Photographing animals can be a highly rewarding yet challenging task! There are some steps however that amateur and professional photographers can take into consideration when preparing to photograph the family pet.
1. Provide a safe environment for the pet (in a studio, fenced in area, etc.)
2. Determine from the owner/handler any pertinent information about the animal before the photo session. For example, if the pet is a senior and fragile, you will need to consider the best way to position him so he is not in any pain. Is he friendly with humans or does he have a tendency to bite (if so, strongly consider safety considerations), etc.
3. Have the owner/handler take their pet for a long walk or run before the shoot so he is sufficiently relaxed and ready to go upon arrival. Make sure the animal is brushed and the eyes are not covered by fur.
4. Have dog/cat friendly treats on hand so you can entice the animal to sit/pose in a ‘photogenic’ manner.
5. Have the owner/handler work with you to direct their pet and assist in proper posing. Having said this however, if you get the sense that the owner/handler is anxious or frustrated over getting their pet to cooperate, sometimes it is best to have an assistant get involved instead.
6. Watch for signs of distress in the animal ie. ears back in a cat or tail between the legs in a dog. These warning signs, among others, let you know that you may need to wait or postpone the session for a later date.
7. Create complementary backgrounds for your subject that add to his/her personality and colour and do not distract in any way.
8. Using a leash may be helpful to move the animal into position for the camera. This can be removed later with a proper photo editing program such as Photoshop.
9. Be conscious of the animal and its response to the use of camera flash. Some animals are not bothered by flash while others are. Ask the owner/handler what previous responses to flash have been like. Sometimes a ‘quick flash test’ at the beginning of the shoot can save you time and disaster during the session.
10. As the photographer, it is important to be relaxed, yet confident over directing the session, the handlers, and the animals. Everyone will respond much better if they know you are confident and enjoy what you do. Most of all, have fun!