Pawtography and you!

Pictures of your dog or cat if done right inspires exclamations of praise and encouragement’s to “enter that picture in a contest”!

Taking pictures of the family pet sometimes takes – well – the family to get it done.

I have done my share of pet photography – or pawtography as we like to call it around here, and there are some tricks to help you get better pictures.

When I was a kid I was bitten by a dog, so I need to be careful.

Read more after the bite – um, the jump.

As I was saying, I was bitten as a kid so I have an inclination to be a little timid around dogs. Oh, all right, I mean scared – lol. BUT, you can’t show fear when doing your pictures.

One of the most important things is the dog cannot be the center of attention. If everyone gathers around and the dog is on display and getting all the attention then you are headed for a pretty difficult time. It is important that the dog or cat just fit in as part of the group rather than hog all the attention. Doing all the “how cute” and “what a good boy” stuff will agitate the dog to the level where he thinks you are now in play mode. I literally get rid of those people out of the room pretty quickly. Sit – stay – good human :)

Actually the very same stuff can go for photographing certain age kids too :)

The first thing we do is just what I said not to do – we play. I usually get the owner or myself to play with the dog lightly just to make them stop being intimidated by their surroundings or being on the defensive. Be careful NOT to elevate the animal to frenzy levels or the camera equipment will quickly become part of the toys. It is odd how the animal can know exactly which piece of equipment is the right target “to get”. It has to be instinct.

So you play a bit – see how he is eying the camera – it is the “odd” thing in the room and he knows it:

So you have the owner keep playing – see, we are now getting distracted:

And you play a little more. I am taking pictures all the while so it becomes just a natural thing to be going on. Less attention is going to the dog now as we try to balance attention to the dog while the owner is now carrying a conversation with me too:

After a while I have the owner put the dog down. The level of tension in the room is now gone, I can take pictures of the dog but now I only have half his attention. i am talking to the dogs owner and getting her to answer me. You HAVE to be careful here – the owner is going to WANT to help you by getting the dogs attention and getting the dog to strike a pose – NO – SIT – GOOD GIRL – lol. Really, it will be tough but the owner has to have a hands off attitude and yet still be there to help in an instant if needed, after all, this IS a dog.

See, he is now watching but he is ow NOT the center of attention:

I can now move around. He will still “track” me like a laser guided missile, but the tension is gone and he just wants to keep an eye on me cause God just built him like that. Don’t expect less, he WILL follow you but no longer is he in a “pouncing” mode or mood:

Now YOU – the photographer – are the one that has to coax the shot. If the owner does it, you are sunk. And restraint is the word of the day. You try in a very low key to get the dogs attention, just JUST enough to perk up his/her ears and look at you. If you go too far the tension will come back. if you do it just right, you will get a fabulous shot like this:

And you can do it time and time again:

And again – it’s all about getting “into the zone”

Once the animal is doing well, you can have the owner move him/her to a new position, but watch out, the dog never stops being a dog, and your camera is definitely on the list of “interesting items in the room”.  First chance they can, they go after that shiny piece of glass (lens) and WILL check it out – here he comes – oh no – we are in pounce mode!!!!:

But staying in a peaceful mode yourself and NOT making the dog the center of attention will push him back into his calmer mood and all you have to do it just coax that picture gently out of them:

When you have Pawtography 101 down pat, you can start to add people into the picture. I am amazed at how hard it can be to get the human’s attention to stay on ME while I try to get the picture of the dog to get just right. Very often I can get the dog in a nice shot, and when I look at the image – the people just cannot focus on their task at hand. Always makes me chuckle.

But then it can all come together, and finally you get a nice shot:

Hope your pawtography brings you a lot of fun moments. It is one of my favorite type of photo shoots – certainly among the top 5:)

Happy Shooting and see you online!

Peter Gregg

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