beautiful Australian shepherd at Tubbs Hill for sunset dog photography

How I get an adventure dog to look at my camera for amazing photography

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Let’s get one thing straight right away: I am the bad auntie.

I am the auntie who will shower your kids with candy and presents and teach them all the bad words.

That could be why my brothers avoided the hell out of me while their daughters were growing up.

I like to think it was more because I lived thousands of miles away on the other side of the country but that’s just so I can sleep at night.

But that’s neither here nor there when it comes to getting your adventure dog’s attention for that One. Epic. Shot.

I call it ‘Adventure Dog Sideeye’

I am a pro at the Adventure Dog Sideeye.

After all, my adventure dog loves giving me sideeye. She’s also really good at bitchface.

Spokane dog photos at Evans Landing
The art of combining bitchface and not looking at the camera

I have developed patience while working with Bella to get incredible images of her at amazing locations in Spokane and North Idaho.

And my patience makes your sessions easier, more enjoyable and way more productive.

(Thanks, Bella!)

Of course, sideeye or even bitchface can come in handy. They actually work well for The Power Pose where your dog is stamping his paw down onto the ground and announcing his presence to the world.

Ausha at Hauser
Puppy Power Pose

Most of the time, however, we want him looking deep into my soul … er, lens … to get that engaging look that pops off your wall and into your heart, reminding you of that special bond you share.

Here’s how we do it:

1. Noisemakers

If there’s anything that makes Bella jump and pay attention, it’s the sound of the UPS truck driving through the neighborhood five blocks away. Or the C-A-T quietly making his way into the neighbor’s backyard.

Dogs are sensitive to noises. A squawk, a bay or a shweee-oop can turn a head toward my camera, maybe … just maybe … even tilt one. Oh, the head tilt is the money-maker, baybee. It’s a sure bet to make you heave an “oooooohhhhhhhh, my baby,” when you’re viewing your gallery.

Noisemakers
My noisemakers – that rubber chicken has been beat up a bit, eh?

I have a collection of noisemakers that I’ve picked up from Sportsman’s Authority, Dick’s and Amazon. They have such name as “sick rabbit” and “dying elk.”

I also have a squeaker, a clicker, a rubber chicken and an ordinary old whistle that takes me back to all those times I heard it on the ice and promptly got sent to the penalty box.

Griffey and his mom pose for dog portraits at Higgens Point in Coeur d'Alene
Gimme the chicken, lady

2. Treats

Most dogs – and I say “most” because when we’re out and about, Bella does not care a whit about this – are food motivated.

Wave a smelly treat under their nose and dadgummit, they will do damn near anything I want. A super smelly chunk of dehydrated salmon and all of a sudden, your dog will do my bidding. She will spin, wag her tail, promptly sit and pay attention.

Treats are especially helpful when I’m playing with my superwide lens and almost in your dog’s face.

Spokane dog photographer in action
What you see

All I have to do is hold my super smelly treat right under my Tamron 10-24 and voila, your dog is looking right at me … er, my lens.

Rottweiler-boxer mix poses for adventure dog photos
What I see

Tennis balls, while often not stinky, are pretty similar to this. If I want a golden retriever or Labrador to look me dead in the lens, I know I have to have a ball handy.

3. My loud mouth

At some point, my excessively loud voice and the impossibleness of embarrassing me had to come in handy.

It’s true. I have no indoor voice.

And I imagine I look like a bit of an idiot while I’m conducting my adventure dog and Memories sessions.

Not only am I flat on my stomach on the ground, hip deep in lake water or perched precariously on a rock, I’m also fumbling into my waistbelt for treats and noisemakers, all the while trying to coax your pup into that most precious of poses.

Sometimes it’s easier to employ the noises I can make myself.

They might sound like a fart. I might “bok-bok” like a chicken. I might “merawwwwr” like a cat. “Ka-kaw” like a crow or do my best to sound like a fire truck siren.

I’ve no doubt it’s a sight for the average bystander.

Spokane dog photographer chats with one of her clients
Chit-chat in between shots

4. You

Oh yeah, when I said “here’s how we do it,” I didn’t mean the group of us who hold the camera, those of us who are your esteemed dog photographers around the world.

I meant “we” as in “you and me.”

Yes, you don’t get to stand by and watch the proceedings. You, my dear client, are often an active participant in your session, well beyond posing prettily with your adventure dog for a few shots.

Many times you are my biggest battle in getting your dog’s attention. More often than not, your dog has eyes for you only. She is waiting for your command, eager to please you and only you.

Thus, I will get you to stand over me — yes, over — or at least very close to my shoulder and say your dog’s name.

Aggie, a Sandpoint rescue dog
Aggie’s pop is standing right behind me

Trust me, it’s magic. And I make you two promises:

  • I’m vaccinated.
  • I did not have beans for supper last night.

5. My secret weapon

For standard images like The Power Pose, The Down and The Mugshot, I usually have my Nikon D750 in my hand. It’s a full-frame sensor that renders bigger files that are perfect for creating your Statement Pieces.

If, however, your adventure dog is looking everywhere else, but for an occasional glance in my direction, I will pull out my trusty Nikon D500 that shoots frames per second like you would not believe.

Yellow Lab mix at the Mudhole in Priest River
Split-second shot

I could throw numbers at you but they don’t really matter. Just know that with my D500, I have to be judicious in using it because I can leave a session with a 1,000 frames to go through if I’m not careful. It may, however, be the difference in getting that split-second look into my soul, the one that means I have The Shot, the one that will melt your heart.

All around the circle

So many thanks to Kendra Dodge of the Better Together Animal Alliance for her behind-the-scenes look at one of my Paws of the Panhandle sessions!

Hey, look, dogs are unpredictable critters, so patience is key when you’re an adventure dog photographer.

Both Shep and Bella have brought me to different levels of understanding what patience is and why our best fur friends require it — not just for dog photography, but for life and building that incredible bond we share.

A bond you should be freezing in time with a portrait session of you and your adventure dog doing epic things in the Inland Northwest.

Go here to contact me and book a free consultation!

Now I want you to leap off into the world of pet photography where my friends are blogging about how they get the attention of their clients.

Start with Ina of Ina J Photography in Canberra, who shares her tips on how to get dogs looking at the camera during her pet photography sessions.

At the bottom of her tips, click to the next link in the circle and keep going until you land back here to my behind-the-scenes look at getting the attention of your adventure dog.

Then you know you’re home.

Right where you belong.

nv-author-image

Dogs. Adventure. Outdoors. These words set Angela's heart afire. Angela Schneider, an award-winning writer and dog photographer, documents the story of you and your dog and the adventures you take together. Your portraits will be a statement piece in your home, art that will make your friends and family beg to hear its story.

10 thoughts on “How I get an adventure dog to look at my camera for amazing photography”

  1. Oh my god, that power pose puppy kind of makes me squeal! I love your lighting, even though it reminds me that I’m not using lights and I need to.

  2. You have great ideas – each blog post is giving me a little insight into how others work. I like the various ideas, the behind the scene photos and those up front, in your face shots!

  3. Are you sure you didn’t have beans? LOL! And that chicken might have some “scare” factor, too! Your posts always make me smile! Beautiful images ! Especially loving Aggie – what a beauty!

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