How to get the “Money Shot” in Pet Photography - Digital Photography School
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How to get the “Money Shot” in Pet Photography

A Guest Post by Nicole Begley from Hair of the Dog

dog photography.jpg

If there is one shot in pet photography that just about every owner is guaranteed to fall in love with and buy, it is the head tilt.   There is nothing quite like those shots with the dog looking directly in the camera, head to the side, and their ears pricked.  Capturing them can be quite elusive, but I have a few tips and tricks that may make it a little bit easier.

1. Practice your best whining puppy

 
This is a tough one, but if you can pull it off it’s certainly the easiest!  I do not have the innate talent of creating noises that intrigue the canine set.  My attempts usually end up with both the dog and the owner staring at me with amazement, and not in a good way!  However, I have witnessed some incredible puppy whine mimicry which works wonders!  If you can pull it off it’s great because you still have your hands free and you can utilize it at any time.

2. Engage the owner in some puppy talk

 
Some dogs respond to certain voices or words with the head tilt.  Have the dog’s human stand behind you and ask “Do you want to go for a ride?”, or whatever phrase it is that elicits the head tilt or ear prick from the pet.

dog photography 2.jpg

3. Embrace technology

 
Do you have a smart phone?  It can be an arsenal of crazy animal noises that are sure to get the attention of just about every dog.  Simply search for an animal noises app and get your camera ready to capture that head tilt!  If you are planning on using the animal noises app, it’s important to ask the owner if they think the dog will be ok with it.  The last thing you want to do is play a wolf howl and have the dog go ballistic because you didn’t realize they are either fearful of or aggressive towards other dogs.  

Another great thing about the animal noise app is that you have many different sounds at your disposal.  I recently photographed a dog that didn’t flinch when I played the wolf, but was quite interested in the turkey and owl calls.   I promise the effort that goes into creating these shots will pay off.  Owners can’t resist that face!  

dog photography 3.jpg

Nicole Begley is an animal trainer turned dog photographer based in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, focusing on creating custom home décor and fine-art albums with fun and modern images.  Nicole also created Hair of the Dog, a blog dedicated to marketing and business tips for veteran and aspiring pet photographers.

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  • raghavendra
  • http://www.kerstenbeck.com Erik Kerstenbeck

    Hi

    Fun indeed – here is a shot of two Aussie Sheps patiently waiting for their best buddy to return from diving off the shores of Catalina Island, California (70-200mm f2.8)

    http://kerstenbeckphotoart.wordpress.com/2011/10/15/waiting/

  • http://mikhailanand.wordpress.com Mikhail Anand

    my friends dog ski had a couple goes at my lens.. apparently that was enough to get his attention.. a beautiful animal!
    http://mikhailanand.wordpress.com/2012/07/14/ski/

  • http://www.wildlifeencounters.eu steve slater

    The article is entitked pets but has all dog photos (which are really good)
    How about other pets.
    Snakes could be the tongue flick:

    http://wildlifeencounters.photoshelter.com/gallery-image/Photos-for-fun/G0000ujmak54q8ao/I0000YOjOv.pqCoQ

  • http://midnightrook.blogspot.com Jean-Pierre

    Sometimes the pets’ humans being there can make the pet unsure. If the human sounds uncomfortable, then the pet senses that. I think spending one on one time with their pet can elicit a more calm photo.

    Here’s one of a super cute kitten :)

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/45517597@N07/7377001210/

  • Scottc

    The ultimate advice…..but you can catch them listening to someone else!

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/lendog64/5248696703/

  • http://www.keepthetailwagging.com Kimberly, The Fur Mom

    These are fantastic tips. I just spent a day taking pictures of dogs at Marysville’s Poochapalooza, doing the kissy noise to get a dog’s attention and mostly being ignored. I wish I would have read this yesterday!

    Kimberly

  • http://creativegeekery.net ronbailey

    You might want to rethink your use of the term “Money Shot”.

  • Barry E

    I take photos of my dog and cat all the time. Never though of this, Thanks for the great tip.

  • Barry E

    [eimg url='http://farm8.staticflickr.com/7112/7574446768_a659cc54cb_z.jpg' title='7574446768_a659cc54cb_z.jpg']
    This one captures a moment with sounds I made. I call it “Come on !!! Make my day”

  • Mei Teng

    Pets make beautiful photo subjects.

