The age of selfies is here! With the rise of social media channels like Instagram, it’s easy to take photos of your dog with your phone, and * poof * a star is born! Oh, if only it were that easy... We could all sit back while our pets rake in paid celebrity endorsements.
Well, the thing with social media and cellphones is that they rely on beautifying filters. Honestly, I wish that I had a beautifying filter following me around whenever I go out in public… Don’t get me wrong, having access to easy tools like phone cameras makes for a lot of fun pics to show to friends and family. But, and let’s all say this together, “these types of pictures are in no way professional quality.” Even with the newest highfalutin 3-lens smartphones.
Why YOU NEED PHOTOGRAPHS OF YOUR PET
Raise your hand if your pets are part of your family. If you’re like me, your hand is in the air! We don’t think twice about taking photographs of our partner, spouse, or children… So, we have to do the same thing with our pets. Pets are family. Oh, and if your hand is still raised, you can lower it now.
Here’s the thing - just like humans, our pets grow and change daily. From a snuggly puppy or kitty to, what seems unfairly too fast, white whiskered BFFs, our pets share our world with us. And our hearts. That’s why we need photographs of our pets.
PHOTOGRAPHS CONJURE EMOTIONS
The human brain is miraculous, but memories fade. This is one of the reasons you need to have photographs of your pet. Not just any photographs. The emotions that a professional picture can conjure up is almost as vivid as the original experience. We reconnect with the emotions of prior special moments. Creating keepsakes through photos helps us detail the important parts in the story of our lives. Photos of your dog enhance the emotional connection and make you feel good.
Not only are photos important to your mental happiness, but they also help to preserve the life of your beloved animal. A good, high-quality, professional pet photograph can stop time. When a picture’s angle is perfect and the lighting is just right, your dog’s eyes come alive and sparkle with the beauty of their personality. That’s the magic of a professional pet photographer. You can’t help but reconnect with the way s/he makes you feel truly loved. A good photo keeps the memories alive after your pet leaves this physical plane.
"Looking at photos that remind you of happy events in your life can create an immediate increase in serotonin levels," says psychologist Dr. Joseph Cilona.
PROFESSIONAL PET PHOTOGRAPHS ARE WORTH THEIR WEIGHT IN GOLD
Just as with a chef, carpenter, tailor, or any other profession where skill and art mingle, a professional photographer stands out in a sea of hobbyists. While many people can take a picture, a professional photographer captures memories. And while professional photographers are all trained in composition, lighting, angles, etc., a pet photographer is a specific sub-speciality.
In the pet photography niche, special skills are needed – just as certain skills are needed in safely posing a baby in newborn photography or capturing the perfect details and moments in wedding photography. Dogs are fast, unpredictable, and even the most obedient dog can get side tracked with smells and excitement of locations. Not only that, dogs don’t speak English. Dog’s may comprehend a few spoken words, but truly, dogs speak dog. They have a language all their own. But, a well-trained, highly-skilled pet professional knows how to speak ‘dog.’
CAPTURING THE SPIRIT
Professional pet photographs capture the essence of your pet’s spirit, and the unique little details that make your heart smile. An experienced pet photographer captures your dog’s distinctive personality traits that simply melt your heart. The special tilt of your dogs head when you say certain words, or the look in their eyes when you talk to them, or their excited body wiggles when you pick up their favorite toy to play. These special moments of connection that exist just between you and your furry family member - we capture those.
PRICELESS SKILLS REQUIRED
For a professional dog photographer, it is crucial that we have prior experience with dogs. Not just that we love dogs, or have spent time with them. An extensive canine backgrounds is a necessity. Whether it be learning skills through professional dog trainers, working in a multi dog facility or be a former or current trainer or vet tech, etc. Often just spending time with your own dog isn’t enough as each dog has their own temperaments, quirks and reactions to certain situations.
Dog photographers must be able to continually read and respond to a dog’s body language in every situation. Is Fido feeling happy, shy, fearful, aggressive, stressed, or what-have-you, and pet photographers, must be able to respond accordingly. Not only to capture the perfect images, but also for the safety of the dogs, humans and any others out enjoying the same location. Dog psychology skills are extremely important in ensuring the photography session is a success in capturing the best of your dog’s unique personality, as well as ensuring their safety and well being.
HOW A PROFESSIONAL PET PHOTOGRAPHER TALKS WITH A DOG DURING A PHOTOSHOOT
We don’t talk to a dog when we are in the midst of a photo shoot. No, far from it - we talk with the dog. What’s the difference? Well, even a well-trained dog can get thrown by a stranger holding professional camera equipment. While a human will sit still for a photograph, a dog tends to be active and more interested in the sights and smells of the location.
As mentioned before, we connect and communicate with them by reading their body language. By being educated in understanding their body language, we have the knowledge to know the best way to interact and make them feel comfortable. We also need to learn everything, big and small, about lighting, speed, and composition specifically for pet photography – as it is much different than a typical human photographer.
