When people look at my pictures, one thing I get asked about a lot is behaviour. Specifically, people ask me ‘How do you get them to behave and do what you want?’
For many genre’s of photography, making it up as you go along is something you need to embrace. ( Yes, I’m thinking of you newborn photographers). I certainly plan a shot list and yes, there are certain things that will illicit certain expressions, but a lot of it boils down to how you and your subject interact. I think I can explain it better by describing my photographs as a collaboration between me and the subject/model. They give me a moment and it is up to me to capture it.
When you are working with animals (and children) you have to just go with it to some degree. Of course animals are trainable and will do as we ask, but only while they want to and once they don’t want to any more, it is time to take a break and try again later. If you try to force them, or get angry, you will get unhappy looking animals in un-natural looking poses in your pictures. I always try to explain what I need to the owner and get them to position their dog. Sometimes we will try several different angles of the same shot.
My favourite shot right now is this shot of a Vizsla named Moose.
Everything just came together for this shot. The light was insane, my angle was great and Moose was being Moose. I just captured what he gave me.
Moose has an athleticism and grace that fit, active dogs have. We had no issues with Moose’s behaviour, he was well behaved and respectful of his owner, but he was also highly distractible and very interested in the surroundings.
Being able to channel those traits so you can get a natural shot is a large part of creating a beautiful portrait for an owner.