Photographing Families With Multiple Pets
I read a book many many years ago, and while I can't remember the name of the book, a quote from that book has never left me. It was something along the lines of..."Dogs are the silent witnesses of our lives." This was so powerful to me and I think of it often when I look at my two dogs...especially my old man dog who has been with me for the last 15 years. He has seen the good, the bad, and the ugly parts of my life with his silent watchful eyes.
Needless to say...
when I pull up to a barn to start planning an equine photography session it's almost a given that I will be greeted by at least one...but more than likely several, barn dogs. Let's face it...if you love horses you most likely love dogs too! You may even have a few cats lurking about! So it's not uncommon that I get requests to include the family dog in equine and equestrian portrait sessions. Even more likely, is that I'll SUGGEST to YOU to include Fido or Fifi in the session! It's a very natural progression to want to include ALL of your 4-legged (and 2-legged of course) family members in your equine & equestrian portraits.
Maybe you've dreamed about a big beautiful family portrait hanging on your walls, but have always worried that including your pets would just be too chaotic. Over time I've collected a few tips that I hope will make the process of photographing horses, dogs, and other furry family members go smoothly. Remember this should be fun!
1. Safety! Many barn dogs are already comfortable around horses and the horses they spend time around are used to seeing them. However, if you want to include a pet that hasn't spent any significant time with your horse, practicing before the session can make a big difference and can ensure you are prepared for your pets comfort. Have a separate handler for each pet as it's introduced to your horse. Watch for signs of fear and aggression and be prepared to separate the animals quickly if needed. I always talk through pet dynamics during pre-session consultations and think through safe posing options when creating images that include multiple animals.
2. Extra hands are so helpful for these types of sessions. I try really hard to bring along an assistant to most of my sessions when multiple animals are involved, however no one knows your animals like you do. Having a handler for each animal is a great way to ensure that everyone stays safe and in hand when they aren't being photographed. Talk to your photographer about who should be there to help on your session day.
3. Capture the bond. If your pets have a connection with each other, allow them to show that off for the photographer! Also, don't force animals to interact if they don't seem comfortable doing so. Images of connection are always best when they show genuine companionship between the subjects.
4. Shoot in their world. When having multiple animals photographed at the same time being able to photograph them in a place that they are most comfortable can really be helpful. They may be less distracted by their surroundings and more willing to relax and show those sweet faces you love and want on your walls. When thinking about session location, pet safety should be considered. Is the location near a road or highway? Are animals allowed at the location? Are permits and/or vaccinations required to have pets at the location? Are there going to be other animals not included in the session, on location, that should be put away prior to arrival?
5. Bring toys! I mean why not? Pets may be more willing to look in different directions with the aid of treats, toys, and noise makers. There are a lot of great cell phone apps out there that can make animal noises and squeaky toy sounds that can be so useful for a session. Talk to your photographer about what they suggest would be good to bring a long and certainly don't be surprised if you hear your photographer making all sorts of strange noises, like barking, meowing or smooching sounds! It's what we do!
I hope you enjoyed these tips on how to make your photography session with all your furry family members go as smoothly as possible for you, your equine photographer, and your pets! Cara Taylor Swift is an equine and equestrian photographer located in St. Augustine, Florida and can be reached at Cara@FastHorsePhotography.com.