Hello hello, and welcome to Teacher’s Pet, a column on all things training! Brussels.Sprout will share his how-tos for learning new tricks, updates on his own adventures in dog agility competition, and his favorite tips for helping you and your pup bond over training.
Making Your Photo Shoot a Success, Part 2: Train the Shot
Last time in Teacher’s Pet, we started sharing our tips and tricks for making sure photo shoots are rewarding for both you and your pup… So now that you’ve learned how to set the stage, you’ll need to learn to train the shot! Here are some of our behind the scenes stories about how we got Sproutie used to working with costumes, props and poses!
If you’re planning to put your pup in costume, make sure you’ve given him plenty of time to get used to the outfit before pulling out the camera. He should feel relaxed, able to move freely or, in the case of hats and sunglasses, sit comfortably still.
With Wilt Pouterson, I spent the weeks leading up to Halloween making sure Sproutie was happy in his costume, particularly the wig and glasses. As soon as I put them on, I began giving him treats – this helped him build positive associations and realize that staying still while they were on equaled snackies. Essentially, I treated “wearing glasses” as a new trick for him to learn. Same thing with his tiny walker – I had Sprout practice posing on it, first without the costume and then dressed up. By the time we set out to Madison Square Park it was easy to capture the perfect shot.
You can also check out our general tips on getting used to clothes here.
Practices Makes Perfect
Same advice applies to props – make sure your pup is happy and safe posing next to (or inside!) any props. I had a vision of Sprout in my bike basket, but just plopping him in there and hoping for the best could have been stressful or unsafe, so I spent a few weeks prepping. First, I took the basket off my bike and had Sprout practice getting in and out of it from the ground. Then we progressed, from picking up the basket for a few seconds to carrying him around in it to eventually putting it back on the bike. When I went out to take the shot, I stabilized the bike wheel with weights and brought a friend who stood just outside the shot and “spotted” Sprout while I was behind the camera. A lot of work, but totally worth it to make sure the photo was successful and most importantly safe.
If you’re planning a photo shoot with multiple pups, respect that unless they’re already BFFs they may not want to sit super close to each other. If your pup moves away after you place him or looks stressed (leaning away, etc.), don’t push it. Instead, think about how you can set up the shot to look natural even without the dogs right smack next to each other – put an object between them or try having them each pose on a separate chair. The first time Sproutie met his bae Penny IRL, they had a blast chasing each other in the park but then got a little camera shy. We didn’t force it, and instead just picked a caption that worked with the moment.
Strike a Pose
The most important thing your dog needs to know how to do for a photo shoot is stay in his sit or other position — check out our tips on that here. But teaching him a few camera-ready tricks and poses is a next level way to help make sure he stays actively engaged in your shoot. When I take a picture of Sprout dining al fresco, I don’t position him in front of his rose or guac. I tap the table and say “perch” and he pops up into position.
The thing I love most about asking Sprout to pose himself is that if he doesn’t do it, I know something isn’t right – either he doesn’t feel comfortable (oops I need to push the chair in closer to the table) or he’s not in the mood, in which case I reassess or nix the shot.
Check out our earlier article here to teach your dog the “perch” trick.
Stay tuned for next time when we focus more on making sure your photo shoot is safe and share a bit of Photoshop magic (gasp!)
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