  • http://www.photo-roll.com/ Sachin Verma
  • http://digitalcamerareviewsandinfo.com/ Kathryn

    Aww… I thank this blog for giving me another motivation to take even more photos of my pet cat. My phone and camera’s memory cards are full of photos of the cat. It just seemed like the photos I’m taking are almost similar.

    I am going to try your tips so I could have the adorable tilting head shot of my cat. if I do succeed, it would definitely find its way as my phone and computer wallpaper. It would also be a dream come true for me.

  • http://www.guigphotography.com Guigphotography

    I agree with the head tilt being a winner for pet owners, though I’ve noticed that in the main, the pet looking directly at the lens and getting the eye contact is a firm favourite (followed by an action shot, I’d say).
    Here’s one where I got top down on a kitty cat, allowing the light to show off the detail.
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/69604456@N07/7106456733/in/photostream

  • http://www.livingdisney.com Elizabeth

    I love this article and the pictures! I have tried to take pictures of my 4 Chihuahuas and it is so difficult. I took this picture of one of my smallest Chi who is 2 1/2 years old. I have to try this trick. Thanks! Please check out my dog named Pika (short for Pikachu) here.

    http://www.livingdisney.com/2012/07/photographs-of-week-72-78-2012.html

  • Debbe

    My cat and I won a professional photo shoot through our local Humane Society last year and we met the most wonderful pet photographer. She spent almost 2 hours with us and when my cat was scared to death she gently coaxed him out and managed to get some great shots. I honesty don’t know how she did it as I did not think he would come out from under the bed! I was very inspired by her and would really love to do that myself someday. Thanks for the great article!

  • http://www.catnipinn.com/about/ herman

    I’ve discovered a big factor in Cat (pet) photography is: SOUND. Softer is Better! The louder the noise: The more distracting. And 2 more tips: Patients – Patients – Patients and Practice – Practice – Practice. To see these steps in practice, visit me at: http://www.facebook.com/CatnipInn

  • Andrea

    Great tips! I use the squeaker from inside a dog toy to get the dogs to look at me. Also, a high pitched “Here, Kitty, Kitty” works. If the dog is focused on its owner, try having the owner stand behind you & snap his fingers (only works if the dog knows how to stay). I’m not a professional photographer, but I do the photography for the website for our guide dog puppy raising group. My photos, good, bad & just plain silly are here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/hpwtdogmom/sets/72157621860219579/

  • Rodolfo

    Good Stuff…Here is my dog Barley
    [eimg url='https://lh6.googleusercontent.com/-Ol2B1BcINKs/T7R9scpaTKI/AAAAAAAAR-A/E79Dj4ilWfg/s947/Barleybw2.jpg' title='Barleybw2.jpg'][eimg url='https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-6F3Whw9zJEI/T5X6cbMS_6I/AAAAAAAAO_U/4j70xZm13cw/s1223/Barleybw.JPG' title='Barleybw.JPG']

  • Rodolfo

    Cool stuff…Here are two of my dog Baley[eimg url='https://lh4.googleusercontent.com/-XrRy9FISjmg/UAiTns_nc2I/AAAAAAAAVyI/du-ICj6TSYA/s600/Barleybw+%28600+x+397%29.jpg' title='Barleybw+%28600+x+397%29.jpg']
    [eimg url='https://lh5.googleusercontent.com/-mPlTTP_F6a8/UAiTnyWlDlI/AAAAAAAAVyQ/KxwkJIxoYrA/s600/Barleybw2+%28397+x+600%29.jpg' title='Barleybw2+%28397+x+600%29.jpg']

  • Rodolfo
  • Rodolfo
  • http://nickchase.redbubble.com/ nick chase

    I really like dogs on the move, however, one of the best ways I’ve found to get that look is to take a squeeker from a dog toy (clean it of course) and pop it in your mouth. When you’re ready just give it a squeeze with your teeth. Works everytime.

  • http://jamshotsphotography.com Jamshotsphotography

    Thanks Nicole for the great tips! i spend Saturday mornings at the local shelter shooting for their featured pets section. I usually keep a squeaker in my pocket for this very purpose, but love the APP idea. Thanks, everything I learn to make an animal more adoptable can save lives. Love your pictures. Check the gallery labelled Shelter Project on my website.

