Hi, I’m Kira DeDecker (“key-ra dee-decker”) and I’m a pet photographer serving Arizona’s greater Phoenix Metro area. Welcome to my blog! This is where I share not only my most recent work but also my life with you. Client sneak peeks, Facebook recaps, announcements, updates, awesome new offerings and the occasional (okay, frequent) story about my crazy but amazing life with my three dogs – Sox, Bixby and Waffles.
Pull up a chair and make sure it’s nice and comfy because you will want to stay awhile. It’s great to have you here!
When I’m shooting so I look for soft eyes, loose body posture, happy wagging tails, a relaxed mouth (open or closed – just no fear grimace or snarl) and attentive ears. Keep in mind, there are many types of dog ears – prick, drop, button, bat and so on; as a general rule of thumb, where a dog keeps his ears when they are relaxed and happy is their natural neutral position.
Typically Pomeranians keep their adorable little pricked ears up – they are basically looks like perky little furballs. Except for my boy, Waffles. While Bixby is all wiggles and Sox is all intensity- Waffles is incredible laid back. When he is relaxed and comfortable, it’s natural for him to keep his ear down. It’s endearing really, I love nothing more when he wags his tail, drops his ears and rubs his whole 20lb+ body into my lap when he wants me to pet him.
Now, while I may think his laid back ears are adorable – they do not photograph well. At best, he looks high or sad and at worst it can look like a fear grimace. No bueno. But on the upside, living with Waffles has helped me learn some new tricks to help me in the field.
(Note: If a dog has is ears down because of fear or aggression – then it’s time to go back to pet photography basics and get the dog comfortable first)
Timing. First and foremost, planning and timing is crucial! So when I’m shooting, I focus and prep the shot and then I coax the dog’s ear up (sometimes they only stay up for a few seconds) and take the shot. The last thing I want to do is miss a shot because I wasn’t ready.
Noise Markers. Noises are my go-to trick to getting those ears up. I have a clicker, squeakers, a duck caller plus I make some pretty weird noises myself. I ask in my client questionnaire what their pet’s buzz word that gets their dog excited and I use it when needed (saying it in happy high tones, of course). You can download apps with different noises and animal calls. Crinkle a bottle. Shake a can or treat pouch with food in it. You can try knocking on a wall and seeing if you can trick to dog into thinking someone is knocking on the door.
Avoid Noise Pollution. Do not overdo it on the noise. Not only will the dog get tired of it and will start ignoring you, the people around will find the constant barrage of noise annoying.
Visual Distraction. If a dog is hard of hearing or dead this is particularly useful technique. Try having the dog’s owner walk away and then come back. Wave colorful toys in the air – some pet photogs swear by those cat feather toys. Have someone throw objects toward the direction of your camera. If I’m in a public place where randos are running around, I will wait for someone to walk behind me and then shoot when the dog looks attentively at the stranger passing by (true story, that was the only thing that would get Fallon’s attention – so don’t knock it till you try it).
Sense of Smell. If a dog is food motivated – or hard of hearing or deaf – the smells of food might coax those ears up. I use a variety of treats and most of them are pretty bland smelling. However, I carry a few specialty treats for picky eaters and dogs with food allergy and by far, the stinkiest smelliest treats are the salmon based ones. Plato’s Salmon and Veggie treats are a big hit with dogs but they have the most gag inducing smell out there and the stink covers my 10×10 studio so if you are looking for a strong smelling treat…
Len Choice. Try different focal length and see if getting farther or closer gets you. Long lenses work wonders for me – it helps the dog relax plus they have to start to get curious of what I’m up.
Soft noises. My secret weapon. I make a variety of quiet, whisper level noises and I get those ears to stay up since it takes a little more work to listen to me. Pair that with a long lens and I have attentive ears that don’t take a lot of work.
Variety. Once a dog is bored of what you are doing it, change it. Don’t keep doing the same thing over and over again and expect it to work once the dog has lost interest. Try a new noise, treat or technique to keep your subject interested.
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Kira DeDecker | firstname.lastname@example.org | Arizona Pet Photography