Pet Portraits of the Year | 2019 Recap

Pet portraits absolutely exploded in popularity in 2019. What was once a novelty photography niche seemingly became a worldwide sensation, with royal pet portraits and more personified “dress up your dog” photographers springing up virtually overnight. But despite the pet portrait industry becoming a much more crowded and competitive space, it’s safe to say that 2019 was a break out year for the Puptrait Studio.

Photo of smiling senior pug wearing a colorful birthday hat.

With that in mind, we thought it might be fun to look back over 2019 and take a moment to revisit some of our favorite dog photos, studio milestones and tail wagging memories from the last year.

Pet portrait photo of a Golden Retriever Puppy wearing a tiny paper crown made from colorful scraps of blue and red newsprint.
Closeup Shih Tzu pet portrait photographed against a white background at the Puptrait Studio in Baltimore, Maryland.

The Press is Starting to Take Notice

I’m not going to lie, when I first announced that I was moving to photographing pets full time in 2015, many of my friends and family told me I was crazy — and they weren’t alone. While our clients loved us and saw the value in what we were doing, at times it was a real struggle to be taken seriously in those early days.

Black and white profile photo pet portrait of a regal Belgian Malinois dog captured against a white seamless background at the Puptrait Studio in Baltimore, Maryland.

Thankfully that perception has changed a great deal for the better in recent years and 2019 marked a notable shift in our brand presence. Much of which we have our friends at USA Today, iHeartDogs, the Pet Photographers Club and ArtFido to thank, with our interviews from earlier in the year picked up and covered by TV news stations as far off as Jakarta, Seoul, and São Paulo.

Behind the scenes photograph of the Puptrait Studio founder, J.B. Shepard, on the set of "Artworks" with Maryland broadcasting legend Rhea Feikin.
Behind the scenes photograph of the Puptrait Studio founder, J.B. Shepard, on the set of “Artworks” with Maryland broadcasting legend Rhea Feikin.

But if I had to pick one interview that had me the most excited, it was having the opportunity to sit down and chat with Rhea Feikin at the Maryland Public Television studios. For those unfamiliar with Rhea Feikin, she has been a mainstay of Maryland broadcasting for over 40 years, she has served on the board of the Baltimore School for the Arts, and was one of the founders of Baltimore’s Center Stage. Needless to say, having grown up watching Rhea it was truly a memorable experience to have a chance to join her on TV.

Pet portrait of a black Boston Terrier wearing a white chef hat that reads, "THE TRUTH IS IN THE FICTION" from the Puptrait Studio's signature dog portrait series, Paper Hats.

Paper Hats Evolves

Our signature fine art pet portrait series Paper Hats has come a long way since its humble beginnings as a small 12 image set. Over the last 3 years, the costume designs seen in Paper Hats have grown far more colorful and feature increasingly more sophisticated patterning. Yet have remained true to the spirit of our initial concept and continue to be constructed only from found materials and post consumer paper products.

All Dogs Deserve to Be Loved

We have also expanded the series to include all dogs, regardless of how they came to meet their caretakers. While we remain committed to helping foster and rescue animals, we realized that Paper Hats underlying message of “all anyone needs to shine is a second chance” spoke to the relationships that we should share with all dogs.

We realized last year that while adoption is undoubtedly a huge piece of the puzzle, in reality it does not address all facets of the homeless dog epidemic facing our nation. And, if we truly seek to empty all the shelters, we must also fight the social mechanisms that land dogs in shelters in the first place.

Pet portrait taken at Washington D.C.'s premier dog friendly photography studio, the Puptrait Studio. Featuring a white German Shepherd wearing a striped Stetson Hat made from upcycled newspaper.

In other words, we must commit to those animals in our care and resolve to work towards fostering better relationships with our pets — regardless of their temperament, training level or lingering health issues.

Fancy pet portrait of an English Golden Retriever wearing a comically tall blue and green striped top hat made from upcycled paper materials. Photographed at the dog friend Puptrait Studio in Baltimore, Maryland.
Why are there banners of dogs on the Avenue in Hampden, Baltimore?
Proof of concept from the 2019 LPBA “Dog Avenue”.

