For many of us (cough, cough me), the term family encompasses more than just our human members; it’s our dogs too! Dogs are often the original baby in our family units, and a family photo isn’t complete without them. However, for a photographer, loving dogs doesn’t equate to feeling prepared when they join the rest of the family in a photo session. Read on for some tips and tricks for capturing family photos with dogs.
Not a photographer but trying to prepare for your family photo session with your dogs? I’ve got a post just for you! Read more about preparing your dog for photos.
How to Start Your family photos with dogs right
Serious question: When you meet a new dog at a shoot, do you first reach out to pet them?
I know, I know. We are all taught at some point to say “hello” this manner. We offer our hand in what should be a universal peace offering for smells. However, in dog language, this is often quite rude and aggressive to stick our hand in their face.
Instead, whenever I meet a family, I talk to the humans first and let the dog (or dogs) walk up and smell me without making direct eye contact or reaching into their space. While I don’t reach out to them, I do put my palms up, inviting them to smell. Many times dogs are super excited to be loved on, which is great! However, don’t forget to pause after a few seconds and see if they still want this greeting to continue.
I think knowing how to start a relationship with a dog is so critical to any photo session. As photographers, don’t we value interacting with our clients and try to be disarming, inviting, and create a safe space? We should absolutely do the same with dogs at family photos.
3 Tips for Family Photos with Dogs Outdoors
- Always encourage the family to show up 15-20 minutes early to let any dogs smell the space you’ll be photographing in before you attempt to start clicking away.
- I use two camera bodies and lenses with pets. My 70-200 allows me to start the session with nervous dogs by giving lots of space. Second, I have my 35mm on another body as the extra speed in focusing of a prime makes all the difference with wiggly dogs. Also, by the end of the session, I can generally get up close for some sweet expressions of the dog.
- Know your location ahead of time as it relates to dog hazards. Things like other walking dogs, ducks in the water, or bridges can make for a highly reactive session. Ask ahead of time about these distractions and plan accordingly to avoid triggers.
Advice for Photographing dogs at home
I shoot all of my newborn sessions in the family’s home. Often, a big reason for this is including the family pet. I mean, why wouldn’t you? They are the original baby. However, many people are surprised that even the calmest dogs aren’t excited to have someone in their space clicking away. Often when the photographer shows up, the dogs will bail, leaving disappointed families.
Here are four things to remember when you enter a dog’s home for a photo session
- I always try to ignore the dogs for the first half of the session so they can get used to my smell and the sounds of the camera.
- Silence your shutter. A major shout-out to mirrorless cameras is how quiet they are, but most models have a quiet mode too. The sounds of a camera can rattle dogs, so best to minimize the impact when possible.
- Be prepared to shoot from another room. Some dogs don’t want to have you in their space, and that’s OK. I will often shoot from the back of one room into another to give the family space. A dog’s need for space is why I take my 70-200 on newborn sessions! Being able to step away and grab a few shots of the entire family with the dogs will be so appreciated by your clients.
- Let. Them. Leave. I’m emphasizing this one. Never, ever force or encourage your clients to force their dogs to stay in an area they aren’t comfortable staying. A forced dog will never produce images you’re happy with or a happy dog.
Family Photos with Dogs Matter
I think every photographer should be comfortable when it comes to family photos with dogs. With a few tweaks to your existing workflow, you can offer an experience to your clients that’s inclusive, representative, and supportive of the entire family. Isn’t that what it’s all about?
MB – A Family and Newborn Photographer based out of Spokane, WA serving the Pacific NW.
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