HOW WE DO WHAT WE DO:
Our whole goal in a pet photography session is to make your dog comfortable. This is what is going to make for a successful session - and give you the best images for a lifetime of memories. We want to interact seamlessly with your dog, and have the camera fall away, becoming a part of our bodies - not something that separates us from your dog. How do we do this?
- Know our equipment like we know the back of our hands. Be a master of the shutter and queen of the camera, specifically for the purpose of pet photographer. Remember, it’s a totally different thing than a human photographer.
- Have expert knowledge of how natural light and composition impact the color of the dog’s fur, as well as the physical and emotional aspects of an image. Plus, be able to manage all of these things while anticipating the actions of a dog.
- Have extensive knowledge of canine behavior. Spend time learning and playing with the dog, getting the dog to be comfortable and accepting of and interactive with us. We use special techniques, positive reinforcement and our skilled comprehension of dogs to predict a dog’s movements to capture the right photographs!
- Let the dog’s personality, quirks and all, come out! Just like people, every dog is different. We adapt to a dog’s natural personality. We build the session around a dog’s true self.
- Think and act like a dog! We get dirty while rolling around to get the perfect shot. Over-and-over again. All while photographing and using the things we learned that your dog reacts to and likes.
- Exercise calmness and patience, be willing to be licked in the face and yes at times, get peed on. Hey, it happens in our profession!
HOW TO GET YOUR DOG READY FOR A PROFESSIONAL PHOTO SESSION?
There are several things you can do to get your dog ready for a professional pet photo session. Here are some of the more important things you can do to help everyone, including your pooch:
Tell your professional pet photographer about your dog’s personality. All the good, as well as the bad. If your dog is skittish or aggressive toward strangers, we can work with that - we just need to know your dog’s temperament.
This doesn’t mean that your dog needs to be an agility star! This just means that your dog should be able to follow your directions. We work with many dogs who haven’t completed obedience training and use we fun and safe techniques to capture their attention and personality.
Make sure that your dog is groomed in his or her typical manner. There’s no need for special attention unless you are going for a specific type of session (e.g. holiday-themed). Don’t use a new product for grooming, stick with what your dog knows.
Take your dog for a nice long walk the day of the session. An exercised dog makes for a great photo session - their energy is spent and they tend to be attentive.
FEED OR EMPTY STOMACH?
It’s actually better that your dog attends his or her photo session with a hungry belly. This will help Fido pay more attention to the treats we’ll use throughout our time together.
TREATS AND TOYS
Bring your dog’s usual treats and favorite toys to the photoshoot. These will help capture your dog’s attention and make for an attentive subject! If your dog drools when treats are introduced, it’s best to simply use toys (unless you want a few photos that commemorate Mr. or Ms. Drool).
We’ll take breaks here and there. So for those times you'll want to bring a water bowl so your dog can chill out and lap up some water.
I’m sure no human photographer ever said that! Yup, let’s all do our civic doodie (come on, that was punny!) and pick up after our dogs.
DON’T THINK YOU NEED PROFESSIONAL PET PHOTOGRAPHS? THINK AGAIN
Pictures of your pet, just like pictures of your spouse, your family, and all of your loved ones, are treasured keepsakes. They are fun to show to others, look at when you need a smile, and for times when you want to reminisce. They have the power to evoke strong emotions, take you back to another time, and remind you of the joys of pet parenthood. Unfortunately, as mentioned earlier, our pets leave us too early... It’s a fact of life, their time on earth is too short. Pet photos truly do help ease the grief and revive memories when your special one is no longer physically by your side. High-quality professional pet photographs can ease the hole left in your heart.
A NOTE FROM THE PET PHOTOGRAPHER
There’s truly nothing better than working with dogs all day long. While pet photography, with all of its’ physical demands, could be an Olympic event - I wouldn’t change my profession for anything. Taking professional pet photographs is my dream job.
WHAT PREPARED ME FOR THIS FIELD?
LIFE! HERE’S A BIT OF MY BACKGROUND:
- Raised on a ranch, surrounded by an array of animals.
- Lifelong dog owner and handler (and currently, I have 5 incredible dogs)
- Worked with specialized dog trainers (obedience, behavior, service work)
- Worked in a veterinary clinic
- Accomplished nose-work, agility, and obedience dog handler
- Experienced positive reinforcement dog trainer and communicator
Honestly, my life has always been “all things dogs,” and it just thrills me that I get to work with them. And there’s nothing like seeing my client’s eyes light up when they review their dog’s session photos. It is so emotional and heartwarming, for them and for me! Plus, I always love to see the surprise on their faces when I show them the family photos I snuck of them, playing with their dog during the photo shoot. Yup, professional pet photographs can do all of this.
Go ahead, you can call me a sucker for dogs, as well as people who love their furry family members - I’m guilty as charged!