5 Common Misconceptions About Dog Photography

Most people don’t believe their dog will ever behave well enough, long enough, or at all for me to get good photos, and even more tell me it’s also because their dog cannot go off-leash.

And these are just a few of the misconceptions surrounding dog photography.

The great news is that none of these are a requirement for your dog photography session! It’s completely OK—and actually, pretty normal—if your dog isn’t on his best behavior the day of our session, suddenly seems to have forgotten every one of the 15 skills he mastered to earn his Novice Trick Dog (NTD) title, or if he wants to show off how quickly he flunked puppy school. In fact, I kind of expect it.

What I see as your photographer is very different than what you see as a pet parent, but I know it can feel like a whole different level of chaos when you’re stepping into the role of ringleader in what appears to be a three-ring circus, which is why I’m separating the facts from the five most common myths about dog photography starting with the number-one misbelief.

Myth 1: Your Dog Has to Be Great Off-Leash to Have Your Session On-Location

Cue Capone-N-Noreaga: “Oh no. Oh no. Oh no, no, no, no, no, no.”

Apologies if I just gave you the world’s most annoying earworm, but no: your dog does not have to be great off-leash to have your session on-location.

I’m not sure where this whole my-dog-needs-to-be-unleashed-for-photos thing originated, but any dog photographer will tell you that this assumption has to be among the top myths about dog photography, if not the biggest misconception. The reality is, almost every dog I photograph is leashed during our session, whether to keep him safe or due to location requirements. In fact, if I had to guesstimate, I’d put that number around 80%.

So, why don’t you see any leashes in the images featured on my website or shared on my social media feeds if so many dogs need them? It’s because they’re removed during post-processing with a touch of magic, aka Photoshop!

Leash removal is always complimentary, so don’t sweat it if your dog needs to remain on a leash during our session. (Word on the street is all the cool dogs are wearing them. They’re basically an accessory that never goes out of style.)

Myth 2: Your Dog Needs to Have a Solid Sit and Stay In Order to Produce Beautiful Portraits

Your session never requires your dog to sit, stay, and behave for hours (or even minutes) on end. One of the benefits of hiring a pet-specific photographer is that we’re basically connoisseurs of reading canine body language and extremely adept at anticipating exactly what your four-legger is going to do next. We shoot fast, we ooze patience, and honestly, there’s not much that’s going to phase us. We have seen it all!

I know I speak for many dog photographers when I say that we thrive on these unscripted, magical, entertaining, and sometimes chaotic moments. And sure, while it is helpful to know basic cues, it is certainly not essential! If I need your dog to be in a certain position or spot, I’ll let you know and we’ll take our time and reset.

Your dog has only one job: to be a dog! Leave all worries at the door and just enjoy the experience. I’ll take care of the rest with a calm, creative, and no-pressure approach to your session. Years of experience and patience in working with a variety of personalities and behaviors—along with my own bag of tricks—means there is no need for anyone to be an obedience school superstar to have a successful session or to create the images you’re dreaming of! I promise if your dog is happy and having fun, we will get great images. Rest assured, hundredths of a second (and a few of my own tricks) is all I need to capture a range of gorgeous personality-filled portraits.

Myth 3: All of the Dogs Involved Must Look at the Camera at the Exact Same Time in Every Single Shot

I work with a lot of multi-dog families and rarely are all furry faces looking in the same direction at the same time. So, how do I do it?

One word: composites.

traditional framed print of a three-dog composite image and the three individual photos used to create it

According to Adobe, which provides a group of software used for a variety of media needs ranging from graphic design to photography, “Composite photography is the use or combination of two or more different images to create a new one. Although it sounds simple, the creation of a new image using the composite method is a process that can take hours—it’s something that requires constant practice in order to create believable compositions.”

Essentially, this means that I’m often taking the head, or occasionally the entire body, of a dog from one image and combining it into another image featuring the other dog(s) as shown in the above example where you see the three individual actions shots I captured to create the final portrait of Coco, Olive, and Pepper.

Myth 4: People Don’t Display Large Portraits of Their Dogs on Their Walls

False. Yeah, I know I could just leave it at that, but I’ll let my 2021 numbers do the talking.

That’s because nearly 52% of clients purchased a signature wall art piece following their session with 20% of that total as multiple pieces, often in the form of a wall art grouping. (The remaining 48% opted for either an heirloom folio box or fine art album.)

signature wall art of greyhound mix and Labrador mix in rooms with light blue tones

Think about it: parents display photos of their children throughout their home; couples, photos of their wedding day. What warrants excluding your pet’s portraits? We’re not creating a “shrine” for your dog, and even if we were, what’s the shame in displaying your little loved one where you’ll see him every day? Your dog is family and family deserves to be celebrated and honored.

Myth 5: Dog Photographers Just Roll Around and Get Covered in Puppy Kisses

OK, so this one is partially true. Being a dog photographer is …, but it’s also the unusual edits we work our magic on on the daily that is the norm to us. (We eliminate slobber, leashes, eye boogies, and…um, your dog’s “red rocket” like nobody’s business!)

It’s our unmatched ability to catch your dog’s attention with sounds that will trigger an out-of-this-world head tilt—for both you and your dog!

It’s being a meteorologist, a contortionist, an interior designer, a reader of light, an allocator of seemingly endless treats, and the grandmaster of belly rubs, all at the same time.

It’s capturing your excitement when you welcome home your new furry family member…and crying right alongside you when it’s time to tell him goodbye.

It’s telling your story your way, and the greatest pleasure and privilege to celebrate the joy and love between you and your pet.

Are you ready to embark on the Bark & Gold Photography experience? If so, I’d love to hear all about the special dog in your life! Choose your adventure below to begin.

Did you enjoy this post? Great, there’s more coming your way because it’s part of a photography blog circle featuring photographers specializing in a variety of niches! To see more content like this and what the next photographer is sharing for our weekly theme, “Myth vs. Fact,” check out Gretchen Decker with Gretchen Decker Photography, debunking three common myths about wedding photography. Continue to click the link at the end of each post in the blog circle until you eventually find your way back here.

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