How to Prepare for your Session
JHP photo sessions are quite relaxed, however ultimately, your pet will shape how things progress, there are a few things that you can do to set everyone up for success. This guide helps you prepare for an amazing and successful photo session!
PRACTICE COMMANDS + TRICKS
Brush up on any commands your pet knows. While it’s not required that he be perfectly trained, a solid “sit,” “stay,” and “down” goes a long way in the success of your session.
If he knows any special tricks, like shake or roll over, practice them ahead of time to stay fresh in his mind.
GET SOME EXERCISE
Be sure to exercise your dog before the session with a quick walk or a few hours at daycare. This will help him be relaxed and focused, and not bouncing off the walls with excitement.
*Be careful not to overdo the activity, so he still has energy for the shoot, and not overheated or panting.
READY YOURSELF FOR THE SESSION
Animals are very sensitive to our emotions, demeanour, and attitude. If we humans are going into the session with a calm, upbeat state of mind, it’ll set the stage for how your animals might behave.
Don’t worry or get upset if things aren’t going exactly as planned. Go with the flow, and your pets will, too!
GET ‘EM GROOMED
Be sure to get a bath and brush the day before or morning of your session. Baths tend to lead to shedding, so give him a brush to eliminate those stray hairs.
Trim your pet’s nails to the proper length a few days ahead of time. Overgrown nails are quite noticeable.
If you have a breed that requires professional grooming, schedule the groom with enough time before your session so their coat is the ideal length. Just like with humans, sometimes a fresh haircut needs a little time to grow out and look its best. Although if you like em scruffy we aren’t ones to judge! Just remember that if you love your pets eyes, we will need to be able to see them to photograph them! A little trim around the eyes or a hair tie can suffice.
Check to make sure your pet’s eyes are clean and clear of debris before your session. If you have a breed that gets tear-stains, ask your groomer to freshen up that area, or wipe them clean as much as you can before you come in.
No need to worry about every little mark or bump. Every animal I’ve ever photographed has needed some touch-ups in Photoshop, and we’ll always do our best to make your animals look their best in your finished images.
LEASHES + COLLARS
Many clients like to remove collars for their studio sessions, but others find that their pet looks “naked” without it. If your dog will be wearing a collar during the session, (this is usually the case when choosing an outdoor shoot) be sure that it’s one you really like and want to see in your images. Clean up an old favourite, or consider purchasing something new and fun.
Registration tags can be distracting in photographs, so it’s usually best to remove them. (Just don’t forget to put them back on afterward!)
For outdoor sessions, safety is our first priority, so collars and tags stay on. Keeping your pet on-leash for outdoor sessions is totally fine and sometimes preferred. If you don’t want to see the leash in the photos, we can try to minimize it while shooting, and most times can be digitally removed in the images you purchase.
EXPRESSIONS AND INTERACTIONS
Animals look great with very little effort; it’s us humans that tend to make or break a great photo!
Cameras can make many of us tense up and feel self-conscious, (including me!) but, if you can stay relaxed and natural, you’ll have more fun, and love your images much more.
It’s surprisingly easy to forget, but try to be aware of your facial expression, and conscious of always returning to a pleasant, relaxed look. We make all sessions fun, so chances are you will be smiling anyway!
CHECK YOUR HANDS
This session is all about the relationship you and your pet share. A great way to show this bond is to have gentle, relaxed hand on your pet. Nail polish is great, but it is an all or nothing accessory. No chipped nail polish please!
We are a professional studio and as such will help guide you with natural looking posing.
DRESS FOR THE OCCASION
Definitely dress up a bit, but there’s no need to go extra-fancy, unless that’s what you normally wear. Our style of photos is casual and we really want to capture you and your pets as you are.
Natural earthy tones are suggested, blues, greens, browns, creams all work well together. Steer clear of bold patterns and logos. You don’t want to distract your faces. Go for texture over pattern. Stay away from big brand names and slogans on shirts and jumpers.
Layering is a great way to add interest and gives you the ability to change the look of your outfit quickly by removing a layer or two. Everybody wearing the same thing, such as blue jeans and white shirts, can sometimes resemble a uniform. Of course these are all just suggestions, if you want to match, then match! If bold patterns and bright colours are part of what make you wonderful, wear them, these are your photographs and we want to capture the real you!
HAIR + MAKEUP
Some clients choose to get their hair and makeup professionally done before their session. It can give you a more polished look, and it can also help you feel more confident in front of the camera.
Don’t feel obligated to do anything extravagant; we want to capture you as you are!
Keep makeup natural looking, avoid using makeup with glitter in it. A little matte powder can go a long way to help reduce shine, even for the guys.
Guys if you have facial hair make it look its fuzzy best!
For the kiddies, full make-up on a child is unnecessary, hair out of eyes is suggested. Pay special attention to nose, eyes and mouth, make sure there are no remnants of breakfast, snacks or the backyard 🙂 Wet wipes are always a great asset.
