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Eight Tips for Getting Pets to Stand Still For A Portrait

Post by Andrew Darlow

For the photo above, I used the techniques described below in Tip #3 and Tip #4.

I’m often asked: “How do I get my pets to stand still for a few moments so that I can take photos of them?” This can be challenging, especially if it is your pet, because many animals (especially dogs) want to express their love for their owners whenever they are together. The tips below are written with dogs in mind, but in many cases they can be applied to cats, ferrets, guinea pigs and even babies or small children.

To encourage a dog to sit, stand still or lie down, there are a number of techniques that I use. Here are a few:

1. Have someone who knows the pet and who is comfortable feeding them stand right next to you with a treat in his or her hand. It is almost definitely going to get the dog’s attention and allow you to get some great shots. Just be ready ahead of time and have your basic camera settings adjusted so that the dog doesn’t have to wait too long for a treat. This technique can be used with multiple dogs as well, as you can see in the photo above.

2. You can “bribe” the dog with treats in general to get them to do just about anything, especially when speaking commands like “sit,” “stay,” and “paw.” Once again, a friend or family member who knows the pet should do the bribing so you can concentrate on getting the shot.

3. Making a “meow” or subtle barking sound will often help bring a very funny look to a dog’s face. Just be ready for it. Squeaky toys work well too. You can experiment with showing the toy or not, and it often helps to have someone else do the squeaking as they slowly change the position of the noisemaker behind you.

4. Giving a dog a toy to play with is another good way to get some photos. The main problem with this is that the toy will probably be in the photo. That’s not always a bad thing so experiment to see what works.

5. On a similar note, throwing a toy that squeaks up in the air when he or she is in a stack position (the natural or accepted stance of a dog) can get the dog to look in the direction of the squeaky toy. If you’ve seen dog shows, the dogs are in a stack position when they are being judged either when standing on the ground (larger dogs) or on a table (smaller dogs).

6. After a long walk or exercise/play session is usually a good time to get photos since the dog will often be tired and in a Zen-like state.

7. Have someone pet the dog while you get some shots with or without the person’s hand in the shot. Even the most active dogs will often settle down for a few minutes for a massage!

8. This may be obvious, but photographing a dog sleeping is another great way to avoid dealing with too much movement.

I should also note that most tips related to sports and action photography (higher ISO’s, faster shutter speeds, wider apertures) all apply here because even a relatively still dog is a moving dog while standing or sitting.

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