Some time ago, Tan Dominguez quit his corporate quality analyst job to pursue his passion as a photographer—and not just in any kind of photography, but pet photography. Not surprisingly, he is a dog lover who treats his canine companions as part of his family. It is this relationship that he has been showcasing successfully on his camera in his one-of-a-kind studio, the aptly named The Pet Visuals.
“That is my goal,” he said in Taglish, “to capture the deep connection between you and your pet, through the lens of portraiture.”
The pet owners usually are more than eager to pose with their beloved pups and dogs. While Tan will honor that request, it is the canines who remain at the center of his craft. In doing his pet photography, he pays keen attention to the animals’ eyes, believing that, like humans, they are the windows of their souls.
“I should have sharp eye-to-eye contact with the dog,” Tan said. “Because once I lose them, the pictures lose their essence.”
Pet photography and expressive emotions
He enthused that there is more depth and character nuance to the dogs than they can show us. However, even if they cannot speak in human language, the expression of their eyes can tell their human owners what they feel or would like to share in that moment. He remembered in one pet photography shoot that the Aspin dog he was shooting had “very expressive eyes. He was looking at me intently like he was telling me what he wanted me to do.” He paused for a moment and then smiled, “Those are the best shots that you can get from a dog.”
“I should have sharp eye-to-eye contact with the dog, because once I lose them, the pictures lose their essence.”
Sometimes, Dominguez has to do more than his fair share of coaxing a dog into position or turning their head along with their wondrous eyes into the camera. Giving them treats is one strategy. Another is continuous cariño, wooing them with terms of endearment and sometimes petting permitted by the owner. Sometimes he has to be inventive, like playing dog sounds from YouTube to make the pet he is shooting believe that others of his kind are nearby.
The rewards though for a successful courtship can be tremendous. His photo of Duke, their own Labrador that has been with them for three years, titled “Black Labs Matter” got 15,000 Likes and 16,000 shares on Facebook.
Though he just started The Pet Visuals this year, Tan is aware that there is a community of pet lovers like him who treat their dogs as family members and not just as cute toys or brave guard dogs. “They found me through Facebook ads and they are passionate about their pets,” he said. “They would go out of their way to visit our studio in Las Piñas. We make them happy with the pictures that we send them.”
Passion behind pet photography
Again he attributed the success of his pet photography to the profound empathic connection it reveals between the owner and their pet. He also named one moving revelation that comes out of those soulful eyes. Dominguez shared, “Pets are the only living things on earth that will give you unconditional love. No matter if you are rich or poor, the dog will never leave you. No matter what you are going through. They will love you more than they love themselves.”
He remembered one poignant incident when Duke genuinely commiserated with him: “Two years ago, I was laid off from my job because they automated my work. I was very depressed. Duke just sat down in front of me and looked at me like he knew what I was going through. I just petted and embraced him. He comforted me in silence.”
Sharing this strong bond and understanding the profound human-animal connection is Tan’s wife, Rhea, who is herself a dog lover. She was the one who adopted Duke among a litter of pups that a friend’s dog had given birth to. She always makes sure that they celebrate Duke’s birthday, and in one case buying a cake for him as well as the rest of the family.
That genuine love for pets is what makes Tan’s pet photography resonate with his growing audience. It has also transformed what could have been a job into a lasting passion. “I am doing what I love and enjoying what I am doing,” he said simply. “My wife supports me. I don’t think of it as a business.”