Every dog has a different personality.
And every human has a different idea of what that personality is like.
My mission during your dog portrait session is to translate those ideas into epic statement pieces for the walls of your home.
I have a general set of “poses” that I consider gotta-gets.
Bear in mind, that can change on a session-to-session basis. Maybe you don’t have an active dog — trust me, I know and you’ll see why in a bit — or maybe you want a more stoic look over goofy face.
I have you covered.
When you contact me about a dog portrait session, we have a chat about you and your dog and how we can make the most out of the time we spend together.
To that end, let’s take a look at my list of 13 gotta-get photos from your dog portrait session.
Here’s a handy jump-to list to get to the one you want to see first:
The gotta-get shots of a dog portrait session
I took Bella out for a walk at Plantes Ferry this week, one of the few chances I have to spend time with her while I power through the Paws of the Panhandle sessions.
I wanted to see if I could get a hefty chunk of the 13 images in one session with her.
I failed. First, because she was largely uncooperative and second, because … well … it’s kind of hard to get a Family Portrait when I’m the one holding the camera.
I’ve pulled a bit from the archives and recent Paws of the Panhandle sessions.
1. The Power Pose
This might be my favorite of the 13 and that’s why it’s No. 1. It’s probably because this is the one I can get Bella to absolutely nail when she’s cooperating.
This was on a cool day back in February during a nice, long walk along Centennial Trail in Post Falls, Idaho.
We’d been working for months on “hold your pose” and dadgummit if she didn’t ace if for me while balancing on this rock.
The Power Pose is also special because to me it reminds me of the significance dogs have in our world. It is about them stamping their paws down on the planet and saying, “I belong here.”
With Bella, I imagine she’s thinking, “This my realm.”
2. The Mugshot
The Mugshot is a throwback to my newspaper days. The thumbnail image of someone’s head and shoulders is an easy way to put a face to a name in a story where you may not have room for a big photo.
The dog mugshot is a simple way to get expressive eyes and a full-face image of a beautiful pup.
Last spring, during COVID shutdowns in Spokane, I was practising off-camera flash in my own backyard. (I kinda love our rickety old fence as a backdrop.)
Bella looks proper fed up with me, while I entice her with some delicious treat (it may have been leftover steak bits), but I just love the intensity in her eyes.
She is fierce and fearless.
3. The Lookdown
When clients come across the Lookdown in their gallery, they always gasp and giggle a little. One I remember exclaiming, “oh my gosh, that’s exactly how I see him!”
And that’s why it’s always a fan favorite.
The Lookdown is how we often see our dogs — unless you’re ridiculously short and decide a Great Dane is the breed for you (if this is you, we have to talk … I would love to do this dog portrait session with you).
We often catch a glimpse of adoration, the unconditional love our dogs have for us, and maybe even a little bit of a goofy grin like Wrangler, the Great Pyrenees who was reunited with his dad after three years of living in a hoarding situation.
4. The Goofy Face
I don’t get to see Bella’s silly side very often. She’s a very serious girl, so when I see her eyes silly and tongue curled like she’s having the time of her life, it makes me grin.
This is the first of the few I was able to get on our walk this week. I twisted my superwide lens onto my D500 and clicked away while she took a dip in the Spokane River.
I also used a new-to-me technique called “shooting blind,” about which I’ll go into more detail in a bit.
The Goofy Face is always best accentuated with the superwide lens. When you see me pull that out of my bag during your dog portrait session, you know it’s time to have some fun.
5. The Lookaway
This is one of the easiest gets while I have my camera with Bella.
She does not like looking at the camera and if your dog is more attuned to the sights and sounds around him, this might be a great image to have in the gallery from your dog portrait session.
It definitely goes hand-in-hand with loving a livestock guardian dog and probably most working dogs tend to be wary of their surroundings. I rather enjoy watching them work and if their watchfulness is part of their personality, then The Lookaway is a must-have for you.
6. The Down
I don’t know if I’m spelling that correctly. My friend, Laura, who is the executive director of the Northwest Service Dog Alliance, has her boy Vinny trained to understand commands in German.
She says “plotz” when she wants him in down position.
