Tail Wagging Adventures – Preparing For the Session by Lisa Francescon
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Tuesday, May 21, 2013
By Lisa Francescon
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If you have been following my blogs, you have seen the portrait of the cat peeking up from the basket. Now, in the world of everything you photograph is magic and turns out the first time, that image would have taken just a few minutes to capture.  Nope. I’d ordered the basket to use for my portrait sessions that involved 6-9 month olds. The day the basket arrived; I pulled it out of the box and was distracted, leaving the basket on the floor. When I returned to get the basket, here was kitty sitting in the basket, looking at me as if to say, “Am I in trouble?” That look inspired my next competition image. The next day, I set and metered my lights, put a fluffy blanket in the bottom, and put the cat in the basket. Of course he wanted nothing to do with it. So I waited. And waited.  45 minutes later he returned to the basket and crawled in. As he started to settle down, I positioned my camera and called out to the cat. Wrigley popped his head up and I had my shot.

[blockQuote position="right"]When we are working with clients’ animals we don’t always have the luxury of time. However, with some simple planning, and a few tricks up your sleeve, you can create images that your clients will treasure forever.[/blockQuote]


The Consultation

Just as you do with two legged clients, four legged clients also need a consultation before the session. The first thing I determine is where the session will be held: studio or client home. If I’m photographing a cat, I always recommend that I go to them. If I will be traveling to the home, I do visit in order to see where I will be shooting so I can plan for my lighting.

The next thing we do is talk about what products the client needs. In my studio, every client walks out with either a wall portrait or album (many times both). At this point, I cover the packages and pricing that I offer. When I am done, I know exactly what the client needs. This also deters any sticker shock the client may have at the sales session.


Here are some other things you need to address before a session with an animal.


1. Temperament of the animal. Are there some behavior issues I need to be aware of?

Sometimes rescue animals may have some behavior issues. These are things I need to know before I begin. Safety for the dog, myself and the family is the utmost importance. I also ask how the animal responds to noises. I do use my rubber chicken to catch an animal’s attention; but if it is going to scare the critter, I will try something else.



2. Food allergies.

I keep treats on hand; but I prefer that the client brings their own treats and snacks.


3. Who is going to be photographed?

If the family is also being photographed, then I will go into my usual routine of clothing options, hair, preparation, etc. Keep in mind that dogs shed, so I encourage them to stay away from black. I don’t want to spend time in Photoshop removing lots of dog hairs. When the family is involved in the picture; my goal is to focus on the relationship that the family has with the animal.


4. Children and the pet.

If the child is unable to handle the dog on his or her own, I will need to utilize the help of a parent in order to get the shot.  I always ask that the leash and collar be removed if a child can hold and handle the animal. If not, I will Photoshop the leash out on the final prints.


5. Client interaction with the animal.

As with children, patience is the utmost importance. We use quiet tones with the animals; always praising and never scolding or yelling.


6. The session workflow.

If the session is in the studio, I allow the dog or other animal time to check things out, get used to the new smells, and get used to me. This can take up to 15 minutes; sometime a little longer if the animal is wound up.

I always begin the session photographing just the animal and then will add children and other family members. Just like children, if we need to give the animal a break to move around, get a drink or treat that is not a problem.

I also photograph a variety of groupings with the animal. Just the kids, mom and the dog, dad and the dog, etc.

7. Wrapping up the consultation.

At this point, I will answer any other questions the client may have. Once that is done, we confirm both the session date and time and schedule the sales session. Depending on my schedule, the sales session will take place 5-7 days after the portraits are taken. I then review exactly what will happen at the sales session; making sure they understand that purchases are expected at that time.


Photographing animals and their families can be both a challenging and rewarding experience.  However, by taking a few extra steps before the session, it can help ease some of those challenges and make your session fun.


Until next time,




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