Random Musings on Dogs, Photography, and the Vagaries of Life

Monday, December 6, 2010

Holiday Pet Pics: Creating Memories One Treat at a Time

Let's face it: taking holiday pet pictures can be a challenge. Unless your dog holds obedience awards for sitting, staying, or otherwise posing, you have to expect some chaos and frustration. The levels of both can rise exponentially with the number of extra animals you're working with.

I find that a pocketful of treats--not just plain old dry biscuits, but chewy, aromatic goodies made with such canine pleasers as salmon, lamb, peanut butter, and cheese--are worth their weight in gold. Even immobility-challenged dogs are more likely to sit still for at least a few seconds at a time if confronted with a human supplying such canine "crack."

Unless you have your own studio, you also need to be creative. If you have access to a scenic indoor or outdoor location, use it! I've always thought it would be nice to pose my dogs in front of our lovely red, wreath-hung door, but our front steps approach the stoop from the side, making such an image impossible. So I've commandeered spaces in our house and backyard, using blankets and bedspreads as backdrops and softening edges and modifying textures in Photoshop. I've also made extensive use of props, from stuffed toys and costumes to stockings and wheelbarrows. Whatever works.

I know that I might not get exactly what I want--certainly not right away--but with some patience can capture an image I'm happy with. Because dogs can get bored easily and don't necessarily love being primped and prodded, I always limit the shoot to less than 15 minutes. If necessary, we try again later.

For you cat lovers...you're on your own. My experience with felines is that they are too independent to be "directed," so your best bet is just to set up an environment full of holiday props and colors, and hang out with your cat, capturing moments as they happen.

Oh, and speaking of holidays, my two books (Black is Beautiful: A Celebration of Dark Dogs and A is for Angel: A Dog Lover's Guide to the Alphabet) make great gifts for dog lovers. And because I donate a portion of the sales to animal welfare organizations (your choice or mine), you can feel good about your purchase in more ways than one. To purchase using Paypal, just click on the appropriate Buy Now buttons at right.