Five Ways to Reduce Stress in Photoshoots
To get good natural pictures of a pet they need to be comfortable and relaxed. Strange people, unfamiliar equipment, nervous owners, and being forced or enticed into posing can all create a stressful environment for the subject of a photo shoot. When they are stressed it is difficult to get good natural pictures that reflect their true character.
Every animal responds differently. Some take everything in stride. Nothing bothers them. But for others, the shoot is a horror show of strangeness that may cause abnormal aggressiveness or the need to retreat to a safer space such as their bed or even under your bed.
Here are a few things that you can do to reduce stress levels and get better outcomes.
- Have a preliminary meet and greet. If the photoshoot is going to include a photographer that is unfamiliar to the pet, introduce them to each other a few days before the photoshoot. This allows the pet to familiarize themselves with the stranger in a comfortable and familiar environment. It also provides the photographer with an opportunity to get a feel for the pet's character making it easier to plan a successful shoot.
- Be calm and relaxed. Animals are very sensitive to their owner's emotional state. Being worried that your pet is going to misbehave or simply be a bad subject may create tension that is picked up by your pet. If we stress over certain poses or are focused on getting them positioned in front of special backgrounds they can get confused and anxious. We need to remember that while it is good to have photo ideas and goals, some of the best shots often come from the quick pictures that are captured in moments of downtime. This leads us directly to the next point.
- Make sure that everyone is prepared to allow enough time for the pet to adapt to the situation and participate on his or her own terms. For example, after a few minutes of trying to get a pet to pose give them some time to play, explore, or just relax. This lets the pet reflect on the situation, reduces everyone's tension, and presents unscripted photo opportunities. It also slows down the level of activity and brings the focus back to the subject rather than the process.
- If possible use home turf for the photoshoot. Both you and your pet will be more comfortable in familiar surroundings.
- Use appropriate equipment, set it up quietly, and arrange it responsibly. This means limiting the amount of equipment (lights, stands, back drops, etc.) to the minimum needed. Any props or lights should be set up quietly and, if possible, with the subject away from the area. Once everything is in place the pet can be introduced to the set and allowed to get comfortable. Remember the subject will be confused by and suspicious of the equipment and how it is being used. Setups that work with a human subject may scare a pet and once the fear and distrust is established it will be difficult or impossible to get good, natural pictures.
Beyond getting great pictures, photoshoots can provide exciting positive experiences for both you and your pet if they are organized and executed properly. We always need to remember that a photoshoot is not a normal routine for most pets and we need to take the time and make the effort to help them adjust and feel comfortable.