The dog. Man’s best friend. It’s no surprise that people love taking pictures of their dogs. This specific kind of pet photography, known as dog photography, allows you to combine your affection for all sizes of canines, from miniature to gigantic, with images of these wonderfully furry critters.
The pet industry has grown enormously during the past 20 years, burgeoning toward $80 billion recently. Pet parents, increasingly, view their fur babies as real members of their families. According to the American Pet Products Association, 60 million of all U.S. households own dogs. Americans own almost 90 million dogs as pets. There is money to be found in the dog industry, so get your camera and discover this kind of pet photography.
Millennials have topped the baby boomers as the primary pet-owning demographic. In fact, 35% of pet owners are millennials, compared to baby boomers at 32%. So if you are thinking about dog photography, these two groups are your target customers. They are willing to spend exorbitant amounts of money on gourmet food, designer clothing, and “spaw” treatments for their pampered pooches. It stands to reason that they are likely interested in custom photo shoots, portfolios, and albums of their fur babies, as well.
Before the Shoot
It’s a good idea to have a phone consultation to discuss the pet parent’s inspiration for the photo shoot. You can even follow-up with a “meet-and-greet” in person. Before the shoot is the time to get to know the humans and dogs. You want to discover the personality of the dog.
The pet parent can help you to determine whether an indoor or outdoor location is best. If you and the pet parent decide to shoot outdoors, reassure the parent that the dog stays on leash, and you edit it out of the photos during processing. Families should decide if it’s best for them to pose with the dog or have a portrait of the dog alone. Possible locations for dog photography include local parks, lakes, and gardens. Crowded areas are distracting and may make the dog nervous. You should scout locations before the day of the shoot.
Clothing and Accessories
Ask each pet parent about which accessories show the unique personality of their fur baby. You can find out if the dog wears clothing, such as hats, goggles, shirts, dresses, bandannas. This opportunity allows you to include humor and to show character in your dog photography images.
Commands and Favorite Words
Ask the pet parent the extent of training and which commands work well for the dog. Certain words and special phrases can capture the dog’s interest and create response. You might want to spend some time with a professional dog trainer to gain a better understanding of dog behavior and emotions.
Treats and Toys
Inquire whether the dog reacts well to noises or specific commands or favorite words. Some dogs show their personality when given a squeaky toy; others may be more anxious in this unfamiliar setting. Encourage them to bring some favorite toys and treats for fun play and motivation during the dog photography shoot.
Preparation for the Big Day
We suggest that you wear comfortable clothing and shoes. Knee pads or gardening cushions protect you from muddy conditions. Keep in mind the location and weather conditions. Gather your treats and toys into a bag of tricks. Pack your camera gear and equipment, so it is portable and easy to manage, particularly if you work without an assistant. Dog photography is often dirty business.
During the Shoot
As a dog photographer, we know you want to showcase your unique skills and techniques during the photo shoot, but it’s even more important to make the session fun for the dog. Here are some things to think about during the shoot:
- Dress with clothes and accessories. During your initial consultation, you determined if the pet parents want their dogs to wear clothing or accessories (hats, googles, shirts, dresses, bandannas). Ask the parents to dress their fur babies, accordingly. If you are photographing without an assistant, be sure to give clear direction about how the parents can be helpful to you.
- Use treats and toys. We suggest that you have some healthy treats on hand, just in case the pet parents forgot to bring their own or if the dogs need something new and different during the shoot for motivation. You can distract the dogs with toys and capture spontaneous shoots of playing. The treats are a good idea to reward positive behavior and to encourage further posing.
- Stay calm and patient. Let the dogs become comfortable in the setting and get to know you. That way the pooches’ personalities will shine. Pay attention to their body language; they give you valuable information about their mood and comfort level. Soft eyes show a dog is at ease, while alert ears may indicate heightened attention. As the dogs begins to explore and act naturally, then you can capture some unique shots. When the dogs are relaxed with you in this setting, they will be comfortable and confident.
- Be flexible with angles and perspectives. Get down on the ground and play with the dogs. Take photos at their eye level. This perspective creates the feeling that the camera is another dog interacting with them. Viewers will see the connection immediately as the dog is looking directly into the lens. Dog photography captures the authentic link between photographer and subject.
- Use natural light. While we feel natural light is best for dog photography, it is not always possible. If you are indoors, you may require a flash and pop-up reflectors, which help catch the light in the dog’s eyes. Small flash units are battery-powered, so you can move easily in the space and not impede your flow with cumbersome cords and wires.
After the Shoot
You want to offer print or digital proofs of the photos and deliver them to the pet families no more than one week after the dog photography session.
Photo Editing Programs
Some editing programs to consider are Adobe Lightroom and Adobe Photoshop. You can use Lightroom to import images directly from your photocard and to organize them for client review. The Library module helps you to compare images side by side and to select the best choice to save. The Develop module allows you to check for focus, adjust exposure, and modify contrast and clarity. Photoshop helps you to fine-tune details that you couldn’t do in Lightroom. The more detailed retouching and cleanup of Photoshop removes distracting elements, such as pet hair, eye boogers, and wrinkles in clothing.
Client Review and Purchase
This quick turnaround allows them to choose the best images and to create packages while they are still excited about the photo shoot. By reviewing the proofs, your clients select which images they would like—individual images or a package of many different photos. Then, to ensure happy customers, you deliver printed and digital copies within another week. It’s a good idea to provide a brochure with ideas about future dog photography shoots—birthdays, Bark-Matzahs, new siblings, and birth of puppies.