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How to Photograph Pets in the Studio

Lesson 1 of 1

How to Photograph Pets in the Studio

Carli Davidson

How to Photograph Pets in the Studio

Carli Davidson

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Lesson Info

1. How to Photograph Pets in the Studio

Lesson Info

How to Photograph Pets in the Studio

Hi like jim said I am carly davidson and I am an animal photographer actually have a background in both animal photography, photography in general and a lot of animal care and training and I think that's really how I kind of fell into animal photography as much as I always loved photography I think it was around when I started photographing the animals I was working with at the oregon zoo that it really clicked that I was supposed to be photographing animals. So like I said, I have a background in animal care uh it's something that a lot of people ask me when they're interested in doing pat animal photography what they should do what here should I get what you know what should I have? And the first thing I tell them is that they should have a great sense around animals. So that tends to be somehow a lot more important than a lot of the gear because if you have an animal and that animal is not comfortable around here, you're not comfortable around that animal like nothing the work s o o...

ne of the things I tell people to dio is volunteer it shelters I think this is an amazing way to get exposed to more animals and just your own your friends because animals come from a spectrum of backgrounds just like people dio and it's hard to just ask them what that is so being around a lot of different animals means that you understand their body language, which is how they communicate with each other, how to make them feel more comfortable on set went to approach them, one to give them space and that's kind of a great groundwork for everything you're going to do in the studio. Uh, so setting up your space that kind of speaks tio making your set normally when I bring an animal onto said, I'm not gonna have six people staring at that, and luckily, we were able to hang out with these animals yesterday, and we know that they're all pretty chill around people because sometimes they're a little nervous. I wouldn't generally have huge lights everywhere beaming down on them again. We made sure these animals were cool with it, but I try to set up an environment that's really calming for the animals. So, you know, I think knowing the animal is it it's coming in? I sent out a questionnaire to people at with questions like, has your animal ever had a history of aggression? Does your animal have its vaccinations? It's, good to know, just in case, and I find that often times the people who are the most nervous about their animal coming in and they think it's not going to do well those animals tend to do great and the people who are like oh, they're awesome with everybody like that I'm always just like oh man, I don't know this could this could turn into something but yeah it's good to get a cz much information as you can to set yourself and the animal up for success the animals really nervous don't run up to the animal as soon as it comes in let it come to you let it check out the space obviously we have a limited time here I usually give animals fifteen minutes to a half an hour just to smith and look around I talked to their own or during that time I get a sense if they have behaviors they already have trained that I can use when I'm taking pictures of the dog I ask about the animals history I'm getting information from a shoot the owners getting comfortable it's always a good kind of time budget cannot expect to just pop them in the studio and start shooting but yeah on that note uh let's bring in our first model solitude saul and meghan do you wanna go ask solitude to come in? This is the part I love about my job because basically I get to hang out with really sweet animals all day hey come on and yes I have I have a whole thing full of trees so this is the first thing you want to dio um hi sell food goes a long way I have a lot in common with animals on this point because I'm also very food motivated so uh animals are allergic to everything these days I have two dogs that are allergic to everything so it's great to check with the owners before you start just cramming food in the animal's mouth but assuming everything's good let them walk in immediately make the place a good place by offering them treats right um so saul conveniently is quick quicker trained um have you guys heard of clicker training anybody using one of these called clickers what's that going to follow this clicker because sells liquor train not all dogs are quick means food so it's literally pavlovian like if you click sometimes your dogs start drilling this is another thing if you're concerned about drilling you want a nice plane set you should carry a rag or something I loved rule I think it just adds to the photos so I'm like bubbles rule whatever um so right now I'm just getting saul used to the set yeah, you can let her off leash um so a transceiver and a clicker are really similar because the transceiver it's okay you can just let her do her thing ah transceiver you can click it and a flash goes off that's all going to be a little bit weirded out by that flash like a lot of dogs I reckon you but I'm gonna do the same thing that she's used to with the clicker and you could do this whether or not their clicker trained um and just get used to it so it's not going to go she was like, what was that? And now she's like food happens to cares and I could just bring her a little closer he saw so maybe you know that sound good girl so just let that happen and you know again this sometimes they take a while um but I also use owners all the time thank you so when you're doing a studio shoot that's uh a portraiture session you generally don't have a bunch of assistance around when I should commercial ideas so I use my owners assistance it makes the dogs really happy because they're used to those people um they saw do you wanna bring saul and lead here some treats for you? So I'm gonna have her lead saul onto backdrop maybe so I'm gonna click the light and you can give her some truths girl and I can direct the owners the owners air usually great obviously we don't want to shoot the back of salt, you know this is beautiful no sorry beating took a fit so a person is going to get her use of the flight obviously we don't want her under in shot good girl okay way go um oh so when I'm shooting let's see what our lights at so that's not quite enough light for me with her make sense because things aren't quite what I want them to be second to wear we go that's looking better so one of the things that I've noticed is that a lot of the people stay a lot of the people that come to me for portrait shoots have ah animals with really dark for challenge that they have you know, getting good shots of animals with dark for film emotion was made for lighter tones and it's you know, you need to put a lot of light into black for to really get those colors out um so and solitude eyes are a means to that nice and you have darker animals their eyes tend to pop a little more because you're already exposing for that the doctor for being awesome he's being great so this happens sometimes dogs air like cool I'm on set wonderful and sometimes they're like no like these lights are terrible and I don't want to be here andi, you know I'm just going to look for things I don't want to pressure her to do too many different things while she's getting used to the senate in general so I'm just going to look for the shots as they come. I