tears — Schneider turned her other Maremma sheepdog, Bella, into her primary photography model. And after her career in journalism turned into an unfulfilling job in public relations, Noses and Toes was born.
"I was taking pictures of her just for fun. And all of a sudden, it was like a lightbulb," Schneider says.
In the 18 months she's now been a full-time, one-woman operation, Schneider has almost exclusively photographed dogs, though she occasionally strays from canine territory. She's taken portraits of horses and, just a couple months ago, snapped some glamour shots of a potbelly pig. Schneider's stylistic goal is to capture "life in wide angle," but to also keep the animal at the center of the frame.
So what's the benefit to getting your dog the same photographic treatment you'd give your kids or other human loved ones? They're a member of the family, too, and an artistic photo of man's best friend is ultimately a tribute to the way they love unconditionally.
"Dogs aren't with us for long enough," Schneider says. "It isn't enough for us to just have cell phone shots and selfies with our dogs. They touch us in ways that humans don't... It's important to carry those memories with us for the rest of our lives, but also in the art on our walls."
During a recent photo shoot at Mirabeau Park with Newt, a 4-year-old heeler/border collie mix, Schneider snaps a few photos with the dog perched on a rock.
Wearing a shirt that reads "Always Carry Treats," she captures the dog from a number of angles, occasionally getting Newt's attention by blowing a homemade duck call clenched between her teeth.
After a while, Schneider directs Cat House, one of Newt's owners, to get into the frame. And within just a few shots, it happens — that moment.
"There it is," Schneider says, quickly snapping a few more pictures as Newt gleefully licks her owner's face. "See — this is the best job in the world." ♦
For more, visit nosesandtoes.com.