Amanda Bradshaw Frolics Through San Francisco
Few people get to do what they absolutely love for a living, but Amanda Bradshaw is one of those lucky individuals. The San Francisco Bay Area photographer spends her days pointing a camera at one of her favorite things in the world: dogs.
As the owner of Frolic Photography, a boutique pet portrait photography studio, Bradshaw has figured out a way to combine her love for animals and her passion for the camera.
“I’ve always been crazy about animals. When I was a kid, I’d bring home every stray within a 5-mile radius of our house,” Bradshaw says. “Dog, cat, squirrel, turtle—it didn’t matter. I loved them all. But there was something about dogs—and horses—that I was particularly crazy about.”
Her affinity for dogs only continued to blossom during her girlhood and like a lot of kids, Bradshaw began the classic process of wearing down her parents for one of her own.
“I begged my parents for years to let us have a dog, and finally got my way in third grade when I convinced them to let me be a puppy-raiser for the Seeing Eye‘s guide-dog program,” she says. “So, at the age of 8, I became responsible for turning a little black Lab puppy named Odell into future guide dog. I’m sure that was a pretty formative experience.”
Later, a budding interest in photography during high school led her mother to purchase a real camera for her.
“It was the late ’80s—before everything went digital—and a roll of film meant I had 36 chances to make something good happen,” she says. “Sometimes it took weeks for me to shoot a whole roll of film. It was always really exciting to get the film developed; opening an envelope full of pictures was a little bit like Christmas. I still get that Christmas-morning feeling of anticipation when I look at pictures I’ve taken for the first time—I think that’s how I got hooked.”
Although the groundwork was laid early on for a career that might combine animals and photography, things went a little differently for a while.
First, she worked in a veterinary clinic for about 10 years before the dot-com boom lead her down a web-design path.
“I enjoyed the creative aspect of web design, but I really missed working with animals,” Bradshaw says. “When I found out that pet photography is a real, actual job that people actually do for a living—I knew I’d found that elusive ‘passion’ people spend their whole lives hoping to find.”
Since that initial Eureka! moment, Bradshaw has been putting her talents to good use in the Bay Area, which has practically become a co-star in her photography. Like other pet photographers, Bradshaw books appointments with clients, but she adds a unique element to her business. Bradshaw takes advantage of San Francisco’s scenic beauty and dog-friendly tendencies to add to her photography.
While out and about in the City by the Bay, she snaps photos of dogs she meets. “I usually make a connection with the dog first, and connect with the human that way,” she says. “I’ve found that most people love to talk about their dogs and are more than happy to let me photograph them.”
As a result, Bradshaw’s dog photos with various scenes of restaurants, beaches, neighborhoods or parks spotlight San Francisco, a city outshined only by the dogs themselves. It’s a testament, too, to just how dog-friendly the city really is—both its citizens and the businesses that welcome the four-legged kind.
“I’ve lived and traveled all over the U.S., and San Francisco is, by far, the most dog-friendly place I’ve ever been,” she says. “It’s a city where dogs outnumber children and I think there’s a level of acceptance that comes with that.”
But Bradshaw’s pictures aren’t just of clients’ pets or randomly acquainted dogs from city life. She utilizes her skills to snap flattering and adorable photos of adoptable dogs in hopes that they find forever homes.
Then all those photos—adoptables, clients or random—are shared for everyone to see on the Daily Frolic page of her photography website, where viewers ooh and ahh or leave comments.
“I get a lot of amazing emails from people telling me how happy my pictures make them,” she says. “And these are not clients—just people who visited my website and left with a smile.”
A pet parent herself, Bradshaw also takes advantage of the area’s dog-welcoming ways. “Dogs are part of everyday life here—you see them in stores, on the train, pretty much anywhere that doesn’t serve food. My dogs can—and do—go pretty much anywhere I do.”
Bradshaw’s dogs are San Francisco stars in their own right. Her 2-1/2-year-old Pug, Puglet, blogs (with Bradshaw’s help) his way through any number of adventures in the Bay Area on The Daily Puglet. Puglet’s co-star is his “brother” Dutch, Bradshaw’s 7-year-old Dalmatian.
With the dogs’ happy faces, lolling tongues and Bay Area backdrop, Bradshaw’s San Francisco not only captures the canine citizens of San Francisco, but in essence reveals a part of the city with which only locals are intimate. Her photography can be viewed by some as depicting a particlar lifestyle, which she accomplishes through her favorite muse, the dog.
“The thing I love most about photographing pets is how dynamic the process is,” she says. “You just never know what’s going to happen. I’m not the kind of photographer who takes pictures with a giant lens from 20 feet away. I have one of those lenses and it literally collects dust. My shooting style is very up-close and personal—that kind of distance is just too isolating. I want people to feel like they are looking at a dog, not a picture of a dog. There’s a difference.”
Although she snaps photos of the occasional cat, horse or cow (“They have a surprising amount of personality”), it’s the canine variety that keeps her going and keeps her clients and Daily Frolic readers smiling.
“Dogs bring a lot of joy into people’s lives and if I can translate that feeling into a photograph, I’ve done my job.”
TIPS FROM A PRO
You don’t need to be a professional photographer to take better pictures of your dogs. Whether you’re at home or on the go, these tips from Amanda Bradshaw are sure to help produce better photos of your best friend!
Get Down—Getting down at pet level is the No. 1 way to get better pictures of your pet. Photographing a four-legged friend without getting down low is like standing on a chair to take a picture of a human friend.
Kill Your Flash—Flash is the enemy of all things cute and furry! Turn it off and move closer to a natural light source (lamp, window, etc.). Have your pet facing the light source, not sitting in front of it (unless you want a silhouette).
Fill the Frame—For high-impact cuteness, get close. Then get closer. Almost all point-and-shoot cameras have a macro setting that’s perfect for this—look for an icon that resembles a tulip. Just make sure your flash is turned off first!
PHOTOS: Courtesy of Amanda Bradshaw
If you would like to book a photography appointment with Amanda Bradshaw, contact Frolic Photography.