Have you met the Steve Jobs of dogs?
Hugo the Golden Retriever became a viral sensation in 2019 when his owner Ursula Aitchison dressed him up as the Apple founder and posted the photo on Instagram.
Ursula is a professional photographer who uniquely captures the special bond between dogs and their owners for a living.
But when she’s not snapping Setters and Weimaraners, Ursula is keeping Instagram followers amused with her candid posts of Hugo and his younger Golden Retriever sibling Huxley.
The trio put smiles on faces with their amusing and uncensored photos and videos that provide an honest glimpse into daily life with two Golden Retrievers.
Having seen her following grow rapidly from 20,000 to 200,000 in around 24 months, there’s no stopping Hugo, Huxley and Ursula as they continue to raise spirits through their hilarious photos and videos.
1) What attracted you to the Golden Retriever breed?
I needed a dog that could come with me on photoshoots and get along with other breeds. I knew Golden Retrievers have really nice temperaments and generally don’t have any issues. That’s why I picked them – plus they’re generally cute looking!
2) How did you end up with Hugo and Huxley?
I bought Hugo on a whim, which is terrible because people should do research before buying dogs. I was photographing puppies and I saw him in Swansea. I reserved him and got the train to collect him a few weeks later.
I thought about [getting] Huxley for a while. I wanted a second dog for the longest time. I found a couple who were breeding and picked Huxley when he was three days old from a picture of his litter – and then pestered the couple for more pictures of him until I got him!
3) Can you describe Hugo and Huxley’s individual personalities?
Hugo is pretty much how he looks in the photos. I feel like he’s quite a serious dog. He’s really, extremely food oriented and food motivated. He is very patient, although not with other dogs. He really likes people and he’s a lot more gentle. He’s pretty easy to train. He has lots of separation issues. If he’s more than a foot away from me, he’s barking to get to me. He loves human interaction. He’s mental about balls and sticks. He always finds them wherever we go. If he was a person, he’d be a swish George Clooney.
Huxley, on the flip side, is 100% mental. He is really dopey, really silly. He bashes into things, knocks things over. He has no self awareness. He loves everyone and everything around him. He is always excited and happy. He is the polar opposite to Hugo. He’d be like a jock in a teenage film where it’s zero brain but looks incredible.
4) What are some of the perks of owning two dogs?
The perks of having two dogs is them entertaining each other. When we go for a walk, they’ll be playing the whole way which is lovely. When you have one dog, you’re their source of entertainment. If you have two, they can rag around the house together. It’s really fun to watch them play and interact. It’s fun to watch their relationship grow and change. There’s double the poo to pick up – which is obviously a bonus!
5) How would you describe your bond with Hugo and Huxley?
They’re so incorporated into my daily routine and life. It’s really cheesy to say they’re like a limb. I operate seamlessly with them. They’re such a part of everything I do. I think they make me incredibly happy with the simplest things and I like to think I make their lives equally fulfilled.
6) Why did you decide to start an Instagram page for you and your dogs?
I decided to start an Instagram because I was photographing other people and their dogs. That’s what I originally used the page for. I began photographing little bits of Hugo and I realised people were more interested in seeing little interactions with Hugo rather than strangers and their dogs. It was previously behind-the-scenes of other people and their dogs. I realised people liked seeing him and it was nice getting feedback and seeing people talking about Hugo. It was the same as if you’re on a path on a trail and someone says, ‘Oh that’s a nice dog’. It’s just an online version. I did it a little bit for myself but also because I knew other people liked it. It was low level, easy entertainment.
7) Can you pinpoint the success of your account to any one thing or is there many?
It had been slowly growing. I had done lots of photos of Hugo dressed up with me or alone. A few big sites like Bored Panda put together a story about me dressing my dog up. They used about 12 or 15 pictures and it looked quite cool altogether. Once one of the articles was posted, lots of other websites followed their example. It just grew and grew for a week. It went from 20,000 and went on from that point quite quickly. The success of it is a combination of things. It’s having something that’s different [for anyone trying to grow their Instagram account]. Doing something different to everyone else. People are so tempted to copy a good idea [on social media] and it massively works on TikTok. On Instagram, it’s works to be original and come up with your own idea that’s different to everyone else.