do a lot of work in post, so I don't mind if there's a little off paper. Uh, okay, and then I'll speak a little bit of the lights that I used to. Uh, these are wonderful pro photo a day lights. They cost a small fortune. It's great. When I'm doing commercial work, they have a lot of power there really consistent, and they tend to be what I use see she's like giving me these behaviors. We did not practice this yesterday and don't be afraid to get really, like, low down with your animals either it's a little bit like animal yoga, you just had to kind of oh, I'll get into that weird stuff to you. This, um yeah, try it let's see what she does well, why do you come stand right behind me slowly and see if she'll look up at you? You'll see what I'm doing here, it's really bad for your lower back, and it tends to be how I got to get a lot of facts, but I like is really being very flexible. I don't rely on my animal, I don't assume I'm gonna pose anybody when I go into this. Unless I'm working commercially and I have a pro training team and I have everybody there to support that I kind of let the animal do what they're going to do if they want to walk off, I let them walk off because the second they make a negative association with this set, they don't want to go back on, so a lot of people like you go away, we're gonna hold him there and I say no there's, no reason for shooting for like, an hour, two hours, they can go sniff around, not feeling any pressure to be in this spot, and a couple of minutes later, we can reintroduce it it's like kids, you can't tell him to do what they don't want to do it, so yeah, the life that was going on over the lights a little bit. So these air great, uh, lights in studio. They also have a very fact flash duration, so I treat shooting animals almost like people like shooting sports. I rely on my equipment, this's anything I rely on my equipment to be able to keep up with the animals. I have a lot of animal action work in my book, and I rely on these kinds of lights also my cameras and nikon d for its age. Like sports shooting camera I have ten frames a second with us which means that the animal could be doing something and I could be capturing it and then in post I'm editing through my work and deciding which image really captures the motion the best because if an animal is shaking if there jumping if they're licking it's really hard to get that millisecond unless you have lights that are going to stop the motion and a camera that's going to capture it for you professor lights are wonderful in my own studio have a bunch of paul but einstein's they're really inexpensive if an animal knock one theoretically inexpensive compared to a lot of lights out there if an animal docks went over I'm not necessarily going to cry about it after this year and they do hold up pretty well but they also have an incredibly fast flash duration they don't have as much power disease which means that if I'm lighting big room or a lot of animals he's come in handy um should we bring you back on set and see how you do another time see can change minds and I really don't like overly pressure my animals I think there's like a point where you can kind of bring them out of their comfort zone a little bit there's a point where they're just scared said good stay and I like the look for features on animals you know I get you can use your lights, you can use all kinds of stuff to get their attention. Um, yeah, you know, I'm all about letting animals make their own choices and just creating a space and setting it up for them to make the choices that you want them to make. So I think we're great solitude. Um and thank you so much that same. So why don't we we want to take a second to answer questions or is it good? That sounds great to me, and then we'll bring in another super cute dog, because why not? I mean, that's what we're all here for and what you folks are asking, what do you find is the most difficult pet to photograph the most difficult thing that you have? Um, I think the biggest challenge, our pets, that haven't had any training and it's something, you know, I just got done shooting this book of puppies, right? And it was a really cool window to talkto owners because there's a balance when you have a dog, come in your studio and you know, that dog needs extra training, like, for its own well being, the owner's wellbeing, I actually have some books that I keep in my studio when I was doing frequently doing portrait sessions, I had print outs from books that I would give to people because I don't want them make them feel as if I'm like judging them for their pet ownership, but I do believe it like training creates a better quality of life for everybody s o I would give them tips I had a list of trainers that I would give them the names of, and when I was shooting puppies it was great because people who are really open to it they were like, oh my god, this puppy keeps creeping on my floor and I'd be like here's the name of somebody who can help. And I got e mails from people saying thank you so much like all these problems were solved because it was still in that great window where the dogs could learn really quickly. I just adopted an eight year old dog head that needed a bunch of extra training so that's not to say that older dogs can't learn, but I think people are more open when it's a puppy because they don't get hard on themselves in the dog doesn't know something so untrained, I don't care what species it is or what breed it is it all has to do with how much time people are putting into that animal being able to communicate with humans very good that's very good answer and your favorite make a you know your favorite type of an old photograph? Oh my favorite type of animal the photograph and the animals aren't listening so it's okay, that is a really hard one because and this is like people ask me what my favorite animal is a lot and I have to say I worked with a lot of different species of animals and it really depends on their personalities like I've met like brian knows that were awesome and like chimps that were jerks and like our ranga tans that we're super cool in the grass that were awesome so it's kind of all over the board, I'd say the most fine animals voter crowd um I love photographing birds because there's a lot to see there's just a lot of options you could do flight photos you canoe macro photos I like insects for that reason like insects because people aren't used to seeing them blown up so it's fun to photograph something and see it in such a different proportion. But then as faras like your typical pet shoe goes, I'd say any trained that and the old ones that fall asleep under the lights because I find it to be really sweet on day one of the one of our students out here is asking about what to advise the owners of the pets as faras feeding the pets before after during you know that's a great question. So I generally tell owners to withhold full diet. If I have a shoot in the afternoon, I might ask that, you know, they just feed a light breakfast, maybe hold back a little more of the food. I feed my animals twice a day. Uh, if they're coming in around when they would normally have breakfast, sometimes I'll ask if we could just feed them a little bit after the shoot. They say I'm fine with that food motivation, as you saw, goes a long way. We have a basset hound coming in here. I know ninety nine percent of basset hounds. You could probably feed, like ten rabbis, too, and they would still be food motivated so it can defend on the dog a little bit. Uh, but, yeah, food, food motivation is great. Great. And how about the temperature of your studio? That is a great question. It depends