Pets are becoming part of the family photo more and more. I asked Claudine of Simply Dog Photography to share some tips and tricks to help us non pet experts create a better atmosphere and better portraits when Fido is with us.
Pets can be challenging to photograph but with a little patience and effort, the end results are so worth it! I know that my clients have expressed on a number of occasions how much they truly appreciate my willingness to include the whole family!
1. Make sure to allow enough time to get to know the dog and allow them to get to know you. I never just go into a session without getting information beforehand on the dogs personality, what gets them excited and what they are afraid of. When I arrive I give the dog a few minutes to get to know me and build some trust by tossing a ball, playing with them and also let them get used to my gear. I’ll even click my camera a few times to see how they react to the clicking sound, let them get used to it and see if they are nervous or camera shy.
2. Find out what excites them (park, car ride, walk?) and use those very sparingly. Many times people think constant squeaking from a toy will get attention but that will actually lose their interest faster than anything. However one well timed squeak or noise they have never heard before works perfect for expression.
3. Advise the owner to make sure they come to their session with their dog well exercised and a bit hungry. This will help them to respond to treats better (also treat sparingly).
4. Dogs have very short attention spans therefore I take a lot of breaks. We’ll take a few shots, play a bit, take a few more shots ect.
5. Let the dog get comfortable with their surroundings if it’s new to them and for the first few minutes just let them be. I find if I don’t allow them this time and the more they are forced into a position, the more difficult it becomes to get them to respond resulting in unnatural shots. Owners sometimes get nervous that their dogs aren’t doing “what they are supposed to” so it’s important that they know the more anxious they become, the more anxious the dog will become. Just relax and go with it—pet sessions should be fun!
6. Just like photographing small children approaching a pet photography session requires the same patience. I like to set up my pet shots just as I would with any subject but with pets expect to spend some time just waiting for that perfect moment.
7. For small dogs, it can work well to put them in or on something (a suitcase, couch ect.) For me since I shoot on location, things like park benches or inside a car are perfect!
8. Once they are comfortable, that is a great opportunity to get some great personality shots! Or bring in their favorite toy to get play shots.
9. Let them be dogs! I love to shoot dogs in their natural environment where their personalities really come to life and if that means getting a little dirty—all the better!
10. This one’s from me (Leah)… Ask ahead of time to have your clients bring an extra special treat for the pooch. Don’t try to provide the treat yourself as the dog may have special diets or just might not be interested in what you have to offer. …Kids aren’t the only subjects we can bribe into good behavior.
Have you been photographing pets in your family sessions? Leave a comment and let us know what tip you liked best and of course we’d love for you to add your own as well!