It wasn't until I saw the video compilation that I understood the magnitude of what Heidi had done. And it brought me to tears. Every month for the past year, I've seen the adorable photos she's taken of her son, Lincoln, and their dog, Roldy, parade across my Facebook feed. She documented Lincoln's first year with monthly photos, as so many of us crazy parents do, but these photos are unique and touching, even if the kid isn't yours. When I saw them compiled, I smiled and teared up at the same time, and I knew I had to share.
documenting baby's first year with his dog
Heidi took the photos herself (if you check out her blog, you'll see she's quite the creative type), and it's as if Lincoln and Roldy were made to pose together. It would seem to me a recipe for disaster. Let's think about this: baby + dog + costumes? Heidi is a brave soul.
I asked Heidi a few burning questions about how she pulled it off.
wm: How did you get the idea to do this series of photos?
Heidi: We intended on doing the monthly photos with a stuffed animal, and when I was stressing about what stuffed friend to get, my husband suggested using Roldy. Brilliant. And I was upset that I didn't think of it myself.
wm: It seems like it wold be impossible to get a good shot with all of the unpredictable variables involved. How did you make it happen?
Heidi: I started with low expectations, figuring that I would give it a good effort to get a fun picture out of them, but not to the point where I was upsetting either. And we had a definite strategy in staging things. The camera settings were adjusted on an empty chair so I didn't waste their time. I took the pictures after Lincoln ate and had some time to play, so he was willing to sit for a bit. Roldy doesn't mind clothes or the bow tie, so he got dressed first, then we dressed Lincoln, then set Roldy in the chair, telling him to sit and stay (he already got a treat after getting dressed, so he was super focused). Then we set Lincoln in. Anthony (Heidi's husband) would step to the side, and then I would blast away with the camera while singing something crazy and twangy to get Lincoln's attention. The time spent taking pictures was literally about a minute, and I'd take about twenty shots. Then we'd choose our favorite.
Part of what I love about the first few months is that Lincoln was focused on Roldy for every picture. Maybe it was baby eye development, but I'm going to assume it was puppy love.
wm: How did Roldy behave during the process?
Heidi: After the first few months, when the good camera came out, Roldy became all business and followed me around trying to figure out what I wanted him to do that would earn him some treats. "Sit here? Do you want me over here? How about I sit here? Oh...the bow tie? Let me help!"
I think it was around seven months that I dared to take the pictures by myself. I took Lincoln out of the chair and took off his bow tie and got him changed and ready to go. I turned around, and Roldy was still sitting there in the chair waiting. He's a true professional.
wm: It sounds like the project was a lot of fun. Was it as fun and easy as you made it look?
I would say it was easy because Lincoln and Roldy are both so easy-going, but, even they would have burned out if everything wasn't ready to go and over after a few minutes. Preparation was key.
wm: Did Roldy and Lincoln mind wearing all of those costumes?
Heidi: I really tried to size things so that they would be comfortable for Roldy. So I took a normal party hat and made it much thinner (and glued on some felt) so that it would fit on top of Roldy's head. And I sized the elastic for each of them.
Once I realized that they both had great patience and a high tolerance for costumes, I pushed the limits a bit in their outfits, always knowing that things would stop right away if anyone was unhappy. Yes, I may get a perfect photo if I take more time, but it's not going to bring me any joy knowing that the moment was tense and everyone was pissed. I wanted to keep it real.
keeping it real: the outtakes
Heidi definitely kept it real. The photos, though clearly staged, have a naturalness to them, and you can see the personalities in both Roldy and Lincoln. I asked Heidi if she'd be willing to share a few outtakes, and she obliged.
Heidi also took some fantastic seasonal photos that you must see.
don't try this at home
Heidi and her boys did a great job documenting Lincoln's first year, but this type of thing isn't for the faint of heart. She never pushed her dog or her baby to do anything that made them uncomfortable, and she was willing to abandon the project if they didn't like it. You really have to have just the right dog/baby combo, or this could be downright dangerous. Know your dog and, as Heidi did, be sure that he is completely comfortable with the situation. He might get smacked or have his ear pulled...you need to be confident that your dog won't turn on your baby.
Heidi created fun, meaningful photos that her family will always treasure without torturing her baby or her dog. She placed their comfort first, which is likely one reason she was so successful.
Have you tried to take photographs with your pets and kids? How did you do?
In addition to being an awesome mom, pet parent, and photographer, Heidi has a wide range of creative talents including mural painting and tailoring, among other things. Check out her blog, and follow her on Facebook, Google+, Pinterest, and Instagram.
All photos taken and owned by Heidi Schatze and are used here with the artist's permission.