on what you're soliciting. So one cats like warm, like if you have cats in your studio for a shoot. But I just my shot issue for friskies recently, I think by crew hated me because I was like, can we turn the heat up all the way and it was like warm, and there was some beaming through the windows and everybody was sweating with we're so happy on dh they come first eso hate for cats if you want a dog panting, you can turn up the heat within safety for the animal of course, if it's a hot day and you have a dog that looks uncomfortable then please don't crank the heat but you can get that panting look so they people anthropomorphize often a pant into a kyle because it looks like the dogs are smiling even though in their mind they're like, oh my god it's really hot and then dogs do like a little bit cooler in the studio if you're not trying for trying to get them to stop panting animals khun pant from stress and being a studio can stress animals out so sometimes you get all panting shots uh, crazy easy that was when I was looking for a studio. I'm in portland, so the weather is not too extreme there it was one of my requisites tohave a c and heating in my studio. So take a little longer to find that for those reasons great. Well, our dicks pet is all set and ready. Let's, bring her in. Let's, bring in penny let's, bring penny and next penny of the bath, right, eddie flynn okay, hold on, everybody be jeweled for my own good now paying I know I was a lot of bad even I have to get this necklace that food that's tape you don't care you don't care you can let her say hi to everybody you could just let her off leash for a minute let's see what she does you know, I think this is pretty common thank you for dog owners tio be like oh my dog on leash gets a little aggressive with other dogs or gets overwhelmed it's a like a barrier leash aggression thing the first thing I tell people to do is let their dogs run free in my studio the first thing I tell people who come into my studio to use it for any purpose is that there has probably been dog crap at some point where there's nothing so I try not to pressure the owners I accept this this is having an animal studio I accept that these things happen and I let the owners know that it's ok I request that they let their dogs go to the bathroom before they come up even if they're running late because sometimes they like run from their car to the studio I we like you can be a little late make sure your dog has a chance to do what it needs to do to use the grass someone was saying very politely yesterday penny is looking for food she doesn't love any of us she I know I have food in there, so you have any, uh, feel so special? Um, but so I this is another good thing. I have a a variety of different treat bags. They all have zippers because at different times, all animals have figured out how to get into the treat bags while I wasn't paying attention and I was just like, oh, what's happening oh, you've just eaten all the trees there, I'll put them aside and they find a way in so I find, you know, understand it's just gonna smell like patriots like that penny what? Thiss oh, yes, relations coming get pennies like penny also came in here yesterday so we could make sure she wasn't just going to run away. He doesn't care about lights. Penny cares about food. It's great to have a model that is in that kind of state of mind. Um, I am gonna have you come over and just kind of get her sitting and you can come to this side, so be aware when you have owners on stage oh, that's scaring, how can you not put that in her face so she doesn't mind flashes. She does mine cam porters coming at you put you give her that treat and then I'll get her to look over here so I believe it or not I'm often part of this process so we had a black dog in here a minute ago so let's remember to give ourselves a little bit more that's so that we can bring that light down so she is she is going to come to where the food is any state let's back up just a bit good sits in any state so for penny hey meghan can you bring the peanut butter over here for me yeah oh you could just get the peanut butter too you got that job here better I certainly don't need a spoon take the top off of it so a lot of times I'll tape the peanut butter jars to my stands at a height that that is too tall for the dogs to get to the peanut butter then sometimes I'll have a great day and come in and remember that sometimes dogs were really totally going um penny will probably go for this peanut butter so I'm gonna have you hold it penny you know voters so like there's a lot of really basic tools that can tell us it fun behaviors lick is always silly looking said don't eat my finger um fit hey he said penny I might have you actually sit on set with her my camera is always covered in peanut butter and honey and rule nikon weatherproof bodies um but it's true I like constantly wiping my camera gear down with like wet rags because they just get really it gets gross girl so she doesn't even know is it if you just want to kind of keep her from walking forward so I tend to put peanut butter right on the lips wei should probably get some fun like photos from that rapid fire star and again just letting her go and she's fine because that years of flying around you're like the caress covered in peanut butter I'm gonna like that to you can you can clean that off of there and you know for her obviously she's a little bit lower to the ground in the lab so we could lower our lights a little bit to just get that phil on her left side more um but we also have her shock fourteen and we can go in there freely to and bring out a little bit I'm going to bring the eyes out a little bit most animals not to the point where it looks like creepy and disconnected like their eyes were like letem kind it does kind of do nice things for the shots no I ask I actually asked the owners I mean it depends like I'm working on a pet food shoot right now where they want pet looking dogs and so they want their collars on and sometimes I'll bring a selection of youse looking collars for the team the art directors to choose from with my animal teams some sometimes owners I feel that there I mean, when I look at my dogs with other colors on their list make it right like we've all had that moment we were like okay, like you're now naked in public a supposed to when they have their collar on so that's how I recognized my pet but then I also give owners the option because sometimes they want this very soon sleek like victorian looking portrait of their animal that doesn't have a collar in it so it's just personal preference penny do you want food? So you liked the cat toy? So another thing is to have a lot of different things on set here, you know it's right here back this way she's long you kind of have to like work with her to turner good, why don't you keep it right there? You can hold your collar to keep her there if you want, because penny showed many showed quite a bit of interest in that can't quite often that I get it you eat it e so you'll find that you have to use a lot of different tools to keep the animals attention and sometimes they come from like strange places of inspiration okay um where you find yourself using cat others oh penny, you love everybody oh, do you have her laser eye I don't think it's crazy, I also I also asked her and she said that she loves lasers so it's, good to ask also, what what is the dog love like they have favorite foods? They having toys? I ask owners to bring favorite toys ok, I'm just going to play she's having fun like that again. So this is about when you see an animal play on your set. It is like the best feeling because it means that they're