8) Even though you’re a professional photographer, you make no secret that a lot of your photos are taken with your phone capturing candid moments. Were you ever tempted to go down the route of just professional photos? Why did you decide to be more candid?
The phone [quality] pictures that my account are full of get so much attention even if they’re blurry. I think some accounts work really well when they just do beautiful pictures of dogs. There’s a couple that I follow and their photos are gorgeous. I follow them for the quality. If people want that [from me], that’s on my Phodography account and they know where to look for it. It’s quite hard to combine the two. One reason is you have your phone on you all the time and you can capture those moments but you’re not going to lug around a big DSLR camera. Often the moment is gone [before you get your camera ready]. That’s a big reason why it’s phone-based. Also funny photos taken on a professional camera can look a little too set up and a little unbelievable. It can take away from the comedy sometimes. When I do post a nice photo of the boys that I’ve taken, it’s nice to show I can take a photo and the boys can look smart!
9) Does any preparation go into your photos/video or do you prefer to be spontaneous?
It’s a thought process and then shooting it within a minute of thinking of the idea. I don’t work well with planning things, especially with dogs. With dogs it’s really hard to [plan]. Often they can’t fulfill your expectations. It’s very much they’re doing something silly and I capture it. Occasionally, if it’s something I think of and I know they’re capable of doing it then I’ll plan it. I’d say 90% of the shots are candid in the moment.
10) What advice would you give to someone who wants to step up their Instagram game?
It’s just being original and I know that’s a cliche – but it’s true. It depends on the motivation – why do you want to start an Instagram page [for your dog]? Is it purely because they like the reward of getting the likes or seeing people like their dogs? Do they want to make money? Do they want to be famous?
I think enjoy it! The minute it stresses you out then it’s kind of pointless. If you enjoy something, I feel like other people will too. It helps to have a nice outlook, being friendly and being engaging can help too.
11) Are there any downsides to being an Insta famous dog mom with Insta famous dogs?
I don’t think so. I could pinpoint something like whatever you put out there you’ll be judged by. I have the power to choose what I put out there so it really takes it away. You can choose what comments and messages you do and don’t read. So no downsides – all good.
12) How long have you been running your Phodography business? How did it come about?
It’s five years old now! It came about because I’ve been doing photography for around 10 years and I was lacking enthusiasm for it. I was back at home with my mom for Christmas and I was looking through old pictures of my great uncle and his dogs. There was some really nice pictures but there weren’t very many. His dogs were a huge part of his life and I thought it was sad that I didn’t make the most of the opportunity to go and photograph him with them because he was a really interesting character and they were cool looking dogs. I thought it would be fun to make a book of people and their dogs for enjoyment purposes and others to enjoy. I did it as a project and something to enjoy – and it turned into a business from there.
13) Do you have any favourite breeds to work with or locations to shoot?
My favourite places to shoot… light would be more important than location. The golden hour is so beautiful. You can almost be anywhere! Light is so beautiful and it’s so incredibly powerful. Imagine [light] in a forest, hilltop, in a city coming through the gaps in the buildings, in someone’s home coming through the window…. It’s beautiful. It’s different from my photography style but I really enjoy that. My photography is fun, bright with quirky backgrounds. When I get really excited taking photos, it’s with that kind of sun. [I like to photograph] all the big hunting dogs but Weimaraners are fun to shoot… Setters and Ridgebacks. I find big dogs are very expressive! Some of the much smaller breeds I find trickier but it’s nice to have a challenge!
14) Would you have any simple tips for dog owners looking to improve their ability to take professional shots of their dogs?
Light! Light! Light!
15) Finally, what advice would you give yourself if you could go back to when you first got Hugo and Huxley knowing what you know now?
I don’t think I’d give myself any advice [for Instagram]. In terms of dog ownership, I’d like to have made them less needy, although it’s very sweet and flattering. I would have made sure that I had other people look after them and dealt with problems now prevalent with them now like all the seperation issues.