Make sure you get his good side!

RED – the original poser!

Half of the battle in getting good photographs of pets in preparation. Deciding on the location, time of day, inside/outside, learning about what makes your subject tick and sorting what equipment you’ll need.

So where to pose your pooch?

When out and about it is important to take into consideration the sun/shadows when deciding where to pose your pooch. I would always aim (especially in summer) to have outdoor photoshoots in the golden hour after and before sunset with the soft light, but this isn’t always possible.  Once you’ve decided which direction best lights your gorgeous four-legged model then it time to take into consideration the background. Is it a background that enhances your canine poser or is it one that will distract?  Look for any lines in your background and ensure any horizon/sky lines are level and I like to put these either a third up or a third down the image. (personal choice)   Next is to decide on whether you want any detail in the back ground or whether you are going to use a shallow depth of field and just keep the subject sharp, I use both in different situations. 

Maisie – framed by foreground

Now you have picked the perfect spot, how do you get the most out of your subject?

Is your subject pro poser or a shrinking violet?

Some dogs are natural born poser like my Red cocker, he loves the camera and the camera loves him, but some dogs will shut down when a camera is pointed at them making you stop to wonder if you’ve actually picked up a gun by mistake.   Nobody wants a photograph of their dog looking miserable…….unless of course that is their character….(sometimes it is, so embrace the grumps)

Cody – sometimes the background doesn’t work and needs post shoot tweaking

It is this point that talking to your clients about their dog’s personality is import, this is why I will always ask, what three words would you use to best describe your pets character and what does your dream photograph of them look like?

Once you know the character of your subject its up to you often with the help of an owner to bring it out and capture it! 

I will try and get the dog posed in several different positions, but the levels of training vary greatly so sometimes you have to work with what they give you especially when gorgeous puppies are involved.  Ideally, I would like a few standing poses, side on with them looking back down their body (I like this pose as it leads people’s eyes in and then back over the dog), then another maybe with their front paws on a log or something less natural if in the studio.  Next would be similar poses but sitting, then lying down…..My fave shot is head on the floor between paws looking straight into the camera as you can really capture the eyes, but its not always a shot I get unless they are posing pros!

So going back to our dogs that look like your about to shoot them and I don’t mean with a camera, you need to find out what makes them happiest in life and use it. Is it balls? Treats? Their human? If you are really struggling with getting a “smile” out of a dog try animal noises! Sounds crazy right….. but trust me on this one, most dogs will forget about the fact they don’t like their photo being taken and look at you with huge interest……..*disclaimer* This tactic will often end with a dog on your head to get the snap quick!! Have that shutter speed nice and high! Haha

As beautiful as our dogs are, when posing them I often use natural things found in the environment to draw your eye to them in the photo, whether that’s framing or leading lines.   Also little dogs can often get lost in an image despite making the most of angles and lying on the floor, so to help the little guys and gals out I will also make use of props that they can stand on whether that’s in the studio or out.

Nuka – getting a boost from an old trunk

The most important thing is to have fun! I enjoy ever shoot I do as there are always lots of laughs…..usually at my repertoire of animal noises! And remember you may have an idea of the shot you want in your head as may the owner but be realistic and work with whatever the dog gives you.

I am part of a blog circle so please head over and check out Angela’s blog next 🙂 this week was photographer’s choice.

Angela Schneider of Big White Dog Photography in Spokane, WA, and North Idaho

10 Replies to “Make sure you get his good side!”

  1. LOL – it has taken me a long time to “embrace the grumps” but I have one of my own and I’m learning! She was actually panting last night, so it looked like she was smiling and she looked weird. haha It was so out of character for her.

  2. Great post! I loved your step-by-step approach to successfully photographing pets, and your tip for a three word description! I am going to use that!

  3. Beautiful photographs! Thanks for the tips on a few things I haven’t thought about as far as ‘three words to describe your pet’ and what is your ideal photo of your pet – both great thoughts.

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