With the winter holidays just around the corner, it’s time to start thinking about purchasing gifts and decorations. An easy way to get away with staging some last-minute Christmas cheer is to snap some festive photos of your pets for guests to enjoy.
Starting December 1, PetSmart in Mount Vernon Plaza (7690 Richmond Highway) will offer its Santa Claws photo event. Five dollars from each purchase will go towards local animal welfare organizations.
And, Landmark Mall in Alexandria will kick off its holiday pet photo event on Nov. 26. The mall will be offering pet photos every Monday night from 6 to 9 p.m. until Dec. 17.
But if you're into homemade gifts and putting in that extra bit of effort to take the photo yourself, Robin Burkett from Paw Prints Photography shared her tips for getting Fluffy or Fido ready for their moment in the spotlight:
1. Don’t "manhandle" your dog or cat. Treat them like you would want to be treated—if you had someone pushing you into place you probably wouldn’t like it either. So how do you get them to stay in one place? Pick a place where they are comfortable. Better yet, let them pick the place and you go to them.
2. Give the animal time to understand what your goal is. Most pets want to please, but they don’t have a clue why you are pushing them around and trying to hold them down. When they realize all you want is for them to stay put, most times they will, assuming they are comfortable.
3. Be quiet: Don’t squeak a toy nonstop and call out “Fifi, Fifi, look here—Fifi, here—Fifi, Fifi!” Just like it’s noise pollution for a human, it’s noise pollution for your pet. Be quiet first, then make one noise, possibly a squeak of a toy, possibly a knock on the wall, even a rustle of a treat bag. A very small noise. If that doesn’t work, try again with a larger noise but only make the noise once. If your animal doesn’t respond to a particular noise, move on to something else.
4. Motion: Raise your hand up and see if they watch. If that’s too boring, toss a toy straight up in the air. That will get their attention.
5. Sight: Since what you are doing may be new to the pet, they may want to fall back on what they know, their owner. So, if you can, have someone else take the picture, and as the owner, you stand directly behind the person with the camera. They will usually want to look at their owner. Don’t call their name. Usually that means “come” to a dog and you don’t want them to come to you, you just want them to look at you.
6. When you’re not behind the camera, watch your pet and see what gets their attention. Do they perk up there is a knock on the door? If so, use things like that to get their attention. Like people, the goal is to get a natural expression and a natural response to something will cause a natural expression.
7. For cats, one word: Catnip. Or, to get a cat’s attention, have fun cat toys. With cats, just face the fact that they will run the session. You have to get in that mindset and make sure they think that’s the way it is. Do the opposite of what you want to do, which is pick them up and put them somewhere. Instead, ignore them. When they get curious about why you are ignoring them, you are starting to get the upper paw; then, use cat toys to distract and move them into an area that might be a good place to start.
8. If you have help, have only one person try to get the animal's attention at a time. Imagine if you were having your picture taken and two different people were talking to you at the same time.
9. Play with your pet in between shots. Make it fun. Take some pictures, then reward them with some fun time, then have them do a little more work. Watch their body language. If they are yawning a lot, chances are in this situation they’re not tired, they’re stressed. If they are licking their lips a lot, or trying to avoid eye contact, these are more stress signs. If they are more antsy than normal, they may need to go to the bathroom. Take a break and let them out.
10. Patience and a positive attitude: Pets are very intuitive. If you approach taking pictures of your pet with a negative attitude like “Bruiser will never do that!” Guess what? He won’t. You’d be surprised what Bruiser will do if you have the right attitude. If you find yourself getting frustrated, your pet probably is to. Time to take a break and try again later.
Burkett also suggests avoiding using treats to get your pet's attention and use the rustle of a treat bag to get the same effect.
With just a little bit of love, patience and holiday decor, you and your pet will be on your way to creating some memorable holiday photos.
Have you snapped some pictures of your pet for the holidays? Share your photos with us!