Before You Photograph

Before you begin photographing any animal, spend time with it. If you give the animals some time to get accustomed to you they will be more relaxed and friendly and this will come across in your photographs. Most of the animals you will photograph have been in cages for almost the entire day, so naturally when they are taken out they are curious. They want to explore! You have to give them time for their natural inquisitiveness to wane before they will be calm enough to be photographed and look at boring old you instead of the outside world.

For dogs, this means taking them out of their cages and taking them for a little walk. Most dogs get very excited when first let out of their cages and need to be calmed down by going on a walk. An anxious, jumpy dog will be impossible to photograph anyway so have some fun first.

Important! Unless you have a secure, fenced in area in which to walk the dogs, always make sure to have any dog that you take outside on a strong, sturdy leash at all times. There can be no exceptions to this rule! The shelter staff will usually insist on this anyway but is is important enough that it warrants notice here. In our posing section will teach some techniques on how to avoid having the leash show in your photograph.

For cats and other small animals, calming them also means taking them out of their cages. If you are lucky, the shelter will have a quiet room somewhere, often a room where potential adopters can visit with an animal, where you can take small animals to spend some time with them. If they will let you, try petting the animal and speaking to it in a soft, comforting voice. Some animals want to be held, others want to explore on their own. Try to determine the wishes of the animal and adjust your warm-up routine for each one.

For all animals, give them a visual once over from nose to tail and do any light preening to make the animal look its best. Cats may have some leakage from their eyes or nose that you can gently remove with a warm moist tissue. Dogs may have some unsightly drool that you can easily wipe away. If they will let you, it doesn't hurt to try to give the animal a quick brushing to remove any loose hairs and errant particles in the fur. For some animals, these preening sessions will grow your new bond with this animal and they will be relaxed and grateful for it. If the animal doesn't enjoy the preening, just skip it.

When you think the the animal is calmed down enough and is ready for their closeup, work with your handler to get the best pose and expression.

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