Column: My unconventional model

Senior Mandy Halbert’s dog makes for a photographer’s best friend


Mandy Halbert

Senior Mandy Halbert needed a model for her photography. But the only family member willing to participate was her border collie, Spencer.

Sit there. Look here. Stop moving. And please, don’t lick that.

Growing up as an aspiring photographer has been an adventure. From constructing makeshift bedroom studios and growing slowly from disposable, to point-and-shoot, to DSLR cameras, I have tackled obstacle after obstacle.

But the biggest challenge for me seems to be finding a model. If you know my family, you understand why that may be difficult.

My mom has always been my biggest supporter. She always talks about my “eye for photography.” She has done whatever she feels I need in order to be successful. She has bought lenses and studio lights and tripods and memory cards and editing software. She has driven me down backroads and urban highways in order to find the perfect setting. She paid for lesson after lesson with successful photographers. But she refuses to model.

Mandy Halbert
Spencer will cooperate with his photographer, but requires a bribe in the form of a dog treat.

My dad also loves photography. He eagerly learns whatever tips I have to pass along. He has willingly shared his own gear with me since I was young. He taught me all he could when I got my first camera and has been excited to watch me learn and grow from there. But he too is not willing to be the focus of my pictures.

My sister has a talent for art, color and composition. She creates some of the most beautiful watercolor paintings I’ve seen. She’s the best friend I’ve ever had. Growing up, she always had my back. But she’s camera shy.

With no volunteer models, I knew exactly what I had to do. Just like backdrops and lighting, I’d have to find a way to make do. My solution was looking (or licking) me right in the face.

He is full of energy. He wiggles and waggles and never sits still. He likes to make noise and messes. He hates baths and always splashes. He’s probably the worst option ever.

But my 3-year-old border collie Spencer was, sadly, the only option.

He’s a nightmare to work with. He knocks down everything in his path. He won’t look at me when I call. He whimpers and cries and throws a tantrum. I swear he’s a toddler. Maybe worse.

One thing my little Spence is very good at though, is teaching me patience. Oh, and how to bribe.

I’ve learned that, with a small treat, I have about a 30-second window. After time is up, he jumps and grabs and dances all around.

No amount of pointing, petting, or praising can tame that wild beast. He’s 38 pounds of sheer terror.

His tantrums echo throughout the house. Like any little boy, he just wants to run and play, not sit still and have his picture taken, but I need to practice different styles and techniques. I hate to do it to him, but he’s the only option I have.

He may not know it, but my little friend and I have a bargain going on. He hates posing, I hate throwing his slobbery tennis ball. But hey, you do what you’ve got to do to get what you want. If he wants me to throw that nasty thing, he better be willing to sit and look nice every once in awhile.

He holds a grudge for about 10 minutes afterward. He huffs and puffs and dramatically plops himself down in his bed. But he can’t stay mad for too long.

He hates my hobbies, and I hate his. Despite our differences, he’ll always run to greet me, and I’ll always play ball with him. I love my little dog and no amount of blurry shots, picture pouting, sass or slobber will ever change that.