Doggie Poop Happens. / by Justin Duff

If you’re like many of my clients, you probably want to include your four-legged fur kids in your wedding or engagement session. I have a four-legged friend of my own and involving him in a shoot sounds great in theory. I love my dog but he’s not the easiest to photograph. So I want to share with you a couple things keep in mind when you start planning a session with your pet.

Think about it…

First, and most important, ask your photographer if he or she will work with you and your pet. Unfortunately, some photographers won’t photograph pets. I am sure you understand some people just aren’t pet people. Some photographer’s may get frustrated with pets during shoots, or heck - they may simply just have a pet allergy and can’t be around them. Please don’t take offence to this.

If Puggles is truly that important to you and your session maybe you should just consider a different photographer. If you LOVE your photographer’s work though, consider hiring a pet photographer. This shouldn’t be a deal breaker, just have your choice photographer do your wedding and non-pet engagement photos. Then I would just ask your photographer they can recommend a pet photographer.

So, is there an extra charge to include pets? Well… I don’t, but other photographer’s might. It’s like having a small child, it takes time and patience to work with a pet. There is also extra editing and time that goes along with adding another person… or fur-person… Think about this, if you were asked to do something extra (well above and beyond your regular job) you would expect proper compensation, right? Well, your photographer may feel the same way so don’t be surprised if some photographers do have an extra charge for pets.

Speaking of extra time, yes, doing an entire engagement session with you AND you’re your pet(s) will probably take a little longer than a normal non-pet session. Let’s say your photographer typically needs 2 hours for your engagement session.  To include your friend Fido it’s pretty safe to say you can tack on at least an extra 1-2 hours depending on the dog. I’ve had sessions take an extra 2.5 hours before so keep this in mind.

Think about it, you know your pet best, is your pet hyper like mine? Is he sensitive to different noises or deferent scents? Does he get nervous around new people, easily distracted, etc. If so, consider booking a second session just for everyone’ sanity.

Another noteworthy thing you might not think about is that instead of having 50 – 100 photos to choose from you unfortunately may have end up with about 10-15 because of expected movements, potty breaks, or what-have-you . If you’re ok with less shots/options – that’s great and I say go for it. However if you’re looking for some variety in poses, consider booking two sessions one with and one without you pet.

Realistic Expectations…

Know your pet – As a photographer (and pet owner), I know my clients just want the best possible end result. Trust me, I get it, and after all that’s my job. My goal is ALWAYS to get the best photograph – the perfect sunset, perfect day, with perfect person. Just keep in mind that your pet is sensitive and you know them best. They may hot, cold, hear odd sounds, smell strange scents. As awkward as you may feel in some of your poses it’s important that you know your pet and can make him feel safe, comfortable, and happy.

 

Introduce your pet to the process – Here’s a little test you can do at home. Do a mini photo session with your pet, cat, dog, bird, etc. Try to pose them and take a photo of them. Did you succeed? If so, do you have more than one pet? Try posing them together. Were you still successful? If you were, great! Now try having someone else (a friend or neighbor) try taking a photo of them with you and without you. Did you have to stand with your impromptu photographer to get them to look at the camera? If your four-legged friend did ok and you’d consider it a success, your pet is a candidate for a photo shoot. However if you had to try a few times, took some extra coaxing or felt you ‘got lucky’, then your pet is among the majority, consider a second session.

Have realistic expectations - The short of it is, most pets are just that, pets. They are our friends, play buddies, and furry companions. They are not working animals nor are they humans so realistically they may not cooperate exactly how you want them too. They may not look at the camera or hold a prop in their mouth. Remember, like children, they get bored quickly and will just want to be done and go back to being a pet.

So when you see all those Pinterest perfect photos, remember not all the people are in real situations, those people could be professional models, maybe those pets aren’t even their pets. Those Pinterest perfect pets could be working animals like you see in a movie, or on TV, or in commercials. They may be trained to ignore distractions and take hand signals, we really don’t know, so have some realistic expectations for your session and pet. Remember those Pinterest perfect photos may or may not be possible with your pet so be realistic.

So what can you do…?

·         Bring a friend/leash holder/assistant - Most people want their pet in one or two photos of their engagement session but not all of them. Your photographer may have an assistant to help them out but assistants are paid for their time so your photographer may tack on the cost for their assistant’s time as well so think about bringing someone along on your shoot that the pet is already familiar with and that can assist as needed with your pet.

·         Bring treats!!! If there is ever a day you want to spoil your pet this is it! Your photographer is not your pet’s boss, you are and it’s your responsibility to keep your pets attention while you or your photographer want them to, it may require some special treats and extra loving.

·         Poop happens – don’t forget your poo-poo bags! It’s a no brainer but don’t forget.

·         Expect a more casual shoot – Yes, there are always exceptions but my recommendation is that you keep it somewhat casual. Like I said earlier, you know your pet best but the majority of the time you can expect the shoot with your pet will be on the casual sit. Maybe skip the stilettos and suit coats or bring a change of clothes.

·         Go somewhere familiar – Do the shoot somewhere that’s familiar to the animal or at least do it somewhere they are comfortable being. A quite park, your backyards, or inside your home.

Wondering about the cute picture I have attached to this blog post? Well this is Bandit. He was a great dog to work with but what you don’t know is, that took about 25-35 shots to get that one. We originally wanted Bandit to face the camera but he decided to keep an eye on his mommy and daddy instead. Not what we had planned but with some realistic expectations and patience we ended up with a great photo and at the end of the day my clients were happy and that’s really all that matters! 

 

Carol Chadwell