Posing Dogs

I love my dogs, that said, I find it frustrating to take their photos. While my wife and I are both fairly good at shooting individual dogs owned by others, our own dogs present more of a challenge to us. It isn’t due to their lack of obedience training, they have all been well trained and interact nicely within their own pack and with other dogs at the dog parks in the area. But they don’t like to sit still for the amount of time it takes to set up and take a quality image of them. Individually, we can get shots of each of them and combine them against a different background in Photoshop. but that takes away most of the authenticity we are trying to get in the image! Susan and I have to work together to get the dogs to cooperate, which mostly means that I am the assistant working to wrangle the dogs and trying to keep their attention on where Susan wants their eyes for the shot.

None of our dogs like camera or studio flash! Not a big problem, as we can use natural light or adjust the room lighting to suit our needs. The bigger problem is that they also don’t like changes in the room decor so bringing out backgrounds tends to make them behave like feral cats instead of dogs. One would think we were trying to make them take a bath. Lucky for us we have set up most of the rooms with minimal wall distractions and if necessary we can swap backgrounds in post processing! Again, the authenticity is lost when you have to change backgrounds to make the shot work.

Costumes become a problem if they have a component that the dogs don’t like! Our dogs don’t like hats, head ornaments or anything we want to get them to pose with that touches their body, with the lone exception being a loose fitting neckerchief (they seem to like old west attire). But even if wearing a costume they like, if they have just a little bit of excess energy for a shoot, they will do their best to remove the costume.  

We have worked out a method that helps a bit. It begins by playing with each dog or taking them all for a walk that lasts at least 15 minutes. Your time will vary, but with small dogs (we have 2 Miniature Schnauzers and a Yorkshire Terrier) it doesn’t take a long walk to get their energy to a good state for photographs. What we are going for is a lack of excess energy that has the dogs too excited to pose at all but not so much energy lost that the dogs are tired. 

One thing you do not want to do when trying to pose dogs is to let them know you have treats prior to getting the shot you want. Treats will distract the dogs and if given a treat, you may find them no longer interested in staying in front of the camera (after all, the good stuff is where you are located. Be patient and do not limit yourself on your attempts. To get the image used in the slide show of all 3 dogs, took about an hour and 15 minutes and almost 50 takes before the dogs settled in for the time to get the image. The other images are single grab candid shots taken by me without assistance. Each image captures the most memorable attribute of the dog to me. C J’s bent ear, Sam’s tongue (he acts as if he were raised by lizards) and Prince’s I’m so bored with all of this look. 

Ultimately, taking images of one dog is relatively easy, more than one is a challenge and 3 or more always makes me think we must be part lunatic in even thinking this should be done. But since we always seem to eventually capture what we wanted, it is a worthwhile pursuit! Have fun!