For the Love of Dogs and Hollywood

When Diana Lundin, one of Los Angeles’ top pet photographers approached us about using the hotel as a location for one of her photo shoots, it was an absolute yes for us. We are pet lovers after all, and her highly artistic black-and-white Dog Noir-style shoots, which capture pets and their parents at iconic LA landscapes famously featured in 1940’s movies, are oh so Culver!

We caught up with Diana to talk about the joy of working with pets, how she came up with the idea of Dog Noir photography, and some tips for taking the perfect pet portraits at home.

The Dog Noir concept is so original, what inspired this idea and how did you get started?
I’d just finished my book “Dogs Vs. Ice Cream” and I was looking for a new project. I mentioned this to a friend who started throwing out all kinds of ideas. When she said Film Noir, I knew that was it. Being a fan of the genre, I began thinking of concepts that might work in Los Angeles which, of course, was home to many of the film noir movies of the 1940s and 1950s. My second shoot in 2018 was with the owners of Charles Jacobsen Showroom and Gardens, an outstanding Asian antique furniture store here in Culver City. That photo shoot placed well in several international competitions. At some point, I’d like to publish a Dog Noir book. I have about half of the photos I need to make that happen.

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You are one of LA’s premier pet photographers, shooting our furry friends at iconic Los Angeles’ locations. What are some of your favorite backdrops in the city?
Well, honestly I just love shooting in Los Angeles because there’s a little of everything here. I love to go for walks in Downtown Los Angeles because there are so many interesting things. A popular downtown hotel let me photograph the owner and his Goldendoodle inside without using a flash and it turned out great. I love shooting at Disney Hall, the lights at LACMA, the Santa Monica Pier, Malibu beaches. There’s no lack of iconic images. I used to do a shoot called “I Love L.A.” with owners and their dogs and it was absolutely based on the iconic locations.

Have you photographed any famous pets?
I have photographed many famous “influencer” dogs; it’s a long list. Amazing Gracie Doodle is a Culver City doodle I’ve photographed many times. Fanny Karpman is her owner and she’s amassed 208,000 Instagram followers for Gracie. And I’ve photographed some famous people’s dogs. Just to name drop, Kristen Chenoweth’s dog Thunder is in “Dogs Vs. Ice Cream.” But I generally don’t shoot and tell.

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Are you a cat or dog person?
I grew up with dogs but right now I have cats. My boys. Kiwi is a long-haired tuxedo cat with perfectly symmetrical features and a badass attitude, and Mango is a long-haired black cat with a sweet personality. They are a lot of fun.

It’s difficult enough to get the perfect shot with a human, you must have the magic touch to be able to get both dog and owner looking so fabulous at the same moment. What advice would you give someone trying to get the perfect photo of their pet at home?
First, make sure there is good lighting. It probably shouldn’t be direct sunlight but indirect window light is very nice and soft. Get in close. Fill the frame with their faces or their full body.

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Dogs in general respond to noise, cats respond to visual stimulation. I use the squeaker from squeaky toys and hunting calls or empty plastic water bottles to get a dog’s attention. It usually works only for a limited amount of time so you have to be fast with the dogs. And some don’t respond to noises so you will have to move up the scale of things that might work. I try not to use treats if possible, but I’ll reward them at the end of the shoot. A lot of times owners call their dogs names (they’ll come to you rather than look at you) or squeak a toy so many times they’re immune to the sound. So you have to play around to see what they’ll respond to.

For cats, wave a feather toy to get their attention, then bring the toy right to your lens. Again, you’ve got to be fast. I mean, honestly, I take pretty good photos with my professional cameras but my phone photos can be pretty bad, especially with my pure black cat. He’s always so out of focus and I get motion blur, it’s almost like I’m trying to photograph Big Foot.

What’s your favorite hidden spot in Culver City?
As far as outdoor locations, I’ve done a handful of photo shoots at Kenneth Hahn State Recreation Area. It has a lot of variety, beautiful vistas, and a canopy of trees. You can’t go wrong there. I must admit that the Culver Hotel is also an excellent place for my shoots. I discovered this when I did a Dog Noir shoot in the Velvet Lounge at the hotel and it was spot on with my concept and I’d love to explore more of the hotel. Talk about iconic, the Culver Hotel is just so beautiful and has a soul that really comes across well in my photography.

Fun fact: Our hotel owner Maya’s dog’s portrait is displayed in special locations around the hotel…Keep an eye out for them the next time you visit.

For more of Diana’s work visit  dianalundin.com/dog-noir

 

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