Posing and Capturing Connection
This passage was excerpted from Pet Photography: The Secrets to Creating Authentic Pet Portraits by Norah Levine
I frequently hear from clients or potential clients that my portraits, specifically of people with pets, do not feel posed. This makes me feel really good because it means that the images portray a certain truth in them that is often missing from completely posed portraits.
WAYS TO SHOW CONNECTION
In order to show connection, there usually has to actually be a relationship. I have photographed models with animals they do not know, and while not impossible, this makes it much more difficult to convey the bond between animal and person.
PHYSICALLY CONNECTING the animal and person in some way has a huge impact. Sometimes people are a bit nervous in front of the camera, and having a pet with them takes the focus off them and, as a result, eases anxiety.
EYE CONTACT between the pet and the person is a great way to show a bond. Even if the person and the animal don’t lock eyes in the portrait, the act of having them look at one another can trigger authentic reactions and interactions.
SOFT EMBRACES are often a beautiful way to show connection between a pet and their person. Be sure that hands and fingers are relaxed and that the body language of both the pet and the person looks comfortable and easy. If either the pet or the person looks tense, it will be communicated in the images. While animals don’t hug to show affection, people certainly do, and many animals are used to being hugged by their human. I love photo graphing embraces, and if the animal responds well, the bond between the animal and person shines through beautifully.
SHARED ACTIVITY AND PLAY are great ways to generate authentic moments between a pet and their person. Throwing a ball or playing tug with a dog, brushing or playing with a cat, and grooming a horse are all common activities that can lead to sweet memories captured by your camera. Although these may not be typical portraits, they are moments that will likely have significance to the pet parent and truly tell a story. In addition, by participating in an activity, the person you are photographing can easily forget that they are being photographed and can be fully present in their interactions with their pet. Even if these activities take place between more static portraits, they will contribute to the comfort level of everyone involved and lead to stronger, more authentic portraits.
PEOPLE AS PROPS
Sometimes it is helpful and effective to incorporate posing that involves just a part or limited view of the pet parent in the image. For example, if the dog cannot be let off leash or is having trouble holding still long enough for you to create a static portrait, you can ask the pet parent to gently hold the dog so you can crop in on the scene to include only a part of the pet parent or perhaps not show his or her face. In these cases, the person is being used in a more supportive role to help with the pet or simply add a little variation to your session. While connection can certainly be conveyed in these types of images, it isn’t always necessarily the main goal.
This was excerpted from Pet Photography: The Secrets to Creating Authentic Pet Portraits.
The eBook version is available now.