Today is National Love Your Pet Day. I know, you are thinking to yourself, “come on Jeanine there is a national day for everything”, but hey, it gives us bloggers ideas for topics to write about so I am good with it!
While I am known for my focus and specialty in children’s portraits, there are many 4 legged animals out there that are as much a part of the family as the human kids! In fact with my own parents I honestly believe my dad loves his dog more then me! You think I am joking, sadly I am not.
My passion is creating art that tells the story of childhood. If there is a family pet, I would be remiss by not including them in this story. While you may be familiar with the old saying “never work with children or animals”, apparently I am a glutton for punishment as I choose to work with both, at the same time! All joking aside, the family pet can be a key to preserving the magic of childhood. The memories they have wrapped around their pet are important and all too soon they will be grown and these portraits will be what they have to remember those happy times spent together.
Over the past 12 years I have worked with many dogs, cats, horses and even a few birds, bunnies and a goldfish in the studio and on location. This blog post summarizes 5 tricks I have learned and go over with all of my clients prior to their sessions.
- Bring treats and toys. Much like children, an animal can be bribed to behave with food! I always encourage clients to bring their pet’s favorite treat. We may need to use them to get the animal in place, to reward them for good behavior or to get them to look in the general direction of the camera.
- Tire out your dog. If the pet in question is a dog, I suggest wearing them out prior to the session. While we want children to be happy, awake and well rested, a dog that is well rested is full of energy that can disrupt a portrait session.
- Think of the setting. Many animals are more comfortable in their own surroundings and it may be better to schedule a session including your pet either at your home or a familiar area that you take them. For larger animals, such as horses, their stables or farm area would be ideal. Cats also prefer to be in their home and don’t usually travel well.
- Make a plan. Always let me know you plan on bringing an animal with you! Just as much as I love knowing the outfits being worn, I kinda need to know if I should prepare special accommodations for pets. During our consultation we can discuss the mannerism of your pet and determine if they can hang around the studio the entire session or if a family member or friend should be assigned to take them outside or home when their portion is complete.
- Be patient and be happy with the unexpected. Pets, like children, are unpredictable. That is ok. Even if Buster won’t perch up his ears on command, or sit exactly where you want him to, the fact he is being included in the family portrait is what is important. The unexpected moment and the tactics used to get your pet included in the portrait will be part of the story you tell and the memories you keep from the session. Enjoy them.
BONUS TIP: Use your pet to tell the story of the moment. Pets can be very expressive and with the right props and setting can be used to tell a fun, heart warming tale (no pun intended).
I hope you enjoyed these tips and will consider involving your family pet into your next portrait session!