  • http://www.mhollandphotos.com mholland

    I use a little trick that works great…Take a cheap $1 squeeky toy and remove the sqeeker…Its a small little tube with reed type devise in it…I place that in my mouth and blow on it to get noises…that way I can use my hads for my equipment…99% of the time it causes the dog to look at me so I can get that perfect shot…

  • http://www.portraitcreationspiqua.com/ Brian

    I’ve always found that pets are the hardest for us to shoot, but at the sametime they are so much fun! I will deffentily use some advice on our next pet portraits.

Some older comments

  • Brian

    July 22, 2012 09:43 pm

    I've always found that pets are the hardest for us to shoot, but at the sametime they are so much fun! I will deffentily use some advice on our next pet portraits.

  • mholland

    July 21, 2012 01:24 am

    I use a little trick that works great...Take a cheap $1 squeeky toy and remove the sqeeker...Its a small little tube with reed type devise in it...I place that in my mouth and blow on it to get noises...that way I can use my hads for my equipment...99% of the time it causes the dog to look at me so I can get that perfect shot...

  • Jamshotsphotography

    July 20, 2012 10:52 am

    Thanks Nicole for the great tips! i spend Saturday mornings at the local shelter shooting for their featured pets section. I usually keep a squeaker in my pocket for this very purpose, but love the APP idea. Thanks, everything I learn to make an animal more adoptable can save lives. Love your pictures. Check the gallery labelled Shelter Project on my website.

  • nick chase

    July 20, 2012 09:54 am

    I really like dogs on the move, however, one of the best ways I've found to get that look is to take a squeeker from a dog toy (clean it of course) and pop it in your mouth. When you're ready just give it a squeeze with your teeth. Works everytime.

  • Rodolfo

    July 20, 2012 09:18 am

    https://plus.google.com/u/0/photos/115692185117302385997/albums/5767021629578806113/5767021633150088034

  • Rodolfo

    July 20, 2012 09:17 am

    https://lh4.googleusercontent.com/-XrRy9FISjmg/UAiTns_nc2I/AAAAAAAAVyI/du-ICj6TSYA/s600/Barleybw+%28600+x+397%29.jpg

  • Rodolfo

    July 20, 2012 09:10 am

    Cool stuff...Here are two of my dog Baley[eimg url='https://lh4.googleusercontent.com/-XrRy9FISjmg/UAiTns_nc2I/AAAAAAAAVyI/du-ICj6TSYA/s600/Barleybw+%28600+x+397%29.jpg' title='Barleybw+%28600+x+397%29.jpg']
    [eimg url='https://lh5.googleusercontent.com/-mPlTTP_F6a8/UAiTnyWlDlI/AAAAAAAAVyQ/KxwkJIxoYrA/s600/Barleybw2+%28397+x+600%29.jpg' title='Barleybw2+%28397+x+600%29.jpg']

  • Rodolfo

    July 20, 2012 09:01 am

    Good Stuff...Here is my dog Barley
    [eimg url='https://lh6.googleusercontent.com/-Ol2B1BcINKs/T7R9scpaTKI/AAAAAAAAR-A/E79Dj4ilWfg/s947/Barleybw2.jpg' title='Barleybw2.jpg'][eimg url='https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-6F3Whw9zJEI/T5X6cbMS_6I/AAAAAAAAO_U/4j70xZm13cw/s1223/Barleybw.JPG' title='Barleybw.JPG']

  • Andrea

    July 20, 2012 06:47 am

    Great tips! I use the squeaker from inside a dog toy to get the dogs to look at me. Also, a high pitched "Here, Kitty, Kitty" works. If the dog is focused on its owner, try having the owner stand behind you & snap his fingers (only works if the dog knows how to stay). I'm not a professional photographer, but I do the photography for the website for our guide dog puppy raising group. My photos, good, bad & just plain silly are here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/hpwtdogmom/sets/72157621860219579/

  • herman

    July 20, 2012 03:11 am

    I’ve discovered a big factor in Cat (pet) photography is: SOUND. Softer is Better! The louder the noise: The more distracting. And 2 more tips: Patients – Patients – Patients and Practice – Practice - Practice. To see these steps in practice, visit me at: http://www.facebook.com/CatnipInn

  • Debbe

    July 20, 2012 01:37 am

    My cat and I won a professional photo shoot through our local Humane Society last year and we met the most wonderful pet photographer. She spent almost 2 hours with us and when my cat was scared to death she gently coaxed him out and managed to get some great shots. I honesty don't know how she did it as I did not think he would come out from under the bed! I was very inspired by her and would really love to do that myself someday. Thanks for the great article!

