When it comes to Janice Smith's stint as a photographer, you might say it’s gone to the dogs.
At 8 a.m. on a Saturday morning at Amico Island Park in Delran, Smith, of Salty Paws Photography, was dressed comfortably wearing brown boots, carrying a pink bag packed with her Nikon D7000 camera, two squeaky toys, a whistle and several crackers.
Beneath a gorgeous blue sky, the Delaware River was as quiet as a smile, and the autumn sun was casting low beams of light.
Smith was ready. The purpose of her day: portrait sitting for three dogs.
Parents of the humankind have treasured images of their offspring for generations. Now, dog owners will go to the same lengths and expense to have a keepsake of Fido.
Stephanie Cooper, of Voorhees, had rounded up her three canines so Smith could take some pictures during their scheduled photo sitting—except, with freedom and an open field, it was more like a romp.
Nike, a 5-year-old brown pit bull with streaks of beige and more energy than a nuclear power surge, seemed to forget the purpose of his trip to the park. He couldn’t stop roaming the tall cattails with his dog mates, 10-year-old Shelby, another pit bull, and matriarch Maggie, a 15-year-old Jack Russell terrier.
But Smith patiently and effortlessly, with her bag of tricks, worked her lens.
Smith, who is a mostly self-taught artist, started snapping the four-legged crowd after she put her own pit bull Zeus down earlier this year.
“One day I thought, we had Zeus for 13 years, and I don’t have any pictures of him,” recalls Smith, 34, who graduated from high school in 1997. She now lives in Cinnaminson with her husband Charles and two kids—son, L.C., 7, and daughter Lily, who is 3.
She honed her craft over time, first by taking pictures of families and kids.
“Frankly, it’s been easier to take pictures of dogs than kids,” she says laughing. “Sometimes they listen better.”
Most of Smith’s shot are done outdoors. Natural rustic settings like Croft Farm Trails in Cherry Hill are among her favorites.
“They have an old farmhouse and a really great wooden bridge,” says Smith. “In the summer, I’ll shoot on the beach,” which figured into the business name. “I had one of my mom’s dogs on the beach one day. I saw the salt and sand from the ocean on his paws, and the name came to me.”
Safety is essential; if a dog is feeling impatient and antsy, or refusing to sit still, she’ll tether them and photoshop the leash during processing.
An animal lover at heart, Smith volunteers at local shelters, raising awareness for pit bulls or pit bull mixes, some of the hardest dogs to be placed for adoptions.
“I know countless stories about the cruelty done to these dogs. It’s really terrible,” says Smith, who currently owns a 10-year-old pit bull named Angel, and Roxy, a 5-year-old Labrador retriever, who had special needs.
She has started using her craft to change the grim photos of shelter dogs into something more appealing, in the hopes of getting them adopted.
“I’ve never had an aggressive dog. After a few minutes, of treats and clicking, they start to associate the camera with something good,” says Smith. “Although, one time, I did have a Yorkie who kept trying to eat the camera. That was a first.”
Sitting fees start at $150. For more information, visit Smith's Facebook page.