Many, if not most, of my couples choose to include pets in their engagement or couples sessions. Others, book pet sessions meant to feature their four-legged family only. So, I’ve come up with a couple tips to help you and Fido (or Daisy as was the case here) have the best possible experience.
Get the wiggles out
Make sure to take your pet on a long walk/run or let them go to the dog park for an extended romp before coming to your session. Energy levels vary from pet to pet, but cooperation greatly improves when they aren’t wound tight with excitement. We can, of course, work with energetic dogs. A couple blog posts ago, Dexter’s pet session was featured. Dexter has a neurological disorder and ran in circles the whole session. So I just had her dad stand next to me and run in circles with her around me so I could take photos as she passed. It worked - but he definitely got a lot of exercise too!
Bring High Value Treats/Toys
For my dogs, high value treats might be jerky, bacon, hot dogs or even wet food. They only get these things on very special occasions and so they’ll sit, stay and pay strict attention when one of these treats are brought out. It’s also worth bringing a squeaky toy they love that will help pull their attention toward the camera.
Work on basic sit/Stay commands
If your dog can’t sit or stay it’s not a dealbreaker for your session, but it can make it a lot easier to snag photos of Spot by himself. I also love to grab photos of your pet moving toward the camera so often I’ll ask Spot to sit and then for you to come stand by me and call him over so we can capture him moving toward us.
Working with dogs is like working with two-year-olds. They don’t cooperate as often as they will. Often, great photos come from not trying to get as many poses as possible in an hour, but letting them play, hang out with their humans and snagging the in-between moments when they are relaxed and feeling themselves. So if they don’t do what you want them to do, it’s ok, we can breathe for a second and try again once they’ve sniffed whatever it is they are super interested in.
Consider having an in-home session
Dogs, like kids, are most comfortable in their own environment. So consider having an in-home or backyard session. Not only are pets more comfortable in their own environment, but being home often eliminates the distractions found in parks and other public spaces. Being photographed can be really stressful for pets too - they don’t understand why this big thing is being pointed at them, so helping them feel as comfortable as possible is vital. Not only will helping them feel comfortable help them cooperate more, but stressed pets can be more anxious, aggressive and unpredictable. So if we do choose a park or public space i’ll often suggest a time I know that space will be mostly empty.