If you’re unsure what to do with your hair, it’s hard to go wrong with either a straightener or lightly styling it some waves. Ponytails and up-dos don’t tend to be quite as flattering.
If you colour your hair, take note of your roots, and consider a touch-up before your shoot.
TAKE A DEEP BREATH
Above all, we want your session to be a fun experience for both you and your pets! Making thoughtful choices about your clothing and hair beforehand will help you feel more relaxed during your session.
IN THE STUDIO
SET THEM UP FOR SUCCESS
Most pets have never set foot (paw?) in a photo studio, and some of the equipment may be a little intimidating at first.
Most animals do great, but some are unsure about the flashing lights or even the camera. We’ll help your pets settle in with some positive reinforcement letting them get used to the new environment and equipment at a pace they are comfortable with all while giving lots of praise and treats.
LET THEM BE DOGS
It’s wonderful if your dog has a solid sit-stay, and reliably follows commands, but not every pet has this ability. Unpredictability is half the fun of pet photography! Don’t worry if he’s not doing everything we ask right away, or if he’s being stubborn – at the end of the day, what matters is that he had a fun, new experience, and that you’ll soon have some great images of your best friend!
STAY CALM AND RELAXED
Animals are very sensitive to our energy and behaviour. A big part of our success in working with pets is our relaxed demeanour and confident control.
We won’t put animals under undue stress or push them beyond what they’re willing to do. If your pet is too nervous to have a successful studio session, we’ll stop and discuss alternatives that will allow your pet to be more comfortable.
Never force your pet into any position; keep the session a positive experience, not a punishment.
A NOTE ON CATS
Playful, confident cats can do really well in the studio, but unlike dogs most cats only leave their home when going to the vet, which is not always a pleasant thing. Know your cat’s personality and what will be best for him, a good guide is if your cat can travel in the car without showing signs of stress then they generally do well in the studio.
Younger cats and kittens often love the studio and spend the entire session playing and exploring. In general most cats are photographed indoors unless leash trained.
WHAT TO BRING
BREAK OUT THE GOOD STUFF
Delicious, high-value treats are crucial for almost every session. They need to be exciting enough that your pet wants to work for them, and small enough that he doesn’t fill up too quickly.
We have Ziwi Peak all natural treats on hand. They work great with most dogs, but if your pet requires (or prefers) particular treats for any reason, please bring those along.
Cats are more finicky, but will often respond to canned tuna or wet cat food. Fresh or dried catnip is also a great tool, if your cat responds to it.
You can’t beat mealworms for chickens and rabbits and guinea pigs look adorable munching on some greens.
TOYS + PROPS
We encourage you to bring items that represent you and your pets personalities. Think about what makes your pet truly individual, do they have tricks, a favourite toy, is there something they love to chew on, play or snuggle with or is there something that, along with your pet, is YOUR absolute favourite? We have had people bring in their shoe collection, musical instruments, a basket of socks even pieces of furniture!
Bringing some favourite toys along helps give your pet something familiar to focus on, and be more “himself” at our session. Some toys may have special meaning for you, as well, and it’s fun to include them in your images.
As with the treats, don’t offer the toys right away; wait until they’re needed for the photos. Some dogs are VERY toy motivated, and if that’s the first thing they see, we may have lost any other method of getting their attention.
THE POWER OF THE SQUEAK
The key to capturing great expressions is timing, and a single squeak or other interesting noise at the right time is invaluable. BUT… it only works if it’s unexpected. A constant squeaking will quickly desensitize him to the sound, and we’ll no longer get those great reactions. So we tend to use squeakers and trigger words (ie. “do you wanna walk”) sparingly.
OTHER THINGS TO BRING
Feel free to bring any other objects, beds, or pet clothing (sweaters, bow ties, scarves, Halloween costumes, etc) that you might want in your images.
If your dog is particularly slobbery, or gets foamy at the mouth when excited, consider bringing a drool rag as well. A towel can be helpful for drying off your pet before you head home if we are shooting outside and it is dewy or wet.
Know your pet and which environment might be best for him. Cats and other small animals are usually photographed in the escape proof indoor studio ( we know, we tested it with ferrets J )
Is he dog-aggressive or reactive to noises or other people? Can he focus on you or is he easily distracted?
We ask that you arrive with your pet on a leash or in an appropriate carrier. Although we try to reduce overlapping animal arrival and departures, we cannot guarantee that you may meet other clients. We photograph all types of animals from different backgrounds and with different comfort levels, your dog may be fine with others but not all are.
If you have selected an outdoor session and Mother Nature does not play along we can still get great images. Head inside and take advantage of our indoor studio options or, if you have your heart set on an outdoor shoot, we offer one reschedule due to weather. We will contact you prior to your session time to discuss your options.
See the people portraits FAQ here.