It is always a blessing to photograph soon-to-be-mamas. This weekend, I got to photograph a very special one – my sister-in-law. This Sunday was her baby shower, and I couldn’t be more excited to meet Ms. Riley Cole. This baby is so loved already, and Christina’s family and friends showered her with love, wisdom, and all she needs to bring this little girl into the world.
I love photographing dogs. 1) I get to pet dogs for my job, and how awesome is that? 2) I get to see how much love these dogs bring into their families. 3) Dogs are fun!
When I do pet sessions, I want them to be as fun for my clients as they are for me. So I definitely don’t want my clients to stress about whether their dogs will “behave.”
I put that word in quotes because as far as getting a good photo of your dog, it’s best when they act exactly like the dog you know and love. Does he roll in the grass and run around like an animal? Perfect! Does she bark at leaves? That’s the spirit! Does he jump as high as your shoulder? Oh, gurrrl, I’ve been there.
That ball of energy is my dog. Years of photographing him has given me ample practice on how to capture a crazy animal in just the right way. Here are my best tips for getting some great shots:
1. Make SURE You Exercise Them Before The Session.
There’s a quote in the Jack Russell community: A tired Jack is a happy Jack. Wiser words have not been spoken. Make sure before your session that your dogs get a good workout and are ready to for the paparazzi. You don’t want them too tired… sleeping puppies are always cute, but not always what we want for a photo shoot. Just a quick sprint to get the jitters out is fine. We’ll have plenty of time to play during the shoot, but getting the initial “zoomies” out can help.
2. BRING SNACKS!
Because who doesn’t love food. Bring your dog’s absolute favorite treats, and have them ready during the shoot. I always bring treats, too (grain-free, organic, made in the USA because Ranger is a spoiled hipster), but having their own special treats provides a little more incentive. If you can get something extra smelly and enticing, that’s even better.
3. Get there a little early.
I’m not talking an hour, but about 15 minutes early will give your dog some time to sniff around and get a little more comfortable with the area. The more comfortable the dog is, the more likely we are to get those big puppy smiles.
4. Relax and Enjoy!
The best photos happen when everyone is having a good time, so leave the stressing to me. You and your dog have a unique connection, and that’s what we really want to capture. So take the opportunity to spend some quality time with Fido and pay no attention to the girl behind the camera. If you have a shot you definitely want to capture, let me know beforehand and I’ll make sure we get it in. Otherwise, it’s literally a walk in the park.
5. Practice “Sit” and “Stay.”
I put this one last because, while it’s important, If your dog isn’t great with it, that’s OK. It’s not a deal-breaker. I’ll be getting a ton of candid photos, but I’ll also want to capture a few shots of you with the dog, or just Bowser doing his thing. Tricks like “sit” and “stay” definitely help there. Patience, however, is key.
Here’s an article with some tips for getting “sit” down pat – the illustrations really make it. https://www.wikihow.pet/Teach-Your-Dog-to-Sit
I’m not a big fashionista. If the choice is between being comfy and looking good, I’ll almost ALWAYS choose the chunky grandma sweater with leggings and some slip on shoes. Because, why not? You’ll only see me in stilettos when it’s absolutely necessary.
So when I did my engagement photos years ago, I had NO IDEA what to wear. I probably stressed for weeks thinking about what I was going to wear. I finally picked a blue sheath-type dress from Urban Outfitters and my favorite boots. It wasn’t a bad choice, but I probably could have made some better ones.
So I’ve put together some tips to help my clients prepare as they get ready for a shoot.
First, wear something that is comfortable. Nothing too tight – you don’t want it to pull in any unflattering areas. A nice loose blouse (not too loose, we’re not going for the Seinfeld puffy shirt look), a comfy V-neck tee, or your favorite scoop neck or V-neck sweater will be great. I’d go for V-neck or boat neck over crew-cut because it creates more flattering lines and brings more focus to your face (and really, we want to focus on your winning smile, not your outfit). Button ups and plaid camp shirts are also great – I have a huge soft spot for anything plaid. Your favorite top with a pair of jeans may seem low-key, but really, you’re going to look comfortable and relaxed.
