Animal Photography Tip #1: Plan in Advance
When the owner of Dog 'N Cat Behavior Solutions here in Denver contacted me about taking some photos for her new website with animals, I can't deny that I got a little nervous. Working with animals is always unpredictable and requires a lot of patience. If you shoot with flash, it's also good business practice to let your client know up front that there will be a lot of flashing lights. Some animals don't respond well to flashes, and the last thing you need is a spooked pet darting about your studio.
So with the basic information covered, I began putting a game plan together for the shoot. I usually start with developing some specific goals with my clients regarding the type of photographs they want. In this case, after a brief telephone consultation, it was clear that my client wanted some headshots, and some photos of her interacting with animals for her website banner graphic. We discussed some specific poses and brainstormed a solid concept for the final product. Having the end in mind is a great asset when setting up your shots as it gives you a plan to work off of. And when it comes to planning, I just can't say it enough -- a failure to plan is a plan to fail.
There's just no such thing as over-planning when it comes to commercial photography.
Animal Photography Tip #2: Pile on the Treats
With a concept in place for the final product, it's time to execute your plan. Always have your studio setup before you client arrives with their pets, since moving large flags, lights or stands could really spook a skittish animal. Have a good room temperature set, and finally - and most importantly - have a big stockpile of treats ready!
Treats can save then day when it comes to photographing animals, and I actually recommend having a variety of treats; from pre-packaged animal food to real meat products (like cold cuts, bacon, etc.). The reason for this is, just like human models, animals can tire quickly. Being poked and prodded, coaxed into poses, and repeatedly told to "sit," "stay," and "beg" can get old quick. Before you know it your animal model is no longer responding to dog biscuits, and it is ready to curl up in the corner. This is where cold cuts can bring on a second wind! By moving to an "upgraded" treat, an animal can perk back up for a few more minutes of shooting.
Animal Photography Tip #3: Always Respect The Animal!
When it comes down to it, the animals we photograph are still some one's pet. It's important to remember that they don't respond like human models, and when they get tired or unresponsive, sometimes it's best to just call it a day. Even if you didn't get that great shot you were looking for, it's better to let the animal rest and reschedule the shoot, than to force a pet into a situation they are not comfortable with, or even worse, a situation that makes them act aggressively.
Always ask the owner to perform any necessary commands, and ask them to tell you when the pet is getting tired or angry. As much as we think animals are always cute and cuddly, we can't read their emotions. Their owners will have a much better understanding of what kind of mood they may be in, and know when it's time to end the shoot.
With these tips in mind you should be able to pull off a fun and successful animal/pet shoot. Feel free to browse the samples below from my recent work with Dog 'N Cat Behavior Solutions...