My brother and sister in law had the idea to get our family dog professionally photographed by a dog photographer a few years ago as a gift to my family. We are so grateful to have these photos now to remember him by. They so perfectly captured his lively, cheeky personality.
This past winter, my partner Myles and I decided to return the favour by capturing a few shots of their pup, Bella. We picked a nice snowy morning and bundled up our gear and too Bella out to a nearby field.
Myles giving Bella a mid-photoshoot pat
There's a common saying in the film and photography industry : "Never work with kids or animals."
This saying exists because film and photography is often a tedious process. Kids and especially animals don't have the patience for it. Neither particularly wants to sit around while you tweak the lighting or sit in the same pose while you capture the shot from multiple angles.
From this experience, I've compiled a few takeaways that learned from our brief foray into dog photography:
Keep it short
Dogs don't understand why you want them to keep sitting down or repeat a trick over and over to get the shot. They will get confused and frustrated much quicker than you will. We learned that keeping your photo session quick or incorporating multiple play or rest breaks is really helpful to make sure your dog doesn't become frustrated or unruly.
Give them something they love to do
Most dogs have a favourite toy or activity. I would recommend incorporating this into your shoot for two reasons. One, is that it's a great way to capture your dogs personality and favourite activity. Next, is that it's going to keep them engaged a lot more, and make the shoot more fun for them. Bella, is a runner so Myles and I took turns calling her back and forth to capture photos of her zooming about.
You're probably going to need a lot of treats to keep your dog happy and doing what you want them to do! I would recommend switching between play time with your pup and doing things which require treats so as to keep things interesting, and not stuff them with treats by the end of the shoot.
Have a dog wrangler!
As the photographer, you'll have your hands full capturing shots. It's going to be very difficult to both work with your dog, capture the shot, and keep your dog engaged. Having the dog's owner, or a friend to play with the dog is a big help.
Autofocus is your friend
On the technical end of things, tracking autofocus is a big help when photographing dogs. Dogs tend to move around a lot so using a camera with a good autofocusing feature makes it easier to focus on framing rather than meticulously monitoring focus. Most of the photos from this shoot were taken by Myles on his Canon EOS R, which has a fantastic autofocusing tracker.
Shoot with a fast shutter speed
Like I mentioned above, dogs are pretty active. Keeping your shutter high will help capture a split second with as little motion blur as possible. This is extra handy if you're photographing a particularly high energy dog, like a puppy!
Above all, I think it's helpful just to have fun with the shoot. A dog will sense your stress if you get too worked up trying to get the perfect shot. Incorporating a lot of play into the shoot will help you capture a good time with your pup and help make some lasting memories :)