  • Elizabeth

    July 17, 2012 09:39 am

    I love this article and the pictures! I have tried to take pictures of my 4 Chihuahuas and it is so difficult. I took this picture of one of my smallest Chi who is 2 1/2 years old. I have to try this trick. Thanks! Please check out my dog named Pika (short for Pikachu) here.

    http://www.livingdisney.com/2012/07/photographs-of-week-72-78-2012.html

  • Guigphotography

    July 16, 2012 07:02 pm

    I agree with the head tilt being a winner for pet owners, though I've noticed that in the main, the pet looking directly at the lens and getting the eye contact is a firm favourite (followed by an action shot, I'd say).
    Here's one where I got top down on a kitty cat, allowing the light to show off the detail.
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/69604456@N07/7106456733/in/photostream

  • Kathryn

    July 16, 2012 07:00 pm

    Aww... I thank this blog for giving me another motivation to take even more photos of my pet cat. My phone and camera's memory cards are full of photos of the cat. It just seemed like the photos I'm taking are almost similar.

    I am going to try your tips so I could have the adorable tilting head shot of my cat. if I do succeed, it would definitely find its way as my phone and computer wallpaper. It would also be a dream come true for me.

  • Sachin Verma

    July 16, 2012 05:58 pm

    Some Photos that our users posted ! :)

    http://forum.photo-roll.com/index.php?topic=113.0

    http://forum.photo-roll.com/index.php?topic=178.0

  • Mei Teng

    July 16, 2012 04:04 pm

    Pets make beautiful photo subjects.

  • Barry E

    July 15, 2012 11:34 pm

    [eimg url='http://farm8.staticflickr.com/7112/7574446768_a659cc54cb_z.jpg' title='7574446768_a659cc54cb_z.jpg']
    This one captures a moment with sounds I made. I call it "Come on !!! Make my day"

  • Barry E

    July 15, 2012 11:16 pm

    I take photos of my dog and cat all the time. Never though of this, Thanks for the great tip.

  • ronbailey

    July 15, 2012 10:38 pm

    You might want to rethink your use of the term "Money Shot".

  • Kimberly, The Fur Mom

    July 15, 2012 12:37 pm

    These are fantastic tips. I just spent a day taking pictures of dogs at Marysville's Poochapalooza, doing the kissy noise to get a dog's attention and mostly being ignored. I wish I would have read this yesterday!

    Kimberly

  • Scottc

    July 15, 2012 07:49 am

    The ultimate advice.....but you can catch them listening to someone else!

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/lendog64/5248696703/

  • Jean-Pierre

    July 15, 2012 07:28 am

    Sometimes the pets' humans being there can make the pet unsure. If the human sounds uncomfortable, then the pet senses that. I think spending one on one time with their pet can elicit a more calm photo.

    Here's one of a super cute kitten :)

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/45517597@N07/7377001210/

  • steve slater

    July 15, 2012 05:33 am

    The article is entitked pets but has all dog photos (which are really good)
    How about other pets.
    Snakes could be the tongue flick:

    http://wildlifeencounters.photoshelter.com/gallery-image/Photos-for-fun/G0000ujmak54q8ao/I0000YOjOv.pqCoQ

  • Mikhail Anand

    July 15, 2012 05:31 am

    my friends dog ski had a couple goes at my lens.. apparently that was enough to get his attention.. a beautiful animal!
    http://mikhailanand.wordpress.com/2012/07/14/ski/

  • Erik Kerstenbeck

    July 15, 2012 03:53 am

    Hi

    Fun indeed - here is a shot of two Aussie Sheps patiently waiting for their best buddy to return from diving off the shores of Catalina Island, California (70-200mm f2.8)

    http://kerstenbeckphotoart.wordpress.com/2011/10/15/waiting/

  • raghavendra

    July 15, 2012 02:53 am

    wow, this is fun :)

    http://raghavendra-mobilephotography.blogspot.in/search/label/pet

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