by Blake Herzog
Prescott’s a very dog-friendly town, but it doesn’t matter where you are; everybody loves their pets to pieces and wants to share photos of their furry loved ones.
Social media has made it easier than ever to spread pics of your furry best friend far and wide, and the holidays — starting with Halloween costumes — are coming up on us quickly, giving us an excuse to actually mail our fur kids’ adorable faces to those we love.
But it’s the very rare dog, cat, horse or tortoise who can say “cheese,” and their ability or interest in cooperating is unpredictable. Many owners have a hard time capturing the essence of what makes their animal so special, that spark in their eye or their enthusiasm for life.
There are many trips and tips out there on how to work with or around pet personalities or to seize moments made for creating memories.
Make friends with the camera
If the camera is a phone that you have out all the time this may not matter as much, but in any case let your dog or cat investigate it and get more familiar with the general process of photography — the sounds, the positions, your concentration on something other than petting or playing with them, etc.
Prescott’s weather can be almost as unpredictable as your pets, but the best results usually come from shooting on an overcast day, whether you’re outdoors or indoors. Bright sun creates dark shadows you sometimes just can’t work around without good editing software, while cloudy days produce soft shading and a great chance to make your dog, cat, guinea pig or whatever the sole focus of attention.
Avoid using a flash if you can to avoid the dreaded “red eye” and to avoid startling your pet and leading to temporary blindness. If you must use one, try to aim it away from your pet’s face or hold a piece of wax paper to dim its effect.
Seeing eye to eye
Get down at your pets’ level, no matter how small they are. You can try putting small dogs and cats on a table or shelf so you don’t have to shoot from your stomach. Just do whatever it takes to bring you and your audience into their own special world.
The results aren’t always as great from a camera phone as from a dedicated camera, but give it a try. Try sitting a few feet away from the animal when they’re in a relaxed or contemplative mood, and catch their normal expressions without having you at the end of their nose. The results could really pay off.
Distraction is key
Once you get your animal comfortable enough to deal with the situation they’ve found themselves in, it’s easy for them to get too comfortable, leading to a rather listless-looking photo.
Once you’ve gotten them to this point, that’s when you bring out the “squeak.” It could be anything like their favorite squeaky toy or a brand-new one. Even whistling can work, or maybe crinkling something will be enough for your cat. Anything that makes your pet look alert for a few seconds, without necessarily jumping up and running toward you.
Get ready for the family shoot
If you want to put your pets in a family portrait, it’ll take just a little more preparation. Since everybody else is probably going to be a little dressed up, make sure you give them a bath and a good brush beforehand. Take your dog to the park or the backyard so they can release that extra energy, but you don’t want a dead-tired dog on your hands, either. If they’ve been trained in the past, it’s a good idea to do a refresher beforehand.
If you have a reasonably chill cat you’d like to include in the festivities, let them do lots of their wandering before attempting to herd them into the frame. Consider doing those shots in an area of the home where the cat is already comfortable and spends a lot of time.
Expect the unexpected, and make that part of the fun!