Pet photography is a super specialised field and with that comes specialised equipment and tools of the trade. Find out the five things I just couldn't live without as a professional pet photographer. Some of them will probably be surprising!
1. SpiderPro Camera Holster
The first tip is a video tip - direct from the latest episode of my RealShoots series. In Episode 4: Elli & Freya in the Forest, I talk about my latest favourite shooting accessory - the SpiderPro Camera Holster!
Check out the video clip to discover why I love this holster so much. You’re welcome!
Getting the dog’s attention towards you and the camera is crucial in obtaining expression - and expression is what transforms your “photo of a dog” into a “photo of THAT dog”. I have a selection of game callers purchased from hunting and outdoors stores but you can also order them online, depending on where you are in the world. These ones are all Primos brand - crow, hog, cottontail rabbit and mouse - they all make different sounds.
When you’re using them, the idea is to wait until you’re 100% ready to take the shot, then surprise them with the sound. Start off quiet and low impact as sometimes that’s all that’s needed to get their attention. If you find something that works, use it sparingly, over-use will only get them used to the noise and eventually they’ll stop reacting.
If they stop reacting, switch to something completely different sounding, or use your voice or a different noise-maker such as a squeaker. Really smart dogs will soon realise that any kind of weird noise along the same lines is coming from you, and will stop reacting.
I have all my game callers strung together on a lanyard so I can wear it hands-free around my neck while I am shooting. I put one in my mouth beforehand and all I have to do is blow - so I can keep two hands on the camera. Great for shooting with a long, heavy lens at a distance.
As individual items, they’re also very easy to lose, so keeping them on a lanyard will help with that too!
3. Long Leash
When it’s impossible for your doggy subjects to be off-leash - perhaps their recall isn’t great, or the law requires it - having alternative options such as a long leash is a must.
But not just any long leash.
This is my favourite one - the EzyDog Track n Train. This 5-metre long leash has a bunch of cool features that make it perfect for using during a photo session. The carbon-coated corrosion resistant fittings means you can get it wet without rusting - even if you leave it in your bag and forget to try it out after a beach session (yes, I’ve done that). It has a full-length rubberised grip, helping you (or the owner or assistant) keep hold of it without it burning your hands if it runs through. It has a Traffic Control loop near the collar to give you extra grip when required, and finally, the handle is not looped, preventing it from snagging.
I use it either with the owner or assistant holding the end, or the leash can be left to trail on the ground, giving you the ability to grab or stand on it if the dog decides to make a break for it.
There’s always the issue of having to Photoshop out the leash in the resulting images, however, this is a small price to pay for being able to give the dog some freedom to move during the session, while still safely being on leash.
And here's some situations where a long leash was used during the shoot.
4. Sun Seeker
We’re focusing on my favourite app for location scouting - Sun Seeker.
This handy iPhone app has been a life changer for me when location scouting. It works by giving you a live “augmented reality” 3D view - you just hold your phone up to the sky to see the live image and it adds an overlay of the sun’s path through the sky, showing you exactly where the sun will be at what time. An additional feature that I love is the ability to capture stills (pictured here) with the Sun Seeker overlay, so you can save and refer back to them later to help plan your session.
The app even reduces the need for you to scout the location at the time of day, or even the time of year, that you’ll be shooting - as you can adjust the date in the app to change the overlay accordingly.
The ability to see exactly where and when the sun is going to set, and its path through the sky throughout the day, is invaluable. To get the app, just search for Sun Seeker in the App Store, it’s only around $10 and worth every cent!
Here's a couple of actual screenshots from the app.
These screen grabs are from my RealShoots Episode 4 where I talk about this wonderful app and how to use it for location scouting.
5. Ultimate Treat Bag
Have you been searching for the perfect treat bag for dog photography? I have a bunch of different bags (I actually counted, I’m talking 7. SEVEN!) but by far the most useful and best designed is this one. It’s called the Rapid Rewards Pouch and it’s made by a company called Doggone Good.
Why do I like it so much? It’s like the freakin’ Tardis, that’s why!
Though it doesn’t feel big when you’re wearing it, this thing is super roomy and can fit SO much stuff - treats, toys, noisemakers, poo bags, squeakers. It has a total of 6 separate pockets - including a back zipped pocket I actually didn’t even know was there until I found in today - perfect for holding business cards etc.
I love wearing this bag on shoots when I need to juggle lots of things - different types of treats in separate zip lock bags - multiple noisemakers. It saves me having to back into my big bag of goodies constantly to get the things I need. It’s also a great option for storing all your little toys for little dogs for easy access, so they aren’t scattered around through your bag.
You can wear it using the waist belt, or it has a clip on the back to clip it onto whatever belt you’re wearing. The magnetic closure is great too! It’s also available in a bunch of different colours AND can be custom branded to suit your brand!
I quite obviously can’t say enough good things about the Rapid Rewards Pouch so I’ll shut myself off there. You can buy online at www.doggonegoodclickercompany.com.
P.S. My lovely friend Holly from Brindleberry Acres sent me this one all the way from Canada, if you’re there too you might want to get in touch to get yours!
Tips include working with light, obtaining expression, camera setting tips, composition, using the location, dog handling tricks – and so much more. Sign up below to receive the tips, delivered daily for free so you can read and absorb straight away (no homework required). The series includes three months worth of assorted pet photography tips, delivered direct to your inbox!