Here’s an example look:
As far as dresses go, flowy fabrics are great for a soft, romantic look. Again, nothing too tight. The key is that you want to feel flexible. When you’re sitting on a boulder overlooking the Shenandoah Valley as the sun sets with the love of your life, you don’t want to be uncomfortable.
Consider the venue. You’ve probably already thought about venues way more than you want to, I know. What I mean is, if we’re shooting in the middle of a field or in the woods, you probably don’t want to wear pumps. If we’re shooting in Old Towne Manassas and you want to rock those red shoes and dance the blues, be my guest, but be sure that you have a change of shoes with you so that if we’re doing any walking, your feet aren’t screaming by the end. On the same coin, this probably isn’t the place for thick hiking boots, unless that’s the look you’re going for.
Who doesn’t love a well-dressed man? But if you’re wearing a plaid shirt and jeans, he probably should stick to a low-key, comfy look as well. If you’re going a little fancier, then a nice blazer over a shirt and jeans is such a great look. You guys don’t need to match, but you should be generally dressed for the same occasion.
Makeup is important – you want to be comfortable, but if there’s any day to spend a little extra time in front of the mirror, your photo shoot is a good one. If you go big with a smoky eye daily, then go for it! If you don’t typically wear makeup, I would definitely put on at least mascara and blush and a good lipstick. Again, you want to be comfortable, but a little mascara goes a long way as far as photos go. Lips can be neutral, but I always love a big pop, too! This may also be a great time to try out your options for your wedding day look.
As long as you and your guy are happy and in love, the pictures will come out great. But hopefully these tips give you some ideas for your session. What are some tips you would include?
Every year, my family gathers around the Thanksgiving Day table and tells stories about the past. I’m the youngest in the family; my sisters are 16 and 17 years older than me, and my brother is 5 years older. There’s A LOT of history in my family before I was even a twinkle in my father’s eyes.
So I’ve always been somewhat of an outside observer to these crazy stories about what life was like before I came into the world. Life when my parents were just starting out, stories about the dogs in the family, stories about my grandparents, and stories about my older sisters growing up in New England. The one about my brother stepping into a value bucket of peanut butter while trying to get to the cookies and tracking it all over the house – so discrete. The one about my dad trying to kill a bat that flew down into the house with bug spray. Stories about my mom’s Aunt Josephine and Uncle Eddie, or my Dad’s life helping his uncle on farms on the New York/Canada border.
One thing I used to love to do is rummage through my mom’s old photo books. I’d see pictures of my parents when they first got married – my dad’s thick 70s hair and my mom’s long, straight blonde hair and bell bottom pants. There were pictures of my sisters at the beach with iconic bowl cuts and overalls. (I really loved the mid-70s fashion.) I also loved the old polaroids of my parents’ first selfies – yeah, they took selfies BEFORE they were cool. My mom was a babe, and my dad was also not too shabby. I loved seeing these versions of my now middle-aged parents and seeing how our family has evolved.
I don’t think I really appreciated how much weight a photo can hold until I got married and started making my own little family albums. I’ll never forget the way Aaron looked when I walked down the aisle, because my photographer captured it. I’ll never forget the way we both geeked out the first time we saw the volcano at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. I’ll never forget how cool I felt walking over the Brooklyn Bridge and eating pizza on the river. The pictures don’t just capture an image – they capture feelings and memories and history. I want my kids to be able to pore over all these memories and I want them to see us as we become our little family unit and develop our family history.
One of my favorite movies as a kid was Hook, where Robin Williams plays a middle-aged Peter Pan returning to Neverland to save his kids from Captain Hook. There’s one scene where Tootles has lost his marbles, his happy thoughts. Peter, with the help of the Lost Boys, returns them. When I think of photography, I can’t help but picture a bag of happy thoughts. That’s what I collect. All the stories and histories and memories – I’m creating bags of happy thoughts.