Hampden’s Dog Avenue Comes to Fruition

2019 marked the completion of Hampden’s LPBA project. The installation affectionately dubbed “Dog Avenue” is essentially a walking art gallery. It features portraits of 18 dogs displayed on banners affixed to light pole banners running along West 36th Street (the Avenue) and Chestnut Avenue in Hampden. Each of the dogs featured in the pet portrait series are the personal pets of local business owners and members of the Hampden Village Merchants Association (HVMA).

Photo of the Dog Avenue banners being printed at Alpha Graphics in Woodberry, Baltimore, Maryland.
Banners for Hampden’s “Dog Avenue” coming off the production line at Alpha Graphics.

When we started work on this neighborhood beautification with Dan Harvey from Cotton Duck Title Co. back at the start of 2018, we thought it would take maybe a couple of months to complete. And, wow were we wrong. After countless zoning, fundraiser and production meetings we were finally able to bring this neighborhood beautification project to life nearly a year and a half later.

Dog Avenue printed and hung along West 36th St. (the Avenue) in Hampden.

That said, the results of the project were well worth the effort and we were happy to donate the pet portrait sessions needed to bring Dan Harvey and HVMA’s vision to light.

A brindle colored Mountain Curr playing with a tennis ball at the Puptrait Studio’s new and improved studio location.

Move to a New & Improved Studio Space

We couldn’t recap 2019 without discussing our move. While we created a lot of fond memories and interesting images at our Falls Road location. In reality, we out grew that space years ago and it was holding us back. It was simply too cramped, damp and inaccessible.

It may not look like much, but our new studio features quite a few upgrades from our previous location — including 14ft tall ceilings, level floors, air conditioning, lot parking, and is more easily accessible by wheelchair.

Our new pet photography space at the Mill Centre Artist Studios in Hampden is a much better fit for the Puptrait Studio. While it did require us to hold out for a few months without a physical location, we think the new and improved space was well worth the wait and we are absolutely delighted to be there.

Photo of a senior Boxer mix pup wearing a colorful top hat made from upcycled scraps of newspaper.

2019 Dog Photo of the Year

Our selection for this year’s selection for Dog Photo of the Year was weighed equally by 4 criteria: Composition, Technical Prowess, Creativity, and Wow Factor. While we produced a lot of great work in 2019, one photo in particular stood out among the rest…

Surreal custom made pet portrait from a photo featuring a giant Chihuahua peeking out from a crowded cityscape.
2019 Pet Portrait of the Year — Best in Show Winner. Composite pet portrait photographed and illustrated by J.B. Shepard. Created at the Puptrait Studio located in Baltimore, Maryland. All rights reserved.

As seen above, this custom made composite pet portrait required a lot of moving pieces to come together flawlessly to execute. Composed of a collection of over a dozen photo assets, including a portrait photographed at the Puptrait Studio, this image required nearly two dozen hours of shooting and editing to complete.

Photo portrait of a white house mix small breed pup with a broken coat wearing a fun little top hat.
2019 Best Pet Portrait — 2nd Place Winner.
Adorable pet portrait photo of a fox like small breed house mix wearing a colorful paper hat.
2019 Best Pet Portrait — 3rd Place Winner.

2020: Year of the Pet Portrait

We hope you enjoyed our pet photography highlights from 2019. With a new space and plenty of momentum going into 2020, we are growing increasingly excited for the up coming year. We hope that you join us in our journey to explore just how far we can push the pet portrait niche.

Custom pet portrait of a senior English Golden Retriever wearing a colorful top hat made from upcycled triangle shape scrapes of newsprint, painstakingly organized into an intricate geometrical pattern. Photographed at the Puptrait Studio in Baltimore, Maryland.
Photo of a Black Labrador Retriever mix wearing a colorful orange and blue top hat. This custom pet portrait was photographed at the Puptrait Studio in Baltimore, Maryland.
Custom pet portrait of a smiley English Bulldog wearing a colorful top hat made from red and blue triangle shaped scraps of recycled newspaper organized in a geometric pattern.

Maryland & Washington D.C. Pet Portrait Photography

The Puptrait Studio is currently accepting private pet portrait commissions. Pet photography shoots are available by appointment only and on a first-come-first-served basis. To view session availability or schedule a photoshoot for your favorite dog, please use the online booking calendar located below. Questions? Call the studio from Noon – 10PM 7 days a week at 443.604.0711.

Close up pet portrait of an English Bulldog mugging the camera. Photographed at the Puptrait Studio in Baltimore, Maryland.
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