really not afraid like animals don't play when they're scared people don't play when they're scared and if I had an hour, I'd be doing this for like an hour and I'm getting these behaviors on set you get that, you get that my wrists. So I'm doing this in those peanut butter on your tears that like slides, it becomes really interesting sometimes wait, just throw some food on there for you girl get your toy, get your toe oh, so the funny noises see, I don't mind embarrassing myself, apparently in front of, like thousands and thousands of people, I have no shame because the animals don't care and that they were the only ones I really care about their value judge in judgment of me, um making funny noises goes a long way because if you make the same noise over and over again the animals get bored just like they get used to the lights really quickly it's called desensitizing an animal if you just go three, three three three respond but if you do that like twenty times they just stopped looking they're like simple stuff like this how you can start making funny noises like I do a lot of like or like like popping noises you can also use squeakers I always have these little squeakers on set and if you're shooting and squeaking you can put him in your mouth and I find it works really well especially her puppy's who are just really a customer that squeaking sound from toys now facing really into him and I end up like forgetting I have the squeak through my mouth and talking to the owners and it's like good girl so yeah, you can get really creative with what you use on me and you'll find that some dogs really respond to things that other ones don't care about and vice versa uh okay, so I think we're good with penny we have another dog as well. Penny's sister hey, you know it's a squeaker you you would probably eat it because it's got peanut butter fingers on it I talked to the dogs a lot like I'm really into being that crazy lady like totally fine with me, so this is pebbles, penny's, sister how do you want tio cute? You want to see everything again she's going to be so much more comfortable if you let her do what she wants to feel like that? Yes, she just has this like really wishy state now said oh, that was going really far back there come back around okay step to the back of paper pretty lucky most dogs don't go through the back of the paper we had moments where I've had dogs just like puppies especially blood right into the paper and let's go back through it I've had dogs that were really not into the texture of paper I actually have black carpeting, white carpeting and green carpeting in my studio just in case I have a dog that is like, oh no, I'm not such a touching that which does happen texture is huge with dogs, you'll notice a lot of dogs don't want to step on metal grates or some dogs that have never, you know felt certain things they won't walk on it, so I like to have a backup option just in case so your shoes not ruined because of a paper uh let's let her let her get a little used to the studio if you guys could set the table up just right about here like in this space and bring the lights up just a little bit short dogs for the sake of my knees and for the sake of lighting them properly where they're just not getting balance off the ground sometimes bring a table in the light them really important make sure the table isn't so high up that if they jump off they're going to injure themselves. So this was a conversation I had with penny's owner we showed at the height of the table we discussed it who made sure the penny was not going to break her like jumping off this table standard tabletops or about thirty inches tall for a lot of dogs that could be really bad for them to follow trump off of so pleased to be careful with people topping your animals and while this is getting set up jim, do we have any questions? So the first one I would like to pull out um is from christina and she wanted to know how long how how long of a time did it take you to figure out that pet photography was the right speech for you that's a great question. Well, pat photography was something that I slightly did out of desperation because I was working at the you doing animal care and training actually with birds of prey and I got in a car accident and I needed to take a break from doing the training work because a lot of keeping is heavy lifting like you're lifting your cleaning your scribe carrying my back was a little messed up, so, you know, I've been cheating and animals more editorial in documentary style for a while with the zoo right now contract with is a photographer, aaliyah, and, you know, it is like the bottom of the recession, I couldn't find a job of the dog walker like I was, like, super qualified in photography and animal care, and there was nothing so I took out a small loan and I got some lights and I had a decent camera at the time, and I just asked a bunch of friends to bring their animals into a studio. I thought, you know, I can charge a little bit for animal photo shoots and at least be making something every month. Um and that first shoot, I had so much fun and it instantly came to me, but I could do this, and I enjoyed doing this, and then it turned into not only shooting animals because I needed a paycheck, but also seeing animals on the street and being like, excuse me like this dog will be great for this project I'm doing on that something that would be great to discuss, and that is just going up to strangers, I've become really good at this, so, uh if you see a dog or you see an animal and you feel like you're inspired by it, don't be afraid to approach the owner. Have a professional looking website website put a responsive by squarespace I have a score space, bauxite, s so have a nice looking website and I have a business card and come across like you're not completely insane, which I have a hard time with sometimes, uh and just tell them, hey, listen, like I'm a professional photographer and be confident when you say it so they feel like they're you know they're getting something really cool out of it, too, and I'd love to photograph your animal for a project I'm working on it's, how I get so many of my models for my books and personal projects, obviously when I'm doing commercial, I have the luxury of hiring an animal agency, which is great, but, uh, just like human modeling agencies. It's ah it's expensive. So if you see an animal that you think is going to help elevate your work, go for it, let go of that fear, just go with it so yeah, that kind of beard off into another way like answers like that, um, cool, well, I think our model is not totally freaked out anymore, like she ever wass yeah, I'm talking about you I'm talking about you so I'm gonna have you d'oh is gonna have you kind of pick her up and put her on that table top again you can stand over here you'll notice that like think about where you're like I have a bit of a room I condemn it back just a little more this way just angle it perfect and let's lift it up just a little bit more if we can thank you that's great. Um and if she stands if you stand over here so if you come right around the side then you can kind of keep your hands on her because I want her to feel secure up there too if she looks like she's about to like walk off and you know you don't good girl so it's I'll have you kind of spot her and then when I'm ready to take the photo I'll just have you like pull your hand out okay, take a handle well, what was that look up here and I'm checking my tether rings a little overexposed bring this down she's got the funniest so eyes pods a great hugs air really super expressive she's like in the zone right now they're looking a