Pets are family and it’s important to have quality photographs of them in our lives. Most photographers who have pets will find them in front of their camera from time to time, but as much as they love us, they aren’t always the most willing of subjects. Here are three tips to help make better dog photos of your canine companions.
Connect like a dog lover
There’s a very good chance that if you’re interested in taking photographs of dogs this is a natural one for you, but it’s worth saying – dogs know who their friends are. If you’re photographing dogs because you love them, they can tell and they’ll give you more of themselves in a photograph for it.
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Respect the dog
While a photographer understands what’s happening during a photoshoot, the whole ordeal can be very confusing to a dog. Some dogs are afraid of cameras, or flashes. Pay attention to the dog’s body language to tell if you’re causing them stress or even potentially putting yourself in danger – a scared dog is more likely to bite. Look for signs like flattened ears, tail tucked between legs, and panting when it isn’t hot to indicate that a dog isn’t feeling the shoot and needs some time to chill out.
Treats, Squeakies, and Ridiculous Behavior
If you’ve ever squeaked a rubber chicken between your knees while sitting on the floor because your hands were full of camera and you wanted an eye-level shot of someone very short, you might just be a pet photographer. Sometimes things can get silly on a dog shoot – know this and embrace it. No shame – dogs won’t judge and their humans will be happy with the shots your absurdity awards them. It’s helpful to have an apron with pockets to keep treats and toys handy while you’re moving around after a lively subject.
Dogs will have individual reactions to different stimuli. A treat might be just the thing to coerce one dog into doing your photographic bidding, while another may be indifferent, and yet another might lose it and get completely over-the-top excited, becoming an unruly, slobbering mess (though, sometimes that mess is adorable and can result in a portrait with a lot of character – provided you’ve got a flash with a fast enough duration or can use a fast enough shutter speed to freeze the motion.) On the subject of treats – I recommend having hypoallergenic treats on hand to meet a variety of dogs’ health needs.
Sometimes dogs that don’t respond to treats will give a reaction to a toy, or vice versa. Toys that make sounds are great, like the aforementioned squeaky chicken. You can also make sounds or say words that they know – meow like a cat, say “squirrel,” make a “pssst” sound. You can ask their person what words they know and react to, but don’t forget to ‘throw them a bone’ – if they tilt their head when you say “treat,” give them one after a few tilts or you’re just teasing them.
What have your biggest challenges photographing animals been? How have your dog photos turned out? Let us know in the comments!