Home E In The News E Meet Onnie Hull, Dog Photographer Extraordinaire

Meet Onnie Hull, Dog Photographer Extraordinaire

By Belinda Cai

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If you’re looking for a Renaissance-style portrait of your dog, Onnie Hull’s got you. She takes dog photographs that almost look like paintings. The dogs, from labradors to terriers to pitbulls, are sometimes dressed in fun costumes. They’re often photographed with props and backdrops.

Ah, the dream job, if you ask us. 

Onnie started out as a landscape photographer, mostly shooting photos of the beach, an environment she enjoys. When she adopted her dog, Sam, a now ten-year-old lab mix, from a rescue, she fell in love. She took so many photos of him, she didn’t know what to do with all of them. 

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Sam and Onnie.

“When he was a puppy, he had a fantastic puppy trainer and she provided wonderful classes. I wound up taking photos of her group classes for her to use in her marketing and to share with the other puppy parents,” Onnie says. “I had so much fun, and the owners were so happy to have these photos, I was hooked.”

After that, Onnie was on a mission to learn all she could about pet photography, learning from some of the best. She attended classes, seminars, lectures, workshops and followed the experts who led the way to this niche genre. How long has Onnie been in the dog photography business now? Ten whole years!

Read more about this passionate dog photographer who creates stunning, regal portraits of pups of all shapes and sizes.

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Most of the great shots are taken in the moments the dog is most happy and calm… I like having the owner(s) have a play session on set and capture fun moments that way.

Dog Whisperer HQ: What do you love about dog photography?
Onnie:
Of course the obvious answer about what I love about dog photography is: the dogs. I love getting to see each dog’s unique personality and I love that every dog’s temperament will guide your interaction and the type of session it will dictate. I will always be respectful of the dog’s boundaries and limitations and never ask them to give me more than they’re willing to give. I try to make every session as fun and relaxed as it can be given this is probably a very new and confusing experience for them. Most of the great shots are taken in the moments the dog is most happy and calm.

DW: What are some special tricks you use?
O:
Sometimes a favorite treat or toy is all you need to keep the dog interested in looking at the camera. At other times a squeaky sound or whistle does the trick. I like having the owner(s) have a play session on set and capture fun moments that way. It’s important to let the dog take frequent breaks off set. The most important “trick” is to try to have a trusting relationship from the time he/she comes into your studio. Let them get comfortable with the equipment, the new smells, the furniture and you.

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The most important ‘trick’ is to try to have a trusting relationship from the time he/she comes into your studio. Let them get comfortable with the equipment, the new smells, the furniture and you.

DW: How do you get a great dog portrait?
O:
I try to keep the session organized and as short as possible, while also trying to get a good number of shots to provide a gallery of images to my clients. In the middle of all that’s going on, my focus is on capturing fun and adorable expressions. A lot of the time, I don’t know what I have until I have the pictures on my computer. I am always surprised by how much the dog has given me in the way of beautiful shots: bright eyes, big smiles, goofy faces. 

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DW: How do you get a fussy dog to cooperate?
O:
Getting fussy dogs to cooperate is sort of relative. Some dogs will absolutely not be able to settle and attempting to make them do so is not going to make the experience any easier. But, for most dogs, if they’re more into playing or exploring or not cooperating at all, usually a game of tug or a special treat or even a short walk will help. Keeping the atmosphere light and fun generally will help a fussy dog settle. It’s also important to note that I let the owners/parents take the lead on this. A dog that doesn’t know me or what my intentions are is most likely not going to take any suggestions from me.

DW: What inspires you with your photography?
O:
I think my work with rescues, as well as my work with the K9 team for the Redondo Beach Police Department, has inspired me most. I have seen firsthand the good work and the great results these organizations achieve. I have photographed hundreds of dogs for the purpose of getting them out of shelters and off the streets, and into good homes. I am so proud that so many of them found their forever families. My own three dogs are rescues, and two of them became part of my family when I was taking their adoption photo! 

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I have photographed hundreds of dogs for the purpose of getting them out of shelters and off the streets, and into good homes. I am so proud that so many of them found their forever families. My own three dogs are rescues, and two of them became part of my family when I was taking their adoption photo!

My work with the RBPD will always be a highlight of my photographic career. Taking the portraits of the teams that were used to make the cards they handed out to the public was such an honor. I also enjoyed photographing their fun, community events. 

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DW: What are some of your favorite photos and why?
O:
Some of my favorite photos… that’s an interesting dilemma because after each shoot, one or more of the images will become a ‘favorite’… Every shoot has its unique moments and I relive those moments during the editing process and always find a surprise gem hidden among the others.

DW: What types of dogs do you like working with the most?
O:
There really isn’t a particular breed of dog I like working with more than another, but if I had to choose, I really love working with big, goofy, friendly dogs. They always make a session so unpredictable. 

DW: You’re a dog lover and owner. Tell us about all of your dogs:
O:
I could talk about my three dogs all day. They are all rescues and they each have a completely different personality from each other. Sam, the ten-year-old lab mix, is very sweet and he owns my heart forever. He was born out in the high desert of Apple Valley, California and taken in by a now shutdown rescue. He had severe health issues and it took many years for us to bring him to relative good health. He still suffers from intestinal disease and severe allergies but we’ve been blessed with great veterinarians. He’s a happy boy and he’s a momma’s boy.

Hope is a four-year-old poodle mix (chihuahua and terrier) that rules the roost… all twelve pounds of her. She was found in a dumpster, enclosed in a trash bag when she was just a puppy. Today, she is a happy, demanding, vocal, spoiled, well loved little girl who just wants to be anywhere her dad is. She’s a real daddy’s girl and my husband has no complaints about that at all.

And, last but not least, there is Jax, a two-year-old purebred golden retriever who was surrendered to a kill shelter. He was then released to a rescue and adopted by a family that kept him in a crate in their garage until they gave him back to the rescue. They changed their mind, re-adopted him and gave him up a second time. That’s where Jax chose me to be his mom. The moment he came in for his adoption photo, he came straight over to me, sat in my lap and gave me a sloppy puppy kiss and it was game over. We left that photoshoot together and he is my sweet buddy who makes me laugh every day. He’s the very definition of happy-go-lucky and he’s a wonderful addition to our family. 

DW: Where are you located now?
O:
We have recently moved from California to North Carolina. The dogs have adjusted beautifully to their new home and are loving their big yard and getting to know the birds, squirrels, deer and all the other wildlife that share our outdoor space with. I’ve recently organized a fundraiser for the local police department K9 team and enjoyed photographing twenty-seven local families and their pets, raising money for their organization. It was a great way to meet my new neighbors and fellow dog lovers. 

My studio is open and I’m so excited to make some wonderful images and memories. It’s what I do, it’s what I love and it’s how I find joy every day. Check out Onnie’s website here.

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