little better my profile from death you stay with her and keeping an eye on her I know there is a great city so I used peanut butter or honey the nice thing about honey is that in post you don't have a bunch of peanut butter to retouch at the subject um for this purpose I'm using peanut butter because it doesn't listen a little more looking ok she's got a really cool long tongue again that nice so it's a little hot on this side I'm gonna bring this down so you keep an eye on her, huh? That's the back light that's okay, we can make it a little dramatic cantlie um who this is doing to this plug right here? Yeah. That's hot ok? And you dump these lights? I'm gonna do that get some interesting some nice shots of the ground so that we'll get some fun shots of her he's getting there, you know? Look, if you're me, you have a lot of cards um and also that's great I love that you have that moment you're like that's the shot so you see, some of these photos are a little darker than other that's because the lights are actually not recycling quite as quickly as my camera shooting. So what that has to do with is the amount of power you have coming out of the lights, the brighter the lights are, the longer the flash duration and the longer it takes the lights to recycle so what that means is that it probably I would probably want to bring these down quite a fit like maybe a full stop down on each light I'm a two seven on that one you khun to seven that one was gonna talent from all um and pro photo has beautiful information on their web site that tells you like, you know what your flash duration is going to be at what power uh and then I'm gonna need to bring my adjustments around for that was going to be too dark that's fine. So basically I brought everything down here we go this light up there, I'm really tweak e with lights I can't wait forever, you know? You have another waking you sorry, I totally just looked in the back of the camera. Resolve cash. Okay, so now the lights looking a lot better? Um it's still a little hot, but I can bring that up a little. Do you do you wanna do you wanna oh, do you want me? Oh, d'oh! D'oh, listen to the owner. If they know hey, this is what's gonna get them to do this expression. Oh, you know, it's like, how do we read that we read that is like the dog is just looking into your soul and the dog greet that is you told me you were going to take me on a car ride don't go back on that seeing the tape, I really love her tags and these shots I think that her collar and ties give it some dimension there you could flag this off, you could do all kinds of fun stuff when you're not on a tighter timeline. Um, but just for the sake of shooting, put on a macro and just get a huge shot of one of those eyes, they're huge and you get close and like that, so something else he's recommend with animals is kind of filter put it on your lens because you will get drew on it, but your lens will get licked basin would like to know. Do you ever use continuous lighting in this studio when I'm shooting video use continuous lighting? I don't have my own studio, I mean there's places for it on sets that you know, I'll set up like in homes and stuff like that. Um, but the problem with these and continuous lighting is while it's beautiful, and you can see exactly how your lights going to fall on the subject. It's not as bright, so you really do have to crank up your eye so sometimes to stop that motion, and I prefer to have that strobe freezing unless I'm doing a shot that's like a portrait of an animal sitting you know if that's if that's what I'm being asked to do then I think continuous fighting absolutely has a beautiful place um but action I feel like I trust strobes a little more for that well you're just gonna be cute on you so you know again letting your animals direct the chute on let's try some honey with her and see what she I think she's already wagging your tail she like knows the word are you sure and with honey what's nice is you can kind of like robert on their nose she's like excuse me and a lot of times they've never had it before you want to put her just a little bit more this way perfect and you'll see that like the owners of the best handlers if a stranger was handling this dog like that she would not not necessarily be stoked about it having it be her owner makes it a lot easier when you're shooting something to be aware of is that she is really comfortable with this but sometimes moving a light will totally freak out your model people moving behind your model of freak out your model see I don't want to be aware of like the three sixty around it was a cute expression let's move this like a little bit to see what way do you wanna do? You wanna be super cute and this may really adorable faces. Yeah so that's another thing when it comes to what you see with your animals on set so this shoot the shot looks adorable to me and I'm sure there are people I've worked with in the past I would look at this shot and say my dog look super depressed people have really close ties their animals expressions again the anthropomorphize their animals so they'll see things and think that it's their dog looking happy they'll see things and think it's their dog looking really upset and you might look at them and be like it's, you know it's the exact opposite let you know that in that one of the dog was stressed out and that's why it looks like that, you know, in that moment the dog like this was super relaxed and that's why I looked like that you can't argue with the owner so much about that, so what I do is a, well, kind of as I'm shooting asked the owner what they see in the photos so I know when I'm giving them a collection at the end or a gallery to look through for the images I know exactly what they were seeing and liking and what they weren't um and that's not to say I won't ask him to sign a release for me the license, that image because I see it I'm like this is great that's totally expresses something that I think is meaningful but yeah you'll be surprised at what the owners see in the images so yeah owners question I would love another question is she comfortable over there be bozeman like you know my greatest challenges not the dogs getting out of control but owners getting crazily I control their dogs how do you deal with that? Um that is an excellent question it really to me it depends there's a whole spectrum of crazy there's like when you say that and I don't use that word just like you know haphazardly but there's a spectrum of intensity with owners that goes all over the board I have people that are just really intense or dramatic and that I can work with because you know there are my set their spending a bunch of money like they have a lot of questions they want their dog to be happy there's a lot of different ways that you can approach people to make them feel more secure I've also had situations where I ended a shoot because the people were really treating their animals poorly and this is something that you come across occasionally and you kind of you have to make a really careful judgment about what you're comfortable with is an artist and what you're comfortable with in your space uh and how you proceed because obviously there's a lot resting on that we have our reputations we help reviews we have all kinds of stuff that comes out of those things but I think it's okay to say you know I'm really not comfortable with this I think this is a really uncomfortable situation or kind of cut it short so try to think if there's any other good I mean there's people that just want to be doing a lot of stuff into sometimes I'll ask them tow, you know, sit down and relax while I'm working the animal a