Margaret Bryant’s Funny, Furry Friends

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Bill Hedrick

Early in her photographic career, Margaret Bryant was photographing a family group that included several of their dogs. While the family members were cooperating nicely, one of the dogs simply would not look at the camera. It seemed as if this was the case in every family group that included animals, and she thought she was a failure.

However, when she showed the images to the family, they loved them! The images perfectly captured the personality of the dog. To Margaret’s surprise, it turned out to be one of her largest orders and included a large wall portrait. It was a lesson she would never forget. From then on, she purposely included a goofy shot or two of the family dog in every sales presentation. “Sometimes the most goofy shot is the one that most perfectly expresses the personality of your subject,” she says.

People took notice, and the word spread about her unique portraiture. One day, a man contacted her to help him with his idea of proposing to his girlfriend. His idea was for each of their three dogs to wear signs saying “Will you” and “marry” and “me?” After wrapping the finished 8×10 in a fancy box, he took his girlfriend to a nice restaurant where she opened it and, of course, said “Yes!”

Other interesting sessions would follow over the years to come. One bride wanted her two Boston Terriers to be included in her beach wedding without them actually being there, so Margaret suggested a bridal session in advance of the wedding. The dogs were “posed” with the bride in her wedding dress, with the flowers, and so forth. Then, Margaret suggested a shot or two of the dogs tugging on one of the garters. The bride loved the idea. Her dogs would “participate” in the wedding by having their photos displayed at the reception.

It was a scenario that would repeat itself over the years and Margaret’s clients became more and more involved in planning the portraits of their pets. As word spread, her sales took off. “I love it when clients want to collaborate on an image.”

Margaret’s images of pets have created other opportunities for sales and have been used for other purposes as well. “Twice I have had clients take my images of their dogs and had them tattooed on themselves,” she relates.

She also has clients who come to her on a regular basis for portraits of their pets. One client brought their two Portuguese Water Dogs to her with a topic in mind of “the dogs getting their favorite things for Christmas.” On the front of the card would be the dogs writing their Christmas list for Santa. But it was the inside of the card that would be the real challenge. “One of the dogs liked toilet paper, and the other liked drinking out of the toilet,” she explains. The latter would be the most difficult shot. So, before the session, Margaret measured the height of a toilet and set up a chair with a bowl on it that was the same height and had the dog eat treats from the bowl so she could get the dog’s ears hanging over the edge of the bowl. Then, she photographed a toilet at Lowe’s and composited it into the image. “Since both dogs loved bacon and socks, I added those to the image as well,” says Margaret. Of course, the client loved it.

Margaret Bryant’s interest in photography began as a child when she purchased her first camera with $2 and two box tops from Luden’s cough drops. By high school, she had a better camera and had converted her parents’ spare bathroom into a darkroom. College brought an interest in television, but her small town didn’t have a TV station, so photography went by the wayside for an interest in radio.

In 1976, she worked in the newsroom researching, writing, and airing news stories at a radio station in upstate New York. Two years later, she transitioned into radio engineering after obtaining her FCC First Class license. After designing, building, and maintaining radio stations in several cities and markets, Margaret landed a job in Chicago as Engineering Manager at WMAQ. But, after spending six years in Chicago, she decided to return to Texas where she designed, built, and maintained the Dallas operations of ABC Radio Networks.

While there, she expanded her world by writing for the broadcasting trade magazines, serving on the National Association of Broadcaster’s Convention Committee, one of the larger conventions in the country, and was a six-time recipient of Radio Ink Magazine’s most admired radio engineers. Over those years, she worked with Paul Harvey, Tom Joyner, Doug Banks, and the staff at Radio Disney.

During her time at WMAQ, Margaret revived her hobby of photography and soon decided to turn her photography into a part-time business. By 2006, she retired from 30 years in radio to do photography full-time. In the past 25 years, Margaret Bryant has accomplished a lot. She earned her Master of Photography degree in 2009 and her Photographic Craftsman degree in 2012, followed by her Certified Professional Photographer degree.

As an active member of the Texas Professional Photographers Association, Margaret can always be counted on to help in any way. If you’ve ever been late paying your TPPA dues, chances are that you’ve received a “reminder” card in the mail with an image of a very sad dog. That image was created by Margaret Bryant.

She is a popular speaker and has presented programs at various state and local PPA affiliates as well as Imaging USA and the Texas School of Professional Photography and the Animal Image Maker’s Convention. Along with her very successful photography career, Margaret has raised more than $40,000 for several animal charities. Many consider her the OG of pet photography.

Always ready for a new challenge, Margaret decided to go after the American Society of Photographers Educational Associates degree and, in 2021, succeeded with her paper, “Using Animal Behavioral Psychology and Operant Conditioning in Dog Photography.” In addition, she has written three books: “Who Rescued Whom” about rescue dogs and “Dog Photography: How to Capture the Love, Fun and Whimsy of Man’s Best Friend,” first edition and updated second edition.

Margaret has numerous PPA Photographer of the Year recognitions, and two Grand Imaging Award nominations. She has written many articles for the Texas PPA magazine and served as the Dallas PPA president 2010. As if she did not already have enough to keep her busy, Margaret also teaches her workshop, “Dog Photography Boot Camp,” with two other instructors and is available for one-on-one instruction.

The inscription on this coveted award simply reads, “For meritorious contributions to professional photography.”

With her long list of accomplishments and her record of service to others, it is no wonder that the Dallas Professional Photographers Association presented Margaret with the National Award from DPPA in November of 2023.

Those of us who know Margaret, realize that she still has tons of crazy ideas to capture in photographic form. So, watch out for more. She’s not done yet!