The Joy of Photographing Canines

photographing dogs

Photographing a dog can be tricky. The photographer cannot just be good at taking pictures, they have to be adept at connecting with animals. The cover photos for Animal Wellness Magazine require a brilliant photographer who is able to draw out the special qualities of our animal companions. Which is why we were so pleased with the photos we received from Elizabeth Arellano, who captured the stunning photo of our February/March cover dog, Tugger.

1. Why did you start photographing animals?

I’ve always had a special bond with animals. When I first “borrowed” my dad’s camera, I had a bunny, a guinea pig, a cat, 2 German Shepherds, plus the neighbor’s dogs that I was pet sitting. It was a whole lot easier to take photos of my pets without asking their permission, as my family members definitely did not want photos taken of them. I didn’t have a driver’s license, I was only 15, so landscapes weren’t really on my horizon. It was just easy to spend time with my pets and take their photos. That first roll of film took about a week to finish and those 24 little photos changed my life. I’m not sure my dad ever got his camera and lenses back, but I don’t think he minded a bit.

photographing dogs

2. How is photographing animals different than photographing people?

Animals and people present different challenges and when you put them together, expect to take exponentially more photos! People, especially moms, tend to be self conscious and it is a challenge to get them to relax in front of the camera and be their beautiful selves. I’m a fan of photographing life as it is, not the perfectly staged photo. Whether it is photographing people or animals, I seek to capture emotion. Animals are always a wild card as they rarely perform exactly as you would like them to – the only thing predictable is that you will be in for an exciting day! The challenges that animals bring to a session have fostered my patience and the ability to “get the shot” that clients are looking for in all of my sessions, no matter the situation. Animals are always best in their natural element – it doesn’t matter if that’s a park where they play ball or the couch they curl up on, there is beauty in every day life.


3. What is it like working with Brennan and Tugger?

Brennan and Tugger are great to work with! Tugger is, as you can imagine, a total character. He makes every photo session fun. The first time I shot Tugger, he would bark back every time I squeaked a grunty pig toy. I’d never had a dog talk back to me! They usually just tilt their head and pop their ears at attention. Another fun shoot with Tugger was on the agility field. He was a handful! I think his mom, Brennan, was expecting to see majestic photos of Tugger sailing through the air over jumps and obstacles, but that’s just not Tugger. He is a silly, athletic boy and I captured his true nature. Those images are some of my favorites of him. Tugger makes a photo session fun and being naughty allows us to get more interesting photos. Who wants a photo of just a dog sitting there looking bored? Well, that’s definitely not a problem for TuggerTails, he’s ALWAYS game for anything.

photographing dogs

4. What do you see in store for your career? More animals, or are you branching out?

Every day is a new experience and an adventure for FRED (the Border Terrier), my trusty assistant, sidekick, & co-pilot, and me! 2014 is off to a great start and “we” already have trips and photo sessions planned in Texas, Michigan, Canada, California, North Carolina, Florida and New England. While most of my work has been private photo shoots and dog shows, I would like to branch out and do more commercial- and business-related photography with animals. In addition, I am committed to donating my photography skills to a couple of rescue organizations that I am passionate about. I recently did a photo session for a local Labrador rescue and shot a few of their foster dogs who are looking for their forever homes. I am so lucky to have a career that I love and it brings me great joy to hear my customers say my photos captured the true spirit of their dog(s) and family.

5. Got a funny story for me? Any bloopers from a shoot gone wrong?

Every session is an adventure. I don’t think I have a scenario that sticks out as a true blooper, but you really have to have a sense of humor and be flexible when working with dogs. The best photos usually result from a rough sketch of an idea and letting nature take its course! I’ll pretty much do anything to get the shot, even if it means almost falling off a dock or slipping into the lake (camera held high above my head) or sometimes rolling in something I shouldn’t have. I usually keep a change of clothes in the car for most outdoor photoshoots! Now that I think about it, the photo shoot for the cover picture with Tugger was quite comical. I shot the pictures at a lake with cliffs. Do you know what it took to get that boy to pose and not get in the water? Thank goodness Tugger’s mom did not video that session!

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