little bit sometimes if I am lucky enough to have assistance like meghan in the studio with me, I'll have them kind of take that role and sometimes the dogs are really comfortable with it. Yeah that's a lot of different things that can happen with personality clashes have you ever had to call off a shoot because of a difficult pet so difficult that yeah, sure, I've been I've been bit a couple times on this is something that working with animals your whole life it's not surprising I once had a chihuahua latch onto the back of my arm like not like, oh, it just kind of like um and I was shooting another dog wow, that happened I think it was jealous of all the attention the other dog was getting, so yeah, I've had a cuts a couple shoes sure, because I'm like, you know what some it well and I've also had a cut she's she's sure because the dog's terrified at the studio you know there's there's a lot you khun dio as an a photographer or the trainer has anything else to prepare any animal for what for this sometimes you get this you do not usually get this like this is great this dog you know, just kind of believe it or not yeah, I'm talking about you uh um is just sitting there happily like this warm and happy and it's bright? Um but sometimes you get I had the most beautiful akita come into my studio she was super cool, her owner takes her hiking every weekend she loves everybody she's used to all kinds of spaces we brought her in the studio, she saw the light flash once and she was sitting by the door and she was like no way and we tried everything we could to lure her back over the lights. We recently did an outdoor shoot. Sometimes you just gotta realize what you're working with is not going to work and I have also had dogs who reacted violently to the lighting and just like I had kind of an anxiety because when dogs have anxiety it can come out his aggression and it was like a fear aggression and you don't want to put yourself at risk if you're feeling that vibe let it go find a better situation asked ever say, why don't we try this at home or if there's a park uh, you know, create a different scenario and do you always prefer to shoot with just one dog in the room if they're related or no, no, I'm happy to bring two dogs in the room uh it's something that it's nice to have a couple people to help wrangle at that point in time on and you do need more patients because like this, like when she was laying down and chilling out that took she's been in here for what, like fifteen or twenty minutes now? So you usually need a little more time to that with two dogs and you want to allow for that? I see people a lot of times I'll see like our one hour this is how much it cost her one hour a photo shoot with a dog, and that always surprises me because animals are so varied in their response times that I think limiting yourself so tightly, tio unless you're like offering like a portrait, um it limits what you're going to get creatively out of the chute. I think having some dogs, they're goingto be awesome in that one hour and some dogs you need a couple hours for to get them to that place, especially if you have multiples cool awesome speaking which we can try to bring penny in here and see how they if we can get them on set together now let's take the table out any concerns she might do she might stay more ok so let's try this again let's try it let's try it if you're comfortable lifting penny onto the table high you think you're a good girl so basset hounds are not small dogs in case you were wondering they are low to the ground but they're I've met basset hounds that are like eighty pounds she was like I'm out I'm out high so meghan do you want to come in and pick up penny and beyond penny side over here uh you could be with pebbles over there be comfortable picking her up I think she requires you couples yeah down good penny penny were you confused about what you wanted to do right now because I wanted to spotlight there you go I wanted it all you said again till today I'm assuming you found her coming good girl he said any way check our lightly so thinking about lighting and exposure especially with the animals have dark and light for I tried to kind of go right in between so that I have enough information and post to work alone um you want enough depth for both their faces merrily out with these don't be afraid to make a fool of yourself in the studio dogs don't care you're crazy that light is starting to look a little nicer steve shell so their faces a really far off plane from another candy gently not pressure but down see if that inspires her to sit down you just don't run around all right she's like all juncker and eat your fingers hold on let me get the cat toy and see if it works for her that rapid fire really helps look look look she wouldn't let her go yeah that's fine I like this she's they're both like you know I don't want tio they like a table so and you'll notice I keep looking into the back of my camera because generally when I'm in studio I'm not third but when I'm on like I said I am so that's uh oh hi did you find my traits again so that's kind of the process that you would go through with the two animals? Obviously you'd want that you'd want to capture that on set. Obviously sometimes you see really great little quirky features like for her she's got her tongue constantly sitting out a little bit it's something that the owners probably love about her so it's nice to capture those little things um I kind of like that you can see the background of the set and the shots of course I don't shoot that way generally I'll move the animal but someone who is kind of like it too oh do you get that way go that's a better better light I love catch lights too so I like using aka boxes and I think it gives a really regal look in the reflection of the eye and studio um so you can think about your catch lights are places that make different shaped catch lights that are fun for animal eyes you can make your own by taken some gaffer's tape and having a really nice craft day with the outside silk of a box um get really creative but yeah so do we have a couple more questions? Maybe we sure do. Are you ready? I'm totally ready. Okay, so I thought this was a great one from uh tv songs who says do you request the owners to get the dogs grooms pet room before the shoot? I think that's also a personal preference thing if you have like, a show poodle and you want that shot of it like looking beautifully groomed absolutely bring it in to get groomed. You know, I and I have a list of rumors in town as well says people are like oh, I'll get you could recommend it and say if you want your animal groom they have the names of people who do grooming I have a standard schnauzer he's really fun looking when he's groomed because he looks like a really surly like old man or slash portland hipster so I like I like grooming him sometimes before shooting him uh so I think it's again personal preference like the collar I have people I have a woman who brings her poodles and all the time and she has been courted and when they're not room they look like muppets like there's something really charming about them and she'll ask me she left me if she if I want them groomed and I generally say no I like him natural way done with shooting I think we're done with you so I could shoot all day I mean that's kind of money ok so a lot of folks in the chat room are asking about kitty cats can give a little bit give us and we'll just do some final q today that's before we wrap up wonderful and I was I was helping for kitty I have a seventeen year old I know she would be happy so go ahead volume but she's a little finicky yeah she's finicky jeezy ashiya