I am photographing 3 separate Pet Portrait days at Rover Oaks this week for their doggie daycare clients. In the spirit of dog photography, and pet photography in general, I thought it might be fun to share some pet photo tips.
I’m sure there are a lot of you out there who have tried numerous times to get a good photo of your dog or cat and failed…miserably! You are, most definitely, not alone! It’s hard to get your furry friends to do what you want, i.e. sit still for 2 seconds.
People ask me “how did you get them [the dog or cat] to sit still??” Here is the answer: Patience, treats, and breaks. I know you are thinking, patience?? Really? I don’t have all day! Well, true, but I am one of the most impatient people you have ever met, but I can give dogs and cats their time if it means capturing that one image that really shows that animal’s personality.
Number 2 is treats. I’m sure you have tried this tactic before, but before you rule this one out here’s how to use the treats. This part is key. You can’t just give away the whole bag right off the bat – they have to earn it! With dogs, I usually show them to the treat first and then place it right on top of my lens and leave it there. The dog will (usually) sit still for a little bit and focus on the treat (right at my camera). It isn’t a huge window, but it’s enough usually.
When I photograph outside, I give them a toy and let them play wherever they want and back off a bit. I’ll get set up and then, when I’m ready, I’ll shout their name. It’s just enough to perk up the ears and get them to look in my direction. My facebook profile photo of Abby uses this tactic. I positioned myself in the right place and yelled out her name, which got her to perk up and look me for all of 5 seconds. But, I was ready!
Breaks are also important because if you hound the dog to perform for too long it just isn’t going to happen. I usually photograph for about 10 to 15 minutes, and if I’m not getting the result I want I just take a break and try again in a few minutes. This works really well because the dog doesn’t get overwhelmed.
Sometimes you have to play the waiting game, especially with cats. It’s also a good idea to follow the cat or dog around so they are more comfortable. I laid on the floor with my cat, Oscar (pictured above), for an hour waiting for the perfect shot. I eventually got the shot and a very sore back, but, to me, it was worth it! I do use treats for cats, but that doesn’t always work. Occasionally, I will break out my cat nip spray…a little bit of cheating perhaps??? It gets their attention though!
One other tidbit to keep in mind when photographing outside with your pets is to make sure you don’t go out in the middle of the day. The sun is at it’s highest and the shadows are very harsh. The best time of day to go outstide and photography are either early morning or late afternoon sun. 4:00 PM is a great time to get really beautiful, soft light.
I hope that helps those of trying to get great photos from your pets. Each of the photos featured below use these tricks, so it really does work! If you have any questions about anything else like other tips or tricks, or even more technical camera questions let me know. I’m more than happy to help! I would also love to hear about any tips or tricks you have for photographing pets. Post a comment with your story!
Jake – I followed him wherever he wanted to go!
Herman – the shameless use of treats!