Emma with treat
This dog seems apprehensive about the process. Christian Vieler
selfie with Lotte
Self portrait of photographer Christian Vieler and his lab Lotte. Christian Vieler

Dogs make for great photographic subjects, even when they’re just lounging around. But, Photographer Christian Vieler‘s project Treat, adds a unique element into the mix, capturing studio portraits of dogs as they leap for treats.

Vieler is a full-time dog photographer based in Germany, but says that it was kind of a fluke that he began this whimsical project. In 2013 he received a new portable studio light that he intended to use for his outdoor shoots, but it was a rainy day so he set it up inside to do some tests on the HSS feature, which enables super-fast flashes of light to freeze action in the frame. He used his dog Lotte as a test subject.

“Lotte is a very chill labrador, so I had my model, but no movement,” Vieler recalls. “So I started throwing treats at her.”

Lotte with treat
Lotte helped kick off Vieler’s Treat project. Christian Vieler

Treat was born.

Vieler estimates he has photographed over 2000 dogs in his studio for the series since that time. His lighting setup includes a single strobe positioned in front of the dogs face and above his head. “The main intention is to have the dog sharp and with the best expression he can give me,” he says. “The rest is editing.” And treat throwing of course.

The sessions with the dogs are relatively short: sometimes getting the shot only takes about 10 minutes and after about 30 shots he will have what he needs. “The faces are funny, but after a certain number of shots on you get similar expressions,” he says.

Vieler says that he doesn’t have any preferences when it comes to breeds, but notes that short haired dogs faces tend to be more expressive—dogs with longer hair often require longer shoot times to nail a photo where both eyes are visible and in focus.

Rommel dogs with treats
Two dogs go in for a treat. Christian Vieler

He does note that the more times he pops the studio strobe, the higher the chance that he will spook his furry subjects—yet another reason that he likes to keep his shoots short and sweet.

“I had many talks with vets because I am doing this stuff every day. I had to be sure I was doing the right things,” he says. “Shooting a dog with flash doesn’t hurt the dog’s eyes, as long as you don’t overdo it.”

Vieler released a book of the images last year called Treat! It can be purchased here.

Gizmo with treat
Gizmo prepares to catch a treat. Christian Vieler
Gizmo with treat
Good work Gizmo! Christian Vieler
Bobba with treat
Bobba doesn’t mess around when it comes to catching treats. Christian Vieler
Celine with treat
Celine goes in for her treat. Christian Vieler
Emil with treat
“The faces are funny, but after a certain number of shots on you get similar expressions.” Christian Vieler
Emma with treat
This dog seems apprehensive about the process. Christian Vieler
Kamperhoff with treat
Kamperhoff is ready for his closeup and his treat. Christian Vieler
Komp with treat
Get after that treat Komp! Christian Vieler
Bella with treat
Treat catching is serious business in Vieler’s studio. Christian Vieler
Mueller dogs with treat
Two dogs prepare to catch a treat. Christian Vieler
Otto dogs with treats
Which basset hound will win the battle for the treat? Christian Vieler
Palm dogs with treats
Two white dogs go after a treat thrown by Vieler. Christian Vieler
Palm dog with treat
This one looks like it might be a miss. Christian Vieler
Palm dog with treat
But this dog definitely has this one! Christian Vieler
salfer dogs with treats
Three dogs wait for their treats. Christian Vieler