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September 10, 2012 | Written by: Scott Carlton

Lights, Camera, Roll Over: Behind the Scenes of a Canine Photo Shoot

If a day under the heat of glaring spotlights sounds alluring, join us for a closer look at what really goes on at a professional photo shoot—for dogs. You’ll find more than just beautiful pedigrees. You’ll meet a team of experts planning, preparing and envisioning what’s needed to bring out the best looks from a pack of pampered pooches.

And even if you’ve assembled the perfect photographer, producer, creative team, canine trainers and models, there’s no telling what surprises you may encounter.

As with any type of still photography shoot, looks are the top priority in choosing talent. The main difference in photographing dogs, however, is that both beauty and brains are needed. Well-trained dogs are available in hubs like New York or Los Angeles. But if you’re shooting in other cities, finding dogs and trainers who can provide the focus and control required on a time-sensitive set may be a challenge.

So what’s so special about professional dogs and their trainers? Doggie treats. Yep, treats seem to be the ultimate reassuring reward to persuade dogs to do more than just sit and pant. When a trainer commands the attention of their pup, he or she can direct exact positioning up or down to a paw placement, head tilt or facial expression. As long as there’s a flavorful treat waiting to give immediate gratification for a job well done, these beasts will oblige.

Furthermore, a well-trained canine will maintain its focus until verbally released from its trainer. Only then can the animal sniff, play and explore like a normal pet. No different from a human model or actor, the talented canine can jump, bark, pose and roll over on command while still appearing natural.

And it’s a talent indeed. Because the more natural a dog moves, the more opportunities it offers to capture the perfect shot.

But it’s not only the dog and trainer who are at play here. The photographer must know how to work and communicate to get the right angle as seen from the lens of a camera. Again, preparation is key. It helps establish a relaxed atmosphere while facilitating quick moves to cover not only the required shot, but capture unexpected moments.

At a recent SSW website shoot for a dog-related account, our team mastered the necessary skills needed to capture shot after shot of the chosen pack, including a border collie, golden retriever and French bulldog.

“Star” treatment was given to each of the female pups. They were groomed perfectly, outfitted with trendy collars, supplied with luxurious beds and chewy toys. And of course, each one was made to feel that she, and only she, was the “top” dog.

Scene after scene, they performed with precision and panache. But alas, even canines have egos. And when encouraged to share a scene, a climatic “diva” moment occurred with a scuffling between the different dogs. “Cut!” shouted the photographer.

Bruised egos aside, the hard work and collaboration between the various players paid off with the development of stunning photos, a killer website and a very happy client. Just another glamorous day in the life of shooting canines? Hardly. Still, it was a job executed with award-winning results from a group of seasoned pros. Move in. Close up. The end.

About the author
Scott Carlton
Scott is Associate Creative Director at SSW. His wellness pledge is to keep fit by eating plenty of chicken and yogurt.

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