Pet Photography Tips: The Family Portrait

When the holidays roll around, families everywhere flock to photographers to capture that special family portrait. For most pet parents, it is becoming more and more common to include family pets in the picture. Doing so may produce some amazing pictures; it can also end in disaster if you aren’t careful.
So if you’re thinking of including Fido and Boots and the family portrait this year, here are some pet photography tips :
  • Choose a photographer that has worked with pets before. Sure, you want great pictures, so an experienced photographer is important, but that’s not the most important thing. An experienced pet photographer will know how to interact with your pet, and should come equipped with treats, items used for distraction, and so on.
  • Don’t kid yourself that your dog is suddenly going to become Lassie. If getting your pet to sit still and focus is like pulling teeth, throw your notions of the “perfect” family portrait out the window. Arranging you, your spouse, and your kids in a perfect arrangement, all looking straight ahead at the camera, is challenging enough. ¬†Once you add in pets, it’s pretty much impossible unless your pet is that well behaved all of the time.
  • Allow your photographer to spend some time getting to know your pet. It doesn’t help anyone for your pooch or kitten to be fearful. Let your photographer get to know your pet before picture-taking, allow your animal to inspect the camera, and give your photographer the opportunity to discover a bit about your pet’s personality. The photos will come out infinitely better once your pet is a little relaxed.
  • Have the pictures taken in a familiar location. There may be a gorgeous park in your town that would provide a lovely background for your portrait, but if your pet isn’t used to going there, just say no. Some pets can be off their leash without you having to worry about them running away, becoming aggressive with other people or animals, and becoming fearful. ¬†However, if this does not describe your pet, you can understand why choosing a familiar location is so important.
  • Schedule your session well. If you have puppies or particularly lively pets, schedule your session for a time where they might be tired and thus more likely to be calm. Alternatively, if you have an older pet and want pictures where they are more playful, schedule your photography session at a time when they are likely to have just had a nap and may be more lively.
  • Appreciate that you may not get one perfect shot of the whole family. It may be more likely that you’ll get a combination of different great shots – one of you and your spouse with your cat, one of your two kids and your spouse, one of your daughter with the dog, and so on. While you may very well end up getting a picture or two with everyone, it is unlikely that they will all be looking at the camera and smiling just right. It may be more realistic to expect a small combination of great shots, rather than one perfect photo.
  • Don’t be afraid to bribe your pets. Whether it’s with a treat or a favorite boy, if your pet is more likely to respond positively, this is the time to abandon pretense – and bribe away. Not only can you keep your cat’s or dog’s attention more focused, you may get a couple of particularly great shots they really captures your pet’s personality.
More than anything, remember that you are including your pets in your family pictures because you love them and because they are part of your family. Have a healthy outlook and a positive attitude about the experience (and the results), and you should have a great time and wind up with some fantastic pictures that you can enjoy for years to come.
Photo: Courtesy of Greene Connections via Flickr (CC by 2.0)