“You have to be patient and stay very calm,” animal photographer Heather Lussier says. “I think with the animals as well as with kids, they [feel] that on a subtle level, so then they are a little more relaxed.”
After working as a Certified Professional Photographer for over 25 years and even opening her own business Posh Pooch Portraits in downtown Los Altos, Lussier says that above all, the trick to photographing animals is a simple one: stay composed.
“Even [animals] that are high strung or upset or really energetic or whatever, if I just stay really calm, then they kind of eventually just tune into that energy and calm down,” Lussier said.
Animals can be tricky to photograph given their unpredictable nature, so getting the perfect picture isn’t as simple as just staying calm. With especially anxious or jittery pets, it may be easier to manipulate your setting in order to confine them to one area. Lussier recommends putting the animal in a chair. Another trick is to tire the animal out so they are more calm for the photo session by going for a long walk or playing with them for a couple hours beforehand.
Difficulty is heightened when an animal is untrained, but with the use of a few tricks, Lussier is able to use their playfulness to her advantage. Instead of trying to make them sit still, she tries to capture their energy, making for a photo that is sure to be much more life-like and authentic to the dog’s personality.
“When dogs are too well trained, [it] is actually harder to catch the personality,” Lussier said. “[Use a] squeaker or say ‘Do you wanna go for a walk?’… That tends to get them to react instead of just sitting and staying.”
Though it may feel ridiculous at the time, another trick is to make noises while taking the pictures. Try recreating cat noises to a dog or bird noises to a cat in order to get a genuine reaction. If all else fails, treats are a surefire way to motivate any animal. After getting their attention, it’s all about timing.
“Be quick and anticipate the movement or what they are going to do,” Lussier said.
Most importantly, while taking your photos, keep in mind that the main objective is to capture the essence of the animal. Anyone can snap a photo of a dog with their smartphone, so focus on taking pictures that will bring their unique personality to life.
“When people see their images and they have tears of joy, which is most of the time, then I know I have done my job,” Lussier said. “That makes me really happy.”