After attending art school in California, Ron Schmidt worked as an assistant photographer in New York, mostly in the fashion industry. “It was not a natural fit,” he said. He went out on his own as a commercial photographer and, one year, sent clients a holiday card featuring a shot of his dog.
“It was the biggest response I had ever gotten,” he said. A creative consultant advised him, “This is it; this is what you need to do.”
Schmidt, 48, who moved to Newburyport from New Jersey with his wife and two children three years ago, has been taking stylized photographs of dogs as Loose Leashes for 12 years.
He has contracts with Hallmark Cards, as well as a new international card line; calendars; two children’s books with his photos written by his wife, Amy Schmidt; and sells his photographs as wall art ($27 to $125), mostly online. He also has a basement store/studio off Inn Street in Newburyport.
Q. The dogs?
A. We use friends’ dogs and dogs from the park. Newburyport is a great dog town. And, we have castings on Facebook and sometimes call breeders.
A. I love labs [Labrador retrievers] because they are so iconic looking, have so much emotion and personality, and are so happy. (He has a series of photos of the adventures of Lewie & Clark, a black and yellow lab duo). I also like Boston terriers and French bulldogs because they are such characters and look comical. There is a humorous bent to my images.
A. It has to be a story; not just a pretty shot of a dog. It’s conceptual. I draw images, build props, cast the dogs, shoot, and do post production. It takes a long time. I probably do three shoots a month.
A. In one shoot we might have four to seven dogs and try them all, and maybe one works. The good thing is most dogs are food motivated. I took 1,000 pictures on a recent shoot.
A. They get a small fee.
Q. Extra benefits?
A. It’s a great platform to talk about animal rescue and we give back to a lot of animal welfare causes. Every month, we try to spread the love a little bit.
Q. Bottom line?
A. We work with dogs, what’s better than that?
Wendy Killeen can be reached at email@example.com.