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Photography Question 
Teresa K. Canady

Pet Photography: Ideas for Backgrounds

A friend of mine wants me to take some pictures of her two doggies. Does anyone have any good ideas of places to take them, like the park, etc.?

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5/5/2005 2:44:22 PM

John A. Lind
BetterPhoto Member Since: 9/27/2001
Taking them to a strange environment might be too distracting to them if they haven't been to the park frequently, or have not become accustomed to visiting new environments. Some parks and other public spaces ban dogs, even on leash. If you decide to try it, check that out first.
The best photographs I have of our dogs and cats were done at home. I observed their behaviors, what triggered them, and where they naturally perched or traveled around the house and yard. I then set up conditions (and cleaned up any clutter) around their favorite "spots" and looked for pleasing compositions in those locations. Dogs and cats typically have favored "perches" from which they can watch things outdoors and the window lighting during the day can be pleasing if a good perspective of them is possible in that location.
Knowing what usually triggered certain behaviors allowed setting up conditions for them while I "lay in wait" to make the photographs. Even so, it requires patience. In general, dogs and especially cats cannot be posed unless they've been extremely well trained and obey commands without "breaking" from them. Pets that are disciplined are the exception, not the rule.

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5/5/2005 8:31:36 PM

BetterPhoto Member Since: 12/28/2004
  Hi Teresa, I take a slightly different approach to this. My preferenc is to not pose them, I think they look better acting like themselves. I do take them to a park I'm familiar with. Here in Colorado there are lots of little parks that I don't have a problem with being off leash. (Hint: if needed, tie a long leash to a tree and shoot the dog from an angle that the leash isn't in the shoot - it's pretty easy).

I take a multi-pronged approach: let the dog(s) out to run out the excitement and then start the shoot once they settle down a bit. During this phase I try for shots sitting, laying down, standing and moving (owner needs to guide them a little). Next phase, the owner brings out their favorite toy (balls, frisbees, squeaky toys) - then you get some action shots, which most owners seem to like the best. Last phase, the pup will have his/her tongue hanging out a little which are some great shots too. The whole process takes 25-30 minutes and its amazing to watch the dogs enjoying the excitement of being some place new. Its stimulating so they tire quickly and you get lots of expressions throughout the shoot.

As for the background - since I'm moving around so much I start near evergreens for a backdrop on the sitting/standing pics and then move out so that I'm in an open field and the backdrop is blurred for the last 2 phases.

-have fun!

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5/10/2005 10:25:09 AM

Eli Boyajian   Teresa,

I know this is a little off point, but check out Jill Greenberg's site - - which, oddly enough, features a magazine cover with a dog on it.

I think her entire site is loaded with great inspiration, but for me, the real treat is her studio portraits of monkeys. They are so well done, it's hard not to imagine there wasn't some posing going on - by the monkeys themselves!!


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5/10/2005 11:21:28 AM

Christy L. Densmore
BetterPhoto Member Since: 3/18/2005
  Teresa, here are my suggestions. Your location and backdrop should be geared to the bred. If in the hunting group, try rough terrane that sort of thing if a field trip is in order. If staying where they live, don't look for a "fancy" spot for a working class dog or a working spot for a non working class dog. I do mostly Australian shepherds, these are ranch dogs so I look for rustic settings. A few tricks we have used at shows include a stranger (as long as the dog will tollerate one) actually holds the dog on leash, not the owner. The owner assists by standing in the direction we want the head and making the dog's favorite funny noise to get those ears up. Since in most public spaces you must have them on leash, try to have that leash hold someplace where you can clone it out.

It is typically easier to take them where the dog lives because you don't have the leash problem. But, even there, you may want the dog in a position that a leash would be helpful. There is a shot in my gallery that was taken of a group of Aussies using a brick wall and old bench. We had to use a leash for one of them sitting on that bench, I cloned it out and the owner loves this shot of her guys.

What ever you do, as others have said, be patent and have fun. I would love to see how they turn out. My favorite thing is looking at dog shots. All kinds.

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5/10/2005 12:23:53 PM

Shirley D. Cross-Taylor
BetterPhoto Member Since: 1/7/2001
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  The best photos I got of our little dog was to set up a table and using my projector screen, draped a blue velour blanket over both. We put her on the table and my husband set her up and watched to make sure she didn't jump down. I made 'whiney' noises which made her look at the camera and cock her head. I had studio strobes set up, one on either side of the camera.

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5/10/2005 7:46:47 PM

Theodore C. LaLone  
I just wait to see what happens. I don't pose my dogs I wait till they pose themselfs in a backdrop just "fits" I got a great photo of my Lhasa just laying in some flowering phlox. He was there for more than 2 hours and I got 52 photos to choose from. I kept 40 and entered one here. I just joined yesterday. But yes Have fun any why you decide to try thats the important part is simply to have a great time doing it.

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5/12/2005 7:29:16 AM

Crystal G. Foust   My approach is similar to some of the other folks here. I do on-location photography and I find it is best to give the dogs some time to run around and get their energy out, get used to their surroundings if they aren't already, and get to know the dog a little bit, become friends with the dogs. I usually carry a variety of treats with me, and after asking the owner's permission, these are great to get closer to the dog or to achieve some unique shots. When I am shooting animals, I have lots of digital storage and I just snap away. And don't be afraid to get down to the dog's eye level as these shots can give you some incredible results. A very simple backdrop is to find an open area and utilize the green grass as the backdrop, just blur it out a bit. Good luck!

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5/13/2005 10:07:40 AM

  if you can get them to stand still, dont even worry about the back round

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5/14/2005 11:46:28 PM

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