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  • Writer's pictureAmy Davis

Capturing Doggone Cute Photos - Photo Shoots with Dogs - My Tips as a Freelance Producer

If you've ever tried to take a picture with (or of) your dog - you know the struggle it can entail. While they typically lay on the couch half the day in a stooper, when the camera comes out - they suddenly become the antsiest, and most distracted they've ever been. If you want to capture better photos of your dog or you think your pup could be the next Jiffpom (if only you could get a good photo!) - then this guide is for you.

My husband and I have been rescuing dogs for over a decade with his 501(c)(3) public charity, Better by the Pound. We also help to behaviorly train the dogs while sheltering them, so I've gotten to experience many personalities, many behavioral traits, and I learned from the best on how to train them. As a freelance producer, I've coordinated countless photo shoots with dogs - and, while challenging, I've taken away some key learnings for how to make things go smoothly.

TIP #1 Natural Lighting and the Great Outdoors:

Always choose a safe, dog-friendly location, a spot where the dog can safely be themselves. I prefer to work with dogs in a natural environment whenever possible. 

Keep in mind that some outdoor locations will require permits, and may have specific dog-related restrictions. Be sure to obey all leash laws during your dog's photo shoot.

TIP #2 Finding or Hiring your Dog Model:

If you're looking to find a dog to model in a photo shoot, we've got some tips for you. Most dog owners are delighted by the thought of their dog being featured in a lifestyle photoshoot. They already know their dog is amazing and would love to show them off to the rest of the world!

When looking for a doggy model, ask yourself the below questions:

- Does the shoot require a professional, well-trained dog? Google it! Yes, there are local agencies that can help you.

- Or do you prefer to do a Casting Call? 

TIP #3 Getting the Shot:

My best advice here is to do your homework.

- Every dog is unique. Find out what cues or phrases catch (and hold!) your doggie model’s attention and use them during the shoot!

- Consider hiring a professional dog handler that can help you get the shot your looking for. We often use Dog Behavior Specialist Randy Davis from Argos Dog Training in San Diego. Randy has been an essential addition to our production crew when shooting with our four-legged friends.

- If a professional handler is not in your budget, the dog's owners often make the best pet photography assistants.  

TIP #4 Giving Treats:

- Luckily, the vast majority of dogs respond very well to being offered treats.

Be sure to ask the owner if their dog is food motivated and if so, have them bring their pup’s favorite treats.

- Or with the owner’s permission, bring out the "good stuff" — Choose a smelly, savory treat the dog will be extra excited about. 

- Additionally, requesting that the owner space out the dog's meals prior to the shoot is most helpful, especially if you know you’ll be using treats.

TIP #5 Grooming:

Your dog model needs to be well-groomed to look its absolute best.

Is your model a long-haired dog or short-haired dog breed? 

Is a full grooming session required before the shoot? 

If so, request that the grooming is done a day or two in advance of the shoot date. 

Even with professional grooming, always come to the set prepared to do some necessary last-minute brushing and grooming. Don't forget to have a lint roller brush nearby for those stray hairs!

TIP #6 Exercise, Breaks, and Shoot Time:

Don't forget to add in exercise, water, and potty breaks into your shoot timeline. 

- For higher energy dogs be sure the dog has time to enjoy a nice walk or some physical activity for 20 minutes or so before the dog is needed on-set.

- Other dogs may prefer to wait in a calm quiet area until it’s needed on the set.

- Keep the total time in front of the camera around 45 minutes to an hour maximum.

Be sure that there's fresh water available at all times, and provide the dog with plenty of potty breaks.

Good luck and remember when the needs of the animal come first and foremost, the overall experience can be enjoyable and fun as well. Patience wins the day and gets you that perfect shot!

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