Before You Photograph Your Dog (Part One)
This is Part One of a four-part series that gives you tips and inspiration about photographing your dog.
There are many different things to consider when planning any sort of photography session, and working with dogs is no exception. Whether you’re a professional or not, here are a few important things to keep in mind before you ever start shooting.
– Let your dogs become familiar with the area in which you want to take their picture. It’s best if they’ve been there before and know it well, but even if they’ve never visited the spot, they need time to acclimate to their surroundings. You probably won’t want to take out your camera for the first 5-10 minutes after arriving, just because your dogs will most likely be eagerly exploring the new place.
– Make sure it’s a place that’s safe and comfortable for your dogs. Try not to get distracted, as sometimes it’s easy to get caught up in how pretty the scenery is, or what a gorgeous landscape is in the background, without realizing there may be a serious hazard nearby. Look beyond the obvious danger factors, such as unstable terrain or sudden drops. Once I came across an underground bees’ nest!
– Double-check your dogs’ body language before starting your photography session. You probably recognize the telltale signs of when your dog is scared or uncomfortable (ears back, tail down, sticking unnecessarily close to your side). If you notice any of these things, try to reassure your dogs that you’re in a safe place and that everything is okay. Just remember that you’ll never get photos of a happy dog if they’re not happy. You just can’t force it.
– Make sure your dogs are comfortable with the camera. Don’t think because you’ve taken cell phone photos of them, they’ll be fine with you sticking a big black DSLR in their face. If you have a big camera (the kind that doesn’t fit in your pocket), intimidation can be a big factor. Introduce your dog to the camera slowly, and be generous with treats the first few times you click the shutter. It doesn’t even have to be pointed at your dogs when this happens, but make sure they know that nothing bad is going to happen to them.
This photo was taken at a beach near these dogs’ house, and I think it turned out well because A) the dogs were comfortable; they’d been to this location before and had made plenty of happy memories there! And B) I was far enough away that the camera was a non-issue. They were pretty comfortable with me snapping photos from far away, but up close both of these dogs weren’t so happy about it. I had to give them enough space during our session, so that their trepidation of the camera evaporated!
This photo is a cheerful one – Josie looks so cute and happy! I made sure to include her positive body language (relaxed face and tail pointing up) to convey that mood. We were in a public park where she’d never been before, but luckily, she’s a very easygoing dog and took to the place like it was her own backyard! Can you imagine how different this photo would look if she was scared to be there?
Moose is on his parents’ bed in this shot. Can you imagine him giving his mom and dad this look every single day? It was a familiar and comfortable place for him, since of course it was in his house, and I loved shooting him on this bed because he really showed off his natural (mischievous) personality. I didn’t have to do hardly anything to get this shot; it came about because he was “at home” in every sense of the phrase!
The next post will include tips on what to do once your pet is comfortable and ready to be photographed! Thanks for reading!
About the Author
My name is Allison Shamrell and I’m a pet photographer in Pensacola, Florida. I am completely in love with my job. I have a dog, Bailey, who I consider to be my daughter. I’d do pretty much anything to see her happy, and if you feel the same way about your dogs, I’m sure we’ll get along just great!