he's a squeaker and yeah she's she's stuff one okay let's hear and I can never get her attention I'm always trying to photograph so share best practices for cats. Best practices for cats a lot of patients an owner prep so cats can be trained I swear I've trained like lizards before like cats are totally in the spectrum of being able to train when you have a cat coming into your studio, I often tell owners to get them a little used to the camera, and I'll do this with dogs as well. I'll tell them to kind of put a camera if they're kind of freaked out by it next to their food, I'll try to get them to associate the camera with a reward. Ah, last mattei kind of waving more pictures of them that week when they had in the past, even if they're not catching a photo just to get them used to, like the flash and the camera and something kind of going on when I bring a cat to the studio. Well, there's two questions one I ask, is your cat going to self mutilate or hurt itself in a crate on the way to the studio? So I have had cats where if they go into a car they are screaming and crying and freaking out the whole time the on ly reason that cat goes in the car is for an emergency to the best hand down, I say, well, let's, go to your house! If we have set up a studio there, we set up a studio there or we shoot an environment be realistic with cats um also when they come in the studio, I usually make sure there's a spot they can hide because in the beginning they might be really nervous and I don't want them to feel super exposed because they're never going to calm down and feel safe in the space uh I have a little box for them like just with a little cut out you can get differently cat tree toys for them and just have that set up in your studio they prefer to hide right underneath my gear cabinet so that's just it I don't know if there's like a familiar cat smell happening there but that's just what they love I will also ask that their cat is a big marker I will also avoid bringing them to the studio if they know yeah I can kind of marks everything I don't want them so that's a hard one to get out but I have been shooting a lot of cats lately I've been shooting a lot of rescue kittens felon here for rescues it's a great way to get shooting experience and then you get to feel like an awesome person and everybody wins uh but I bring them into good because the end of the studio and again I gave him a half an hour um I play with them it's like if they'll play I get them really slow least everything I let them leave the set I never hold a cat on set if it doesn't want to be there it will never go back on set they're really sensitive. They're also sometimes very food motivated s o I get wet cat food, which you know is powerful it's, powerful, powerful training source, and I'll put somewhat cap food on the table top I should on table top of cats like most the time since they're clearly comfortable jumping on off of things. I try to get them to jump across surfaces. I tried to get him to jump on off of things and kept those photos, but those are some speaking of food. Do you use specific treats for dogs? Or do you ask? The owners of the dogs have allergies or diet specifics or having? How does the treat worked with don? I always ask about allergies? My dogs are both allergic teoh one of my dogs, allergic to everything like he can have, like a novel protein, and I think like tomatoes or else all of his hair falls out, um, he's sensitive, so I like asking people because I appreciate it, though, of course be someone like the bank, and they'll be like, oh, here have a tree, and I'm like, no, don't do it, um because I know that it's not going so well for him I asked owners to bring favorite so sometimes I'll be like my dog loves like this one kind of hot dog nobody can you bring some and just cut it up and put it in a baggie uh it's kind of their bonus treat like they're doing something really well on set we give him that or if they're afraid of the set we give him that cool s o model rat wants to know do you have any tips and tricks for capturing the moment of naturally higher g animals such as ferrets or for other small animals that just don't hold still at all oh yeah I remember what I was saying about fast lights and fast cameras I was photographing a mink a couple months ago and a mink is like um it's like the craziest very you've ever met times a million there they don't stop they never stop but they like water and so we actually set up a little tank and let her swim and swim out some of that energy obviously this was a lot of wildlife of education program this wasn't something with a pet mink they're not leave the house pets and I've also photographed ah skunks love like tubing and they love to run through it and there are also in the weasel family like carrots and so you can actually set it up where you have tubing and you have a break in the two thing where they're running across that and then they go back into the tubing so you can kind of capture some of that again animals with a lot of energy spend the whole day before the shoot and before the shoot exercising those animals like it's going out of style whether that's a cat or a dog or a ferret or a talkative basset hound yeah nice they're bringing the cool energy to the set a lot of activity goes a long way we found out yesterday solitude has been so calm the first dog we had come in and I found out yesterday she is one of the seventy five mile hike so like last week's or she's been really calm a week solitude might not always be this calm but it works out really well for us because we have a dog without bouncing off the walls because a long way yeah for sure all right we're gonna do one more question before we wrap up and it's a two parter says hi carly I love your work it's absolutely gorgeous I just wanted to ask do you use the back button focus why or why not also have the owners of the pets ever gotten in your way in the way of your creativity oh, those are good questions so yes I used back button focus and first I was just curious and playing with it and, uh, cory rich, who also has taught here, set it up on my camera during an event with nikon, and I couldn't figure out how to undo it so that in my time I had figured out how to undo it. I was really used to it, and I actually I do prefer it because I have a lot more control with this finger when I'm like searching for things and I don't have to worry about this finger accidentally, like hitting and refocusing right before I get the shot on dso it's become second nature for me to use the back focus. Okay? Yeah, and the creativity, creativity? What? Um, let's see, I think if anything, I have had a rain the owners in, so if I want to do something with an animal, I usually take it it's for a personal project. I like coming like you guys, it's very personal project. I talk to them beforehand, so there's, no surprises when they come in the studio and I'm like, I'm gonna put your dog and like a tiara and like fake eyelashes, they're not like what the a lot of times I'll realize when an animal is really done, and this happened during the shake photo shoots quite a bit. Ah, that is. My dog didn't like it. I didn't make them participate, and there would be some owners like it was like stage moms. They feel like they're fine, they can do it, they can do it. I think, no, I'm sorry, like, I love your pet, but they're really not there, not happy, and so, you know, maybe I like I limit my clients. Vision, sometimes air my yeah, for those moments and there's always things where, if it's too hard to get the first time around, you can give the the owner tips to get their animals ready to do something like that more long term.

