As with any session, there are simple preparations that you can follow to ensure a fun and successful session.
The same goes for photographing the family pet!
As a pet photographer in my community, I wanted to share some tips and tricks for getting the client and the dog in the right frame of mind.
1. Practice commands and tricks.
Tell owners to brush up on any commands that their pet knows. It isn’t entirely necessary but a good “sit,” “stay,” and “down” goes a long way with the success of a session.
If the owner would like a photo of a special trick that the dog knows, ask that they practice ahead of time so that it is fresh in its mind.
2. Exercise before the session.
It is so important that the dog gets their “zoomies” out before the session. A long walk, a jog around the block, or a few hours at doggy daycare will make a world of a difference. This will help the dog relax, be focused, and not bouncing off the walls with excitement!
3. Remind owners to prepare themselves for the session.
Animals are very sensitive and in tune with our emotions and attitude. If owners go into a session with a calm, positive state of mind, it will set the stage for how their pet will respond.
Also, be sure to explain that things might not go exactly as planned, and that is okay! If you go with the flow, the pet will, too!
4. Bring treats and toys.
Break out the good stuff! Delicious, high value treats are a must for almost every session. They should be delicious enough that the pet wants to work for them but small enough that the pet doesn’t fill up. I prefer Zuke’s all natural training treats.
Ask the client to bring their pet’s favorite toy. Often there is a special toy that the client wants an image of that has special meaning. However, do not bring out the toy until you are ready to take a photo because some dogs are very toy motivated and you will lose all focus and attention.
5. The power of the squeak.
The key to capturing those head tilts and great expressions is a great squeaker noise or a high pitched, funny noise that comes from you. However, you must use it sparingly. As soon as you start to over use it, the pet will lose interest.
The same goes for trigger words. Once you say the same comment, “Want to go outside?” or “Where is Grandpa?” too many times, the pet will become disinterested.
6. Capture expressions and interactions.
Just like small children at times, it is important to get down to their level when posing clients with their pets. I recommend telling clients to sit on their hip with their legs to the side. It is almost never visually appealing to see a person squat in a photo and kneeling looks like your legs are missing.
If clients are unsure of what to do with their hands, ask them to just pet their dogs! A gentle hand on the pet looks great and is a natural interaction.
7. Dress for the occasion.
For owners, I recommend that they wear neutral, darker clothing. Solid colors or subtle patterns look best when paired with their pet.
Ask clients to be mindful of their shoes as well. Since pets sit at your feet, you do not want dirty or brightly colored shoes. Colors that match or coordinate with their pets make for a lovely, cohesive image.
8. Clean up the pet before the session.
Ask clients that they make sure their pets’ eyes are clean and clear of debris, especially the breeds that get tear stains. If the pet tends to get dandruff or sheds, ask that they give a good brush before the session. Sticky lint rollers work as well. Usually, I will have one on hand to roll over the pet right before the session starts.
Always remember, unpredictability is most of the fun of pet photography!
Do not worry if the pet is not doing what you ask or is being stubborn. Never stress a pet by asking it to do something that it is not comfortable with.
What is important is that you capture their happy movement, tail wags, and tongue hanging out, as well as the tender moments between a pet and its owner.
Words & photos by Sarah Gupta