This is probably the biggest concern that most of my clients have when they book their session: they’re afraid that their dog will be the worst behaved dog I’ve ever met. And I can say, hand on heart that your dog, no matter how naughty you may think they’ll be, is never that bad. But honestly, whose dog is 100% obedient all of the time anyway? Mine certainly isn’t. As good as Dexter is, he still has his stubborn moments of wanting to do his own thing…but that just adds to the charm doesn’t it. Rest assured, I’ve photographed many, many dogs and I’ve never failed to capture beautiful images of them for their human family, no matter how obedient (or not) they are.
I won’t lie, it is useful if your dog has a reliable recall, a solid sit and a good stay, however it’s not, I repeat NOT, an essential ingredient to achieve beautiful images. There are always ways to work with each dog’s personality type and training level to capture them at their best.
Patience is always the key when it comes to working with dogs. And it’s closely followed by a plentiful supply of treats (the stinkier the better). Bribery goes a hell of a long way and you’ll be surprised what your dog will do for some prime foodie treats or toys. I can pretty much guarantee that any of my photos you see of a dog looking longingly into the camera would have been achieved by a rather fine balancing act of me holding either a sausage or a toy in one hand and the camera in the other. I’ve always been a firm believer in positive reinforcement training, so once the dog has done what I’ve asked, he gets his reward – whether that’s the chunk of sausage, or a throw of the ball. And guess what that means?…he’s more likely to want to pose again the next time.
Sometimes there may be moments where it’s not safe for a dog to be off of his lead, whether that be because he’s too young, doesn’t have a reliable recall or maybe the area we’re shooting in isn’t suitable or safe for a dog to be off lead. This is where a bit of Photoshop wizardry comes into play and I will edit out any sign of a lead in the post processing stage. It’s always useful to have the starting image set up in a way that makes it easier to do the editing afterwards, so at this stage in the session I tend to get a little bit bossy and will probably ask you to hold the lead in a certain way and stand in a particular spot. But it all helps to create that final perfect image.
Just to give you an idea, all of the images below were photographed with the dogs on their leads. Freddie the cockapoo was actually standing on a small roundabout in a caravan park and Merlin the deerhound cross was posing beautifully in front of Brangwyn Hall, which is on a particularly busy road. So for their safety, both of them needed to be firmly on their leads. Whereas Hank the gorgeous cocker spaniel was a bit of a flight risk so he stayed on his lead for the entire session.
So, if you’re thinking that you’d like a session with your dog but are a little bit concerned that they won’t behave themselves, you really don’t have to worry. There are ways and means to work with your dog to achieve amazing images. And patience, treats and Photoshop magic are always in plentiful supply.