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Meet Diana Lundin of Modern Pet Portraiture by Diana Lundin in Sherman Oaks

Today we’d like to introduce you to Diana Lundin.

So, before we jump into specific questions about the business, why don’t you give us some details about you and your story.
When I was laid off as a website editor in 2011, I was ready to step out into photography with all the equipment I possibly needed after acquiring it through the years for my hobby. One thing I didn’t have… a genre to specialize in. I didn’t want to do weddings… so I tried my hand at newborn, family, food and while it was all okay, it didn’t grab me. Until I began photographing dogs and cats. And then it all clicked.

And pet photography is really my thing. I love it. I began photographing my neighbors’ pets and dogs needing good adoption portraits (I still work with rescues) so I learned how to photograph animals. After a while I began to get pretty good at pet photography.

My style has been undergoing an evolution in the ensuing five years. There are many pet photographers I admired but their style turned out not to be my style — good thing, I don’t want to copy.

I looked at Los Angeles iconic landmarks and began placing dogs with those in the background in my I Love L.A. series. I watched the viral Cooper and Daisy Go to McDonald’s video and thought dogs eating ice cream would be great. After a search on Google, I found no real professional photos of that so I began inviting neighborhood dogs to my driveway to photograph them eating doggy ice cream cones. That led to me throwing Ice Cream Socials for Dogs in various locations in L.A. And in June, I got a book deal on that exact subject and I’ve been throwing socials throughout the city to get the subjects for my book. Its fun and the owners and dogs love it.

And there was something happening in women’s contemporary photography. The old glamour photography was still quite dead but a new one emerged championed by Sue Bryce, whose magazine-style portraiture was emulated by so many photographers throughout the world. What I feel I’m doing now is a bit of Sue’s style applied to animals. Gorgeous hand-painted canvas backdrops with dramatic lighting on beautiful dogs and cats.

I love working studio-style, lifestyle, and outdoor, it’s all good to me.

One step farther, I began watching online videos on photography composites and I began creating worlds specific to dogs and cats, which I call The Secret World of Pets. In these story-telling images, you’ll see a forlorn Frenchie floating in a crate, seemingly lost at sea, but look closer and you’ll see a seahorse towing the dog to safety.

Or you’ll see an homage to Botticelli’s Birth of Venus but with dogs and cats substituting for the goddess and her mythological attendants. And then there’s two cats in a warehouse, a fierce one that might resemble “Breaking Bad’s” Walter White — Heisenberg — and the other wearing a Jesse Pinkman hat surrounded by Los Pollos Hermanos fast food bags and . For those in the know, the “Breaking Bad” references are amusing.

And finally, there is When God Created Dog, a take on the Sistine Chapel’s The Creation of Adam, all with dogs.

My favorite storytelling portraits have an air of mystery about them. You don’t know what’s going to happen next. The animal is looking off somewhere… not at you… beyond. What is beyond? I like the ones that have a melancholic feel to them. The pets are never in danger. But they are looking beyond what we can see.

By the way, I’m a former journalist so my storytelling bona fides go way back. My greatest loves are stories and animals. Not necessarily in that order.

Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
You know, starting a business in a crowded industry isn’t easy. You have to give something to people that they want and that they can’t get on their own. Bluntly, custom pet photography for a private client is a luxury item. No one dies if they don’t have it. And with phones, you can take a pretty good picture and call it a day. A client has to value that which they can’t do on their own and there lies the rub.

That’s why I’m constantly evolving what I do. I can do rather simple pet photography if that’s what the client wants. And don’t get me wrong, I love it. Any time you can spend time with an animal is time well spent and we all have a good time at a photo shoot. But I like to push it a little farther if my clients are game.

So what can’t people get with their phones and cameras that I can give them? Black animals and white animals can be difficult to photograph. A black dog can look like a blob on a phone if not properly lit and a white animal’s fur can either be blown out with no detail or turn out dirty or muddy looking when they’re not.

Phones have a tough time catching running animals. Most people can’t set up a backdrop in their home with lighting to create portraits. Owners aren’t necessarily looking at what’s behind the animal so that they have a clean background or an interesting background.

You can shoot with a little equipment or a lot of equipment and I have whatever it takes to do the session properly.

I have mad Photoshop skills to create secret worlds. And let me tell you, its complex!

And as a photographer, I subscribe to the latest photography software and I have access to the latest products and professional photography labs that consumers don’t have to make the final images look their best.

Marketing is always a challenge. No one can hire you if they don’t know you exist. So it’s a constant drumbeat of showing and telling what you offer to the world. I like to zig while the others zag. I like to find different ways in. I love my dog industry partners but I look other places as well. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. But there you have it.

Please tell us about Modern Pet Portraiture by Diana Lundin.
Probably what I’m known for is my composite work. I really enjoy collaborating with my clients to come up with a unique piece of art for their home. One client had a 7-week-old black and white Frenchie that she wanted in a field with Holstein cows.

Another wanted her standard Poodles as a singer and pianist. When she first mentioned it, I thought of one idea but she had another altogether and I loved her idea so that’s what we created as a surprise for her husband.

Another client’s husband loves concerts and the band Phish. She told me a story about their relationship with some interesting details we were able to incorporate in our version of the band — called Scamp, after all of their initials — with her, her 7-month-old puppy and two cats. When he received it as a gift from her, he stared at it while absorbing it and said, “All my loves in one place.”

Honestly, I love amusing myself when I make these storytelling pieces. I like the little surprises in them. I like the mystery in them. I like the detail that makes them look real. I like creating a world that doesn’t exist but looks like it could. And probably should.

Oh, standard with most of my regular pet photography sessions, I usually create a video slideshow, sometimes with interviews. I know how to shoot video and I have proper equipment so it’s like what the Creoles call “lagniappe.” It’s a gift that you weren’t necessarily expecting.

Do you look back particularly fondly on any memories from childhood?
I’m not sure I can pinpoint any one memory but I learned to read before entering kindergarten and books were always my friend. Kinda nerdy that way. And we went on family vacations every year when I was a kid and that stoked my love of travel.

Contact Info:

Image Credit:
Diana Lundin

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