Class Description

Learn the trick to creating awesome pet portraits and assuring your non-human clients they aren’t at the vet’s office in Photographing Pets in Studio with Carli Davidson.

In this class you’ll get tips and techniques for creating an environment that sets your four-legged models up for success. Carli will teach you how to work with animals that are not professionally trained to be on set and cover ways to work with agency trainers to ensure everyone is on the same page. You’ll learn about lighting, gear, and environmental factors that are essential for an animal-friendly environment. Carli will also share a few easy training techniques you can use to encourage photo-friendly play from your furry friends.

Animal photography can be fun, playful, and profitable when you create an environment for it – learn how minimize the inherent uncertainty of working with pets and set your studio up for success.



I enjoyed this class. I've been reading books on Pet Photography and felt this class was a great complement to my reading. It was nice just to watch her interact with the animals and get a feel for how a pet shoot might flow. It was also comforting to see that my two dogs are not the only ones who walk toward the camera when being photographed. I liked Carli. She was laid back and had a good demeanor for working with animals. For a short class, I feel it was very worthwhile. You will not be able to watch this video and then call your self a professional. I liked how the EXIF information was on each picture as it displayed on screen. Definitely worth the cost of the class.

Rhino Ulery

I'm a big Carli Davidson fan and to be able to see her behind the scenes setup and how she worked with the animals and the advise she gave well worth the cost of the course. Carli is a success pet photographer and I'm glad this course was offered. The investment was well worth it.


Carli does a great job working with the pets, and you can see it's tricky and requires a ton of patience. Trying to getting the pets attention, and teach at the same time is hard enough, but it was fun to watch and re-affirming that my pet shoots are not much different. Having helpers is imperative, and lots of treats, pet toys and noise makers is a must. She mentioned that shooting 10 frames per second causes some dark frames due to flash duration at full power. I think she meant to say flash recycle time. Other than that, she's great with pets, and I enjoyed watching.