A photographer takes expressive portraits of dogs that show they have as much personality as any human

Django the dog poses in one of Elke Vogelsang's portraits.

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Django the dog poses in one of Elke Vogelsang’s portraits.
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Courtesy of Elke Vogelsang
  • Photographer Elke Vogelsang takes expressive portraits of dogs.
  • She coaxes amusing faces out of them by making funny noises and using tools like kazoos.
  • She hopes to capture the humor and unconditional love dogs bring to their owners’ lives.
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There’s a reason dog adoptions have spiked during the pandemic. Their unconditional love and companionship provides profound comfort during stressful times.

Photographer Elke Vogelsang knows this firsthand. Her love of pet portraiture started as a creative outlet in the midst of difficult struggles, and grew into her passion. She now has over 150,000 Instagram followers and has collaborated with pet companies such as Pedigree and Fluff & Tuff.

Vogelsang spoke to Insider via email about her work and revealed how she captures her playful portraits.


During a stressful time in her life, photographer Elke Vogelsang found comfort in her dogs, three Spanish rescue mutts named Noodles, Scout, and Ioli.

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“Stinkin’ Cute.”
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Courtesy of Elke Vogelsang

Vogelsang and her husband cared for his mother when she was diagnosed with dementia. Two years later, her husband was hospitalized for a severe brain hemorrhage due to a ruptured aneurysm.


“I decided to start the project, despite my husband being in hospital, or rather because of it,” she said.

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“Sunday Mood” featuring Scout.
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Courtesy of Elke Vogelsang

“I wanted to try to keep up a bit of normality and have something like a visual diary for my husband of that time while he was in an induced coma, and later on had no short-term memory at all for months,” she said. “Often, my dogs found themselves in front of my camera which, alongside my photography, were a welcome distraction.”


By the time Vogelsang’s husband made a full recovery, photography had become her passion.

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“I’m Down Here” featuring Noodles.
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Courtesy of Elke Vogelsang

She often features her own dogs in her work, like Noodles, pictured, but she also hires other dogs or photographs rescue dogs looking for homes.


She tailors her portraits to the temperament of each dog she works with.

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“Late For Netflix Evening” featuring Noodles.
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Courtesy of Elke Vogelsang

“Each and every one of them has its own personality,” she said. “With every individual you meet you’ll learn a new trick. The energetic terrier might need action to really enjoy the session, while the sensitive sighthound might prefer a very calm environment and some super treats.”


She coaxes the dogs into making surprised faces with a variety of tools.

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“Oh That Corgi Smile” featuring Socke.
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Courtesy of Elke Vogelsang

“I’m never afraid of making a fool of myself in order to get a surprised or interested look from a dog,” she said. “I do animal noises, whisper, squeak, whatever surprising sound I may come up with. … If the dog is too cool for this, I also have a variety of different sound-makers, which might cause a cute head tilt even from the most relaxed senior dog.”


Vogelsang says the key to capturing the perfect pet photo is “patience, trust, repetition, and lots and lots of bribery.”

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“On A Diet Caught Eating Peanut Butter” featuring Ernie.
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Courtesy of Elke Vogelsang

“Most dogs would do anything for treats,” she said.


“Every session is funny or emotional in some way, as dogs are natural comedians and mood-lifters,” she said.

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“That Wonky Horizon” featuring Django.
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Courtesy of Elke Vogelsang

“Often it’s the little things that make you laugh and adore dogs even more,” she said.


As more and more people turn to pets for company and comfort during the pandemic, Vogelsang hopes her photos capture their humor and companionship.

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“Fluff and Tuff Pile of Toys.”
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Courtesy of Elke Vogelsang

“My own three mutts are my joy, recreation, and constant source of laughter,” she said. “They comforted me during those stressful months. I can’t put into words how much they mean to me, so I guess trying to express this in pictures is only natural.”


Their unconditional love continues to inspire her to work.

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“Why The Bubble Face?” featuring Scout.
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Courtesy of Elke Vogelsang

“Dogs give you all their attention,” she said. “They can make the shyest people feel better about themselves. They are family members you love to have around and never get into trouble with, as they are unpretentious and forgiving. They don’t judge and take you as you are.”