Funny sidebar story: She had her eldest boy Lobo out for a dog portrait session a few weeks ago and I kept telling her “plotz.” She turned to me and said, “Lobo doesn’t understand plotz.” I said, “No, you. You plotz. You get down on the ground with Lobo.” Oh boy, she laughed.
The Down is just a nice, easy image to get your dog in a relaxed state. Bella went into Down pose for me next to a lupin at Plantes Ferry. I had two seconds to fire the shutter release button before she was off to do something else.
7. The Action
The Action shot is only a priority for me if it is for you. I included it in the list for your dog portrait sesion because so many clients do have active dogs and they want that side of them.
Heck, I used to shoot WHL hockey in British Columbia with my Nikon FM film camera on manual wind. These new-fangled digital cameras that do 75% of the work for me make it so much easier.
But they really aren’t my favorite. It’s probably because I have a non-action-oriented dog. She’s very active, of course. She’ll hike 10 miles and then look for spur trails at the bottom so we don’t have to end our day.
Bella just isn’t a burst of energy kind of gal. You can see how she — almost delicately — gets over this log on the trail instead of leaping over it so I could catch her mid-air.
8. The Outtake
There always has to be an Outtake during your dog portrait session!
I work with dogs! Dogs are fun, goofy, loving, inspiring creatures and holy hell, unpredictable, too! They make this crazy job 100% awesome and the outtakes I get to giggle over when I’m culling files always make my husband call out “what the hell is so funny?!?!?”
This sweet little cocker spaniel puppy was so intrigued by the lady with the giant eye, the weird noises and the delicious treats that she couldn’t help but want to inspect.
And like the Goofy Face, the Outtake is so much more fun with a superwide lens.
9. The Seeing-Eye Shot
This is a relatively new type of image I’m adding to my repertoire.
I’ve picked it up from mentor and master dog photographer Charlotte Reeves, who gets to spend her evenings on the beaches of Australia.
She puts her camera on a couple of exact settings, lowers it to dog-eye level and clicks away without knowing exactly what’s happening. It’s a great little tool for your dog portrait session when your dog wants to do anything but stand around and pose.
I tried it first with Zoe, a springer spaniel, in the waters of Lake Pend Oreille last week at Farragut State Park. It was too much fun!
10. The Legs
The Legs is a great image to have for dog lovers who might be a little bit camera shy.
It’s just your legs and your dog sitting dutifully at your side. It can be a nice, quiet moment to share during your dog portrait session.
I’ve had a few clients request it and it’s become a very popular image in galleries. I even made a video:
11. The Magic Moment
Ah, you guys, here’s where the rubber meets the road.
This is the one image I always look for. You might hear me say, “Just love your dog for me.” You all find that easy-peasy-lemon-squeezy because, after all, that’s what we’re here to do: love our dogs and honor the way the way they love us back.
It’s when I see this sweet moment of connection, what I call The Magic Moment that my heart soars and I know I have a winner in your dog portrait session.
We walk our dogs! That’s just what we do … so why not have an image of you doing one of the things that brings you closest to your dog.
The Walk is a fun one. I’m going to head up the path a little bit during your dog portrait session and tell you to walk toward me.
You might have a puller — I do — or you might have a wanderer. It’s all good. I swear you’ll smile when you see this image in your gallery.
13. The Family Portrait
Of course we’re to get you all posed together for a happy Family Portrait. That’s what portrait photography is all about, isn’t it?
Even if it’s just you and your best fur friend, it’s still a family portrait. Our families can be as big or as small as we want them to be. When it was just Shep and me alone in Calgary, we were each other’s family.
And I just can’t stress this often enough: Dogs. Are. Family.
All around the circle
That’s it! My 13 gotta-gets for your dog portrait session. Do you have a favorite?
If you’re ready to book a session and get your must-have images, head to my contact page to find an easy form to fill out, drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org or text me at 509-720-8787.
Just say: “Ang, I gotta have The …” and tell me which image you just gotta have.
In the meantime, let’s go see what my friends in the worldwide pet photographers circle think about their must-haves in a dog portrait session. I can’t wait to see if anyone has something different that I might want to add to my list.
Let’s start with my gal pal and fellow adventure dog photographer Darlene Woodward with Pant the Town Photography, sharing irresistible shots for your professional dog photo session in MA and NH.