I am a total dog person! Our 4th child is a four-legged one, and on most days, I leave the house with a lot of yellow dog hair on my pants and big smile on my face because of him. He drives us absolutely insane, but we love him and he is part of our family. I'm sure many of you can relate and have your own four-legged family members. So on Portrait Day, it might seem like a great idea to bring your pets along.
When clients ask me if they can include their dogs in our portraits, I always encourage it, but with a few suggestions. (most don't ask to bring cats, or turtles, or hamsters, as much as I know they're great pets too!) Today I want to share with you some helpful Dos and Don'ts when it comes to including your beloved pets in your portraits.
Let's begin with the Dos.
1. DO CONSIDER, AND ASK ABOUT BRINGING YOUR PET
Many families consider their pets to be part of the family. So it's natural to consider including them. Don't be afraid to ask your photographer about bringing your buddy along. I'd rather ask and be told not to bring my pet (for certain reasons) than decide not to even ask, and then regret it. If you are even thinking about it, ASK! Don't assume pets are off limits. Take the chance and ask your photographer about it.
2. DO BRING HIM (OR HER... OR THEM!) ON A LEASH
While some of you are lucky enough to have super calm and obedient dogs who walk with you and never need a leash, bring one just in case. You never know whether another dog might go running by, or something might trigger your dog to take off. Chances are you'll never need to use it, but you don't want to regret not having it when you're chasing the dog down in your heels. Yikes.
3. DO BRING HIM TREATS
Just like you'll want to have some sort of reward in place for your kids for a job well done, a reward for Fido is a great idea too. I've even asked clients if I can hold the treats while I shoot. It's amazing how well my own dog will sit for me when I'm holding his favorite treats in my hand. I love portraits when the pets are looking at me, and having something yummy in my hand usually does the trick. So bring me some dog treats!
4. DO CONSIDER AN EXTRA SOMEONE TO HOLD ON TO THE DOG WHEN SHE'S NOT IN THE SHOTS
You might want to have a few family shots without the dog. If that's the case, and you're not shooting at home, consider bringing someone to hold on to her so that you don't have to worry about her when she's not in the picture (literally or figuratively). Perhaps not entirely practical, but not a bad idea to consider.
A few simple Dos and your pets will be enjoying Portrait Day along with you. But let's not forget the Don'ts.
1. DON'T BRING YOUR DOG IF HE'S NOT "READY"
I offer this with my own dog in mind. When Striker was a puppy, he was such a rambunctious little thing. It was so cute to watch him jump around and tire himself out. He is now almost 2. He's still that rambunctious puppy, and he still gets so excited and loves to jump around. But he's now about 100 lbs, and he's not so little anymore. He would NOT be the kind of dog I would recommend bring to family portraits, and for that reason, he will not be part of our family portraits for a while. You know your dog, and you know if he's not quite "camera ready". If there's still too much puppy in your puppy, consider leaving him home for a year (or two). I'm waiting for Striker to slow down a bit. Hopefully he'll be back in our portraits before the kids leave for college!
2. DON'T BE AFRAID TO LET THE DOG GET PLAYFUL
While it's true that some dogs might be TOO playful for a family sitting, it's always fun to capture some shots of the kids enjoying their four-legged sibling. Just like candids of the kids are always a wonderful idea, so are candids of the dog too. Whether it's thoughtful and loving, or playful and silly, let the dog be himself a bit. Don't forget to capture the reasons why he's so special and so loved.
3. DON'T FORGET THE SOLO PORTRAIT
Every mom knows that she wants a portrait of each child by himself or by herself. My favorite room at home is the one where my three large wall portraits hang, one of each of my babies. But don't forget the dog. Sure, I have no intention of blowing up a 16x20 portrait of Striker to hang next to the kids, but I can certainly make room for his portrait on the shelf. Get a solo portrait of your pooch too.
4. DON'T FORGET THE "OTHER" PETS
I know I've been talking about dogs only until this point, but let's not forget our other babies. Sure, maybe it's not the best idea to bring the cat to the park for family portraits, but why not consider taking a drive to the stables to include the larger pets? Like I said, I'm a dog person, but the world of pets is wonderfully vast. Think outside the box in order to include your pets, whatever kind they might be!
For those of us who love our pets (most of the time), it is a great idea to include them in Portrait Day. Remember these few Dos and Don'ts and your family portraits could be even more precious. Our animal buddies are precious, and we don't get the joy of their company forever, so capture some memories with them. You will be so glad you did.