Hillsboro resident Danyel Rogers has one of those dream jobs — she gets to hang out with dogs all day.
As the photographer and owner of Wag to my Heart, a new pet photography studio in downtown Hillsboro, on East Main Street, Rogers discovered she preferred to capturing man's best friend on camera over weddings early on.
"A lot of people want to incorporate dogs in their portraits, but they just don't think it is possible and that there isn't a person out there who can take them," Rogers said. "I like to bridge the gap between that. When I do my sessions, I try to do them like a wedding, where there are many configurations — the whole family with the dog (or) just the dog."
Rogers' mission at Wag to my Heart is to show how family portraits can feature the furry friends in a household, and how remembering them is just as important as remembering anyone else.
"With the industry of dogs, they are on this earth for such a short time compared to humans, and they touch your heart," Rogers said. "They are your companion, and they look at you in a different way than your kids. You are their life, because you feed them, love them, take them on walks. There is this saying, 'I just hope to be the person my dog thinks I am.' It is so true."
Rogers came from an accounting background, and photography became her way of escape beginning in 2007, when the economy was not in the best shape, she said.
She taught herself the ins and outs behind the camera, first advertising her presence in the area by having a booth at the Hillsboro Tuesday Night Markets.
There, Rogers noticed her comfort zone was asking to take photos of people's dogs as they shopped.
"I realized my guard was down, and I could engage with people who love their animals," Rogers said. "That was a moment where I thought, 'This is it. This is what I am meant to do.'"
To prepare for working with animals, she enrolled in dog behavior courses to understand canine signals and body language, so she can tell when a dog is uncomfortable or scared.
"Ultimately, I wanted to have people have a great experience, but also the dogs, too, because you'll get a better image if they are," she said. "They become my friends quickly, because I am the treat lady. ... If they do nice things, they get nice things."
Families, couples and individuals can ask Rogers to take into consideration their hobbies, home décor and other wants to make the photos as personalized and filled with character as possible, Rogers said.
"It is more custom to them," Rogers said. "I don't want to do tons of photos by a lake to find out the family isn't about nature. I try hard to ask what people want to see every day, whether it is rustic, contemporary. I want whatever my client is into."
Wag to my Heart offers three types of photo sessions. The most popular is the "Elite Portrait Experience," which allows up to four models — people or animals — to take photos for 60 to 90 minutes and walk away with a photo credit to order prints.
A unique offering is "Pin-Up and Pups," where a model can use pin-up style costumes and props to pose alongside their dog, in an unlimited time session with Rogers. That one was inspired by Rogers' love for the time period when pin-ups were especially popular, the 1930s and '40s.
A third offering is a creative session held once a month, called the "Limited Edition Experience," which allows anyone to schedule a quick shoot for their dog, for 30 minutes. Spots can be claimed on Wag to My Heart's website..
Rogers said she often hears clients say their dogs are "too crazy" and "they can't even be captured by a cellphone," but she wins them over with the essentials when it comes to photographing pups: a high shutter speed, and putting safety first.
Rogers is able to Photoshop leashes out of photos, so she brings up to 20-foot leashes at parks, which allows for clients to keep their dogs safe and always nearby.
"There are those shots of dogs flying in the air to catch the ball. We can do that," she said. "To make it happen, my husband will run with the dogs on a long leash while I am on the ground ready for the shot. He lets go of the line a bit, off-frame, and we are able to get the action shot, floppy ears and all."
Not only does Wag to my Heart offer private sessions, but it also takes photos for the Oregon Humane Society's reoccurring events in Portland and the Pacific Pug Rescue in Tigard as a way to give back, Rogers said.
Being near Portland feels perfect for the business and for giving back, Rogers said.
"We just love our dogs here," she said. "In the Pacific Northwest, we have a lot of activities with hiking and camping, as well as the beaches and the mountains. It is a dog-friendly town, and those who go to doggy daycare, those are my clients — the people who see their dogs as their babies."
Rogers, her two children and her husband Mike own two dogs of their own: 11-year-old Jester, a Shih Tzu and miniature poodle breed, and Olly, a four-year-old Habibi Bear.
"My husband used to tell me I could never have a dog," Rogers said. "The irony of me doing what I do now, photographing animals and their owners, is uncanny."
Booking and visitation to the studio is by appointment only.
To learn more about Wag to my Heart, visit its Instagram @wagtomyheart, or its Facebook page, facebook.com/wagtomyheart.
By Janae Easlon
Forest Grove News-Times and Hillsboro Tribune971-762-1166
Follow Janae at @Janae_Easlon
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