10 Simple tricks to capture the best pet portrait

“Happiness is a warm puppy,” Charles M. Schulz once said. This is never more true than for an adorable dog smiling in a picture.

Since 2010, I have been taking portraits of dogs at the Humane Society of New York. I have seen, loved and cuddled hundreds of dogs during this time and each one of those dogs has an adorable portrait. I work with their amazing staff and their Director of Animal Behavior and Training, Bill Berloni, to ensure each animal gets a lovable portrait. The animals have a better chance at adoption if they look happy and loved. I conferred with Mr. Berloni, who is also the dog trainer for all of the Broadway shows, including the most recent NBC Peter Pan Live, for which Bill trained the dog Nana on live TV, and I asked him some of his best tricks to help pose a dog for a portrait. Taking a portrait of a dog takes a team of two people, and working with Bill has made my dog portrait days much easier. Here are a few tricks we have found that work pretty successfully in posing any dog, large and small.

1. Have a team of two people

One person takes the pictures, the other communicates with the dog. It will get confusing if more than one is “barking commands.” This causes confusion and movement that will make taking the photo difficult.

2. Say hello to the dog

Even if he is yours. You want to make sure the dog is involved.

3. Introduce him to your camera

Flash the camera a few times and let him sniff the camera; that way he feels more comfortable when it’s time for his close up!

4. Find the light!

For small dogs, find a well-lit room and make sure there is nice window light to give you the best possible exposure. Put the dog on something that has a ledge. This will create a boundary for them that they will not want to cross. Putting them on something like a chair or a box will prevent them from moving around too much.

For larger dogs, take them outside, in a larger space. This way you can move around as well as the camera. Nice sunlight will also keep your shutter speed at a faster speed, in case your dog is a bit frisky. This gives a better chance of catching the dog in a pose. You might not need a flash if it’s sunny out.

5. Have the photographer get to the eye level of the dog

It will give a more personal and up-close shot of dog and the dog will have a better chance of looking toward the lens.

6. Keep snapping away

You never know when the dog will give you a funny face.

7. Try using unfamiliar noises

Try using unfamiliar noises. Catching them off guard and confused can spark that perfect moment to snap a shot. We used the door opening and closing. This gives a chance for the dog’s ears to perk up and look interested. Make sure the door is behind the photographer.

Use toys, squeakier the better. Have the person squeak the toy to get the dogs attention and move the squeaky toy above the camera. The dog’s eye will follow the toy and look at the camera.

If the dog is not looking your way, show him the treat, let him smell it and then have them move the treat above the camera. The dog’s eyes will follow the treat.

8. Do not call their name

Do not call their name. When you call a dog’s name, they may think you want them to come to them.

9. Every time they pose correctly, give them a treat!

Rewarding them after a good pose will make them want to do it again!

10. If you are in a good mood, the dog will be in a good mood

Put that grin on and they will smile in return.

If you need a forever friend, check out the Humane Society of New York or your local shelter!

How can you say no to this face.

Disclosure: This post was brought to you by K9 Advantix® II, a registered trademark of Bayer. Do not use on cats.

All images: Tiffany Hagler-Geard/ SheKnows

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