‘Tis the season for fun, friends, family and photos — lots of photos. And because your pets are part of your family, you need to get some good shots of them, too.
But unlike people, animals don’t always respond well to cues like “Say cheese!” So how to get your pet to provide you with the best possible photo?
Admittedly, it can be a tricky process. But relax, you and your pet can take excellent photos if you work together.
1. Find a Professional
You can’t beat handing the headache over to someone else. If you can afford it, look for local pet photographers who can work simultaneously with animals and cameras.
The best photographers will really love what they do, and it will show in the finished product. “I’ll shoot any pup I hear about — entirely for fun,” advertising exec and pet photographer Gary Parker tells Popular Photography.
Pet photographer Kaylee Greer shares Parker’s attitude: “It is my personal belief that there is more happiness glittering in the iris of a smiling puppy than there is anywhere else in the world,” she says. “And sometimes, when everything else seems to fail me, I find solace in the smile of a dog.”
These are the kind of people you’re looking for — they’re going to love what they do, love your pets and love taking the time to get the perfect shot without stressing out your animals.
Do interviews, ask for samples of their work and follow up on references.
Changes in routine can excite and stress our dogs.
This is definitely true when we pop them in the car and drive them over to the local pet photo shoot with Santa. They’re not only coping with a car ride but also going to a place they’ve never been before that’s full of animals they’ve never seen (or smelled) before — and they’re being asked to sit with a big guy in a red suit they don’t know.
With all of that going on, it’s not surprising that you may have some difficulty getting the perfect shot.
“Have patience,” advises photographer Jenni Bidner in Love Your Dog Pictures. “Take some funny shots of the misbehaving beast and then wait the dog out. Eventually the dog will relax, allowing you to get tamer portraits.”
Before even taking your dog to his photo op, spend some time preparing him for what he’ll face.
Take him to pet-friendly businesses and places so he becomes used to seeing other dogs and new people. Reinforce training such as stay, come, sit and heel.
If he’s a mouther, work with him to get rid of this habit. Mouthers can bite down harder than they mean to in an exciting situation, and biting Santa is sure to get him on the naughty list.
4. Get the Location Right
Some dogs are nervous, anxious or scared when it comes to new experiences.
If your dog has a hard time coping with the unknown, consider passing on the local shelter’s free photo shoot, which is bound to be madness. Your dog may be too scared to provide a good shot, and you’ll feel the weight of all those pets and their humans behind you, waiting impatiently for their turn.
In this situation, try having someone in your family dress up as Santa and do the photo shoot in an area where your dog is comfortable, like your home.
Check out these adorable shots of dogs with Santa from a professional pet photographer:
Another Option: Candid Photos
When it comes to truly camera-shy dogs, Bidner recommends ditching the formal shoot and trying for some candids. Although this isn’t ideal, you still may be able to get some great shots of your dog by the tree, fireside, in the snow or in other holiday settings.
“Candids are tough to shoot,” Bidner says. “The inherent subject action and the photographer’s need for stealth make composition more difficult. For success, plan on shooting a lot of images, and simply throw out (or delete) the bad ones.”
Taking the perfect pet photos doesn’t have to be a drag. Just remember to put yourself in your pet’s shoes. He may be excited, scared, shy or exuberant — in any of these scenarios, he’ll need your help to understand what’s expected of him during the process.
Whether you take your photos at home or take your pet to see Santa, with a little patience and a lot of love, you’ll get photos that will last a lifetime.