Sophisticated Pets: Family Portrait
Written By Carrie Edelstein
Photography By Colin Miller
While the pet or pets of the house might fill camera rolls and social media feeds, it’s likely only a one-time occurrence that he or she might appear in a full family portrait. Our “repawters” decided to put Strauss Peyton to the test to see if owner Colin Miller could capture their essence, rather than their poor behavior, in a photo. Although Tanner avoided the streams in the Strauss Peyton shooting gardens, he presented other challenges, like his inability to sit still without his mom nearby, his need to try to catch the flash, and his big demands to sniff every inch of the photography grounds. Rory was a bit better behaved, but refused to pose with ears up and alert. After settling into a prim and proper position that was suitable to Rory’s mom, Colin did quickly snap the duo at their best.*
Of course neither Tanner nor Rory would admit it, but it is much easier to include the family pet or pets in a portrait when the humans are able to help or hold the animal. So if you’re considering an attempt at that full-family image, here is some advice from the professionals!
T&R: What are the top three recommendations when pets are involved in a portrait shooting?
1) Bring a collar and a leash for the safety of the dog. If your dog is used to wearing accessories such as a tie or bandana then feel free to include these. However, this is not the time to try something new with your pet.
2) If they know basic commands like sit it will make the process easier.
3) Don’t stress! We know what we are doing and will get the perfect image of your family and your pet. Actually, most families are more relaxed with a pet in the portrait and the kids love it. Our goal is to make the family portrait experience easy for everyone – including Fido!
T&R: What are some of the biggest challenges when working with pets?
Colin: The family has to stay focused. We tell everyone before the sitting that we will be making funny noises (Colin’s “bark” will make humans wonder if another dog is joining the shoot) and using squeakers cut out of pet toys to get the dog’s attention. It’s important for the family members to stay looking at the camera and not look at what the dog is doing.
T&R: What are some tips to help make your pet camera ready?
Colin: Have them groomed no earlier than a week before the sitting. We want them to still look clean and fresh for the sitting. Feel free to bring your dog’s favorite treats to help them focus. We also have treats at the studio but most of the time treats aren’t needed.
T&R: What if the pet won’t cooperate (asking for a friend)?
Colin: We are usually able to get the pets to cooperate. All we really need is one great image of your pet in each location for the final portrait. If the dog is a challenge, we will work with them as much as we can and then hand them off to one of our assistants or tie their leash to a tree in the gardens while the family finishes the sitting. We have had a couple of dogs take a dive into our pond. We have plenty of towels on hand just in case this happens but if the dog is not cooperating (or dripping wet) we can continue with the rest of the family. We are great at getting the perfect image quickly so usually this is not an issue.
*In order to authentically report this story, we must note Tanner would not cooperate without his leash, which was edited out of the final picture. And despite the duo being almost friends, they would not pose together for this particular shoot, so their separate shots were also edited to make it appear as if they are picture perfect, together.