People often ask me if I have a hard job. I guess they have that old adage in mind 'Never photograph kids and dogs.' To be honest, I think this saying was made by a bunch of lazy photographers that just didn't have the patience or understanding needed to photograph kids and dogs. Because when done correctly, it can be an incredibly rewarding and easy process. When I am commissioned for a pet photography session in Los Angeles or San Francisco by a family that has kids AND dogs, my clients almost always come to me thinking that 'it simply can't be done.' Which is riduclous, but also is a great opportunity for me to prove them wrong and create beautful black and white dog portraits that blow them away. So, here is my advice on how to photograph kids and dogs for all my fellow pet photographers out there.
1) First, don't be intimidated by the parents' concern. You must be calm and confident when photographing dogs and kids simultaneously. And when the parents see that you are calm and in control of the situation, they will allow themselves to relax and that is how good, emotional, creative portraits are made.
2) Be patient. The only moments worth photographing are real moments, especially when working with kids of any age. Kids can see right through you, so do not tell them what to do, or where to sit, or what to wear, or when to smile. I simply follow the kids around and invite their dogs to spend time with them. Usually in their bedrooms where there are lots of toys or kids' favorite things, beds that dogs like to sleep on, and texture and light. A kid's bedroom is like a moment frozen in time. All the tiny details inside that space tell a story of a specific age and specific moment in their development. It all changes so fast that being able to show parents a beautiful image from within that space is so wonderfully powerful.
3) More likely than not, dogs come before kids. So be sure to be sensitive to that. Find time in your dog photography session to pull that parents aside and create some beautiful portraits of the parents with their original 'kids' - the dogs. It will be very appreciated, and allow them take stock of how lucky they are to have grown their family over the years.
4) Never say no to a suggestion. During this session, my client had a very surprising but amazingly creative idea to put the family and dogs in the car and create a portrait of them zooming by with their heads out the window. I stood at the end of the driveway and panned through them driving past the house a handful of times. This resulted in the family photograph at the top of this post, which I truly love.