Interview with an award-winning dog photographer who tells us about her career and offers some great tips for capturing perfect canine compositions.
Imagine being so inspired by the award-winning image in a photography contest that you decide to enter the same contest and in the same category, and then winning the very next year! That's what happened to Israeli photographer Elinor Roizman, whose passion and career is photographing our canine friends.
Israel is said to be one of the most dog friendly places in the world, particularly Tel Aviv, which is estimated to have one dog for every 14 residents in the city. And you'd be hard pressed to find someone in Israel who loves dogs more than Elinor. When you look at Elinor's magical images, you sense the presence of an artist who has an innate ability to capture a dog's personality in a single moment.
The Kennel Club is the largest organization in Britain dedicated to dogs and their welfare and it holds an annual international photography competition across multiple categories. The young photographer from Ashkelon was enchanted by the work of Boston photographer Kaylee Greer, who won first place in 2017 for her entry in the Dogs at Play category.
Speaking to Israeli website From the Grapevine, Elinor said, “I looked at her pictures and asked myself: What did she do here? How can I do something like this? She really was my inspiration all the way.”
In 2018, Elinor won first place in the Dogs at Play category for her pic of a gorgeous Pomeranian on a beach, becoming the first Israeli winner in the contest's 13-year history.
Elinor, 29, first started taking photos at the age of 12 when her parents bought her a camera as a birthday present. “I went everywhere with that camera, and since I did not have a large budget or the opportunity to get away from home for shooting, I photographed what was closest to me – my pets.” In those early days, she relied on her camera’s automatic settings. “I didn't know much about professional photography. Mostly I enjoyed shooting, spending time with my dogs and playing with compositions.”
That camera lasted much longer than the average birthday gift. “The camera served me until the age of 22! Only then I decided to study photography professionally before purchasing my next camera.”
Before her interest in photography, Elinor had another career goal. “Throughout my life, I have always dreamed of being a veterinarian. I did my photography studies during my BA in Animal Sciences, which was very intense and difficult. I decided to give myself a gift, so I took some money that I'd saved for a trip and with that money I started to study photography.” Her studies were “just for my own enjoyment. I never thought I would become a real photographer.”
It wasn’t long before Elinor’s visual skills started to get attention. “During that time, I started uploading pictures of my pets, which I took during the course, to my Facebook page. Suddenly, inquiries began to arrive from people I knew, who asked me to book [a photoshoot] for their pets.” That prospect gave her pause for fear of producing amateur work. “At first, I was very scared to take that responsibility. Slowly, I agreed to respond to the challenge.”
It was during her studies that Elinor made the first moves into earning a living as a hired photographer. “Many animal lovers contacted me because they wanted to document their relationships with their best friends.”
When it comes to winning Dog Photographer of the Year in the Dogs at Play category, she says, “I still can't believe it actually happened.” Elinor explains the details behind the photo. “I took this picture of Lili for a client who came with four [Pomeranian] dogs to the shoot. The dogs were very different from each other in character and especially in size, so we had prepared all kinds of accessories for the dogs.” One prop she brought with her was soap bubbles. “We were at the beach in the afternoon, just before sunset. We prepared the soap bubbles and everything was ready for the dogs, but unfortunately, the big dogs were not interested in the soap bubbles at all. They preferred to dig in the sand.”
But disappointment was averted at the last minute. “Suddenly, Lili, the little Pomeranian, started running frantically and trying to catch the soap bubbles. Even before I saw the picture I captured, we laughed at what just happened.”
Elinor knew instinctively when she had the perfect shot. “As soon as I saw the picture, I immediately loved it because it expresses everything Lili is – sly, full of character and a very funny little dog.”
Elinor took the pic with her Canon 5D Mark IV. The rest of her camera gear comprises:
When she isn’t photographing clients’ pets, Elinor has a home full of them herself. And not just dogs. She is a complete animal lover. “I have always been a person who is very connected to animals. Animals were my best friends as a child. Today, I am raising two amazing dogs, two cats, a parrot and a horse.”
Advancing her knowledge of our animal buddies has been a key component of Elinor’s journey. In addition to her Animal Sciences degree from Hebrew University, she also joined a dog training academy. “I wanted to understand dogs better and learn more about these amazing animals. I am always fascinated by learning about communication between dogs and their psychology in order to better understand them.” And she has now completed her first year in veterinary studies. “For me, learning about animals is something that will last throughout my life, and I would always love to acquire more knowledge. I always try to give my animals the home they need, and improve myself to give them the best life they deserve. There is no doubt that, for me, animals are much more than best friends, they are family, they are part of who I am. They will be the first I will hug on bad days and on happy ones.”
With the extensive knowledge and enormous experience she has accumulated, I asked Elinor for her top tips for anyone who wishes to take great photos of their dogs. She offered four main pieces of advice.
As to Elinor’s ongoing and future career goals, it always comes back to connecting to dogs and their relationship to others and the world around them. “I strongly believe that, as a dog photographer, my goal is to tell their story from their point of view. Every year, I take on a new project of exposing people to dog-related stories so that I can help with awareness and express their voice.”
She continues, “Another important goal of mine has already been achieved. In the beginning of my journey, photographers in the industry laughed when they heard about this field. Many people said I was wasting my time and money on expensive equipment, but the truth is that this field is growing so fast in Israel. Today, I am one of the managers of the largest Facebook group of dog photographers in the world, with more than 28,000 members from all over the world.”
Indeed, the love for dogs in Israel extends to all areas of the arts, including cinema, as in the recent critically acclaimed film SHEPHERD: The Story of a Jewish Dog, based on the Israeli novel by Asher Kravitz. Elinor has been so busy, she hasn’t had time to see it, but it’s a film she certainly intends to watch very soon. “I am a big fan of films related to history and the Holocaust, especially when it comes with the story of a dog.”
To find out more about Elinor and her work, visit her official website: https://www.dog-ma.photography/