Waiting for the Right Moment

I wanted to break down how I look for the right "pose" with scared or timid dogs. My model for this example is Peter. He's available for adoption at the Humane Society of Northeast Georgia, and he was one scared little guy. Scared dogs are very hard to get portraits of, but it's definitely possible. Here's how I went about it.

For these photos, I had the dogs on a bench with a quilt thrown over it. This was just in a grassy spot beside the shelter. 

This is the first photo I snapped of him (unedited). He looks terrified and sad. Peter was so scared, he was shaking. So step 1 was to back off for a minute or two and let him relax. A Humane Society staff member sat on the bench with him and helped him calm down. Then I started talking to him in soft tones just to get him to look at me. We never use squeakers with dogs like this. 

This is the first photo I snapped of him (unedited). He looks terrified and sad. Peter was so scared, he was shaking. So step 1 was to back off for a minute or two and let him relax. A Humane Society staff member sat on the bench with him and helped him calm down. Then I started talking to him in soft tones just to get him to look at me. We never use squeakers with dogs like this. 

This doesn't look much different, but you can see he's turned his head to look straight at me now. I always try to get dogs looking straight ahead in photos so you can see their whole face. I just talked softly to him and we kept everyone quiet and calm. No squeakers and no pestering him. So I snapped a pic to show him that it was no big deal, and this is all that was expected of him. 

This doesn't look much different, but you can see he's turned his head to look straight at me now. I always try to get dogs looking straight ahead in photos so you can see their whole face. I just talked softly to him and we kept everyone quiet and calm. No squeakers and no pestering him. So I snapped a pic to show him that it was no big deal, and this is all that was expected of him. 

Often, with scared dogs like this, the click of the shutter is enough to get the ears to pop up. But it's not so loud that it scares them. We don't want a scared expression. So, this is a fine picture, but I think I can do better. If this is all we got, it would be perfectly fine. But I didn't like that he was still squinting his eyes. He was relaxing a bit more, and I thought a couple more clicks might get a slightly more alert expression. So I clicked the shutter a couple more times to keep his attention and hopefully get him to open his eyes a bit more. 

Often, with scared dogs like this, the click of the shutter is enough to get the ears to pop up. But it's not so loud that it scares them. We don't want a scared expression. So, this is a fine picture, but I think I can do better. If this is all we got, it would be perfectly fine. But I didn't like that he was still squinting his eyes. He was relaxing a bit more, and I thought a couple more clicks might get a slightly more alert expression. So I clicked the shutter a couple more times to keep his attention and hopefully get him to open his eyes a bit more. 

And this is the final body shot for Peter, so this is the one I edited. His eyes are nice and open and his ears are up. He's a timid dog, so I'm fine with him looking like a timid dog. We just don't want him to look terrified. This is a good representation of his personality. So, now I want to get a close-up face shot. A volunteer was standing behind me and started crinkling a toy (again, no squeakers). Crinkling a plastic bag would also work or shaking a treat bag.

And this is the final body shot for Peter, so this is the one I edited. His eyes are nice and open and his ears are up. He's a timid dog, so I'm fine with him looking like a timid dog. We just don't want him to look terrified. This is a good representation of his personality. So, now I want to get a close-up face shot. A volunteer was standing behind me and started crinkling a toy (again, no squeakers). Crinkling a plastic bag would also work or shaking a treat bag.

As soon as he looked up at the volunteer, I snapped the pic. So this is his edited headshot. He still looks true to his personality without looking terrified and unapproachable. I usually want the dog looking at the camera for the headshot, but getting that close with the camera scared him, so he needed the distraction of looking up at something. For the next picture, I want to show that he's a very sweet dog who wants to feel secure with a person to comfort him.

As soon as he looked up at the volunteer, I snapped the pic. So this is his edited headshot. He still looks true to his personality without looking terrified and unapproachable. I usually want the dog looking at the camera for the headshot, but getting that close with the camera scared him, so he needed the distraction of looking up at something. For the next picture, I want to show that he's a very sweet dog who wants to feel secure with a person to comfort him.

So we asked the volunteer, Susan, to hold him for a photo. This is a good way to show that, while he's scared, he's still loving. He's not a dog who will bite when he's picked up. He just needs a patient person to help him get settled. He's scared, but willing to relax, and that's what I want to show in his photos. Since he was a tougher one, I spent maybe 5 minutes on his pictures. Still not a long time at all. I had one person sitting with him on the bench and one standing behind me to help get his attention. 

So we asked the volunteer, Susan, to hold him for a photo. This is a good way to show that, while he's scared, he's still loving. He's not a dog who will bite when he's picked up. He just needs a patient person to help him get settled. He's scared, but willing to relax, and that's what I want to show in his photos. Since he was a tougher one, I spent maybe 5 minutes on his pictures. Still not a long time at all. I had one person sitting with him on the bench and one standing behind me to help get his attention.