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Can your dog sit-stay?(Here's a clue, it doesn't matter)...

The number one comment I get from new clients who want to schedule a photo shoot is "but my dog is untrained and can't sit or stay". And my answer is always "thats okay!".

There are many different ways to get a photo of a dog that isn't trained, in fact I would say that 70% of all my dog photography are of dogs with their leashes on!

Here in Hawaii there are so many amazing locations to take your pets photos - so we need to get out there and just do it, leash and all. Just because your dog can't sit/stay perfectly with you the owner 20 feet away doesn't mean we can't get that beautiful sunrise photo. I am here to tell you it can be done. So keep that leash on, whether its because your dog isn't as trained as you would like him to be, or maybe he is nervous and wants you close by, he may also be a reactive dog and does not do well with other dogs running around. Of course there are also safety reasons to keep your dog leashed, maybe the amazing location on the Windward Side of Oahu is close to a busy road, its really not that big deal to keep the leash on.

So what does that mean for you, when you receive your final images of your dogs special photo session? It means all of the leashes will be magically removed and you and anyone else will never know the dog was wearing one.

The other reason you may need to keep a leash on during your stunning Hawaii pet photo shoot is because you have a puppy. And no matter how many puppy classes he has been to and how smart he is, puppies still lack impulse control and tend to be on the move a lot.

I have a bag full of tricks up my sleeve to make my job as a dog photographer easier and to keep your pup as comfortable and stress free as possible during the shoot. After the first couple of shots I get a sense of what we need to do to address your pets specific needs and then we get in a rhythm and the rest of the shoot generally moves along pretty smoothly. In most cases you, the owner are no further away from your pup than say 5-7 feet. Closer if need be and further away if possible, whatever it takes.

Just in case you're still not convinced and you think you're the only one with an untrained dog, let me tell you, having a nervous, skittish dog in front of the camera can happen to the best of us. Back in 1997 I trained the Taco Bell Dog, a 12lb Chihuahua that was made famous for saying the iconic phrase "Yo Quiero Taco Bell" in over 40 Taco Bell commercials. Well in to her new found career I took her to New York for a photo shoot with the famous photographer William Wegman. Wegman is well known for his whimsical portraits of his Weimaraners and was also known for doing portraits with a 20" x 24" polaroid. Yes, you read that correctly, that is a very large polaroid.

The Taco Bell Dogs name was Gidget. And Gidget had done many, many photo shoots, as well as performed in front of numerous cameras for all the commercials she had done to date.

She was also a very exceptional dog. I raised her like a big dog and treated her like one, she was tough. We arrived at Wegmans studio along with a couple of his Weimaraners - one of which Chip, would appear in the photo with Gidget. Wegman was going to do the photo shoot with the large format polaroid and he had the stage all set, ready for Gidget and Chip.

The lights he used for this shoot - I don't know the technical term for them, but they made the loudest popping sound of any light/flash I had experienced and it became clear that Gidget did not like them. What happened for the next hour was a song and dance to say the least. In fact I think I sang and for sure danced, to distract Gidget from the popping lights. You see she learned very quickly that when Wegman reached for the shutter release cable to take the photo, the lights would sync and pop. Each polaroid would take several minutes to develop, so we would review that image and then get ready to take the next one. She then learned all the preliminary steps (literally) that I and Wegman would take to get the next photo and would turn away from the camera, or her ears were flat back on her head, she was just not happy about those lights. In the end, every single photo we took was orchestrated and manipulated in such a way that she was unaware a photo was about to be taken. You see in between the photo taking she stood on the raised stage next to Chip the Weimaraner and watched everything I was doing. So when we took each photo we did something different each time, we chatted, we laughed, we walked around, I handed a bag of chicken to Wegman above the lens of the camera (which she was watching VERY closely) and we very carefully took the picture. We only took about 8 photos that day, the one above appeared in Entertainment Weekly Magazine. And weeks later Wegman sent me a signed polaroid which I have on my wall at home today.

Even the best laid plans can go awry and when one of the best trained dogs decides she doesn't want her photo taken, you use every trick in the book. As a side note, Gidget was totally fine and suffered no stress or after effects from those pesky lights and she got to finish the bag of chicken and went on to have many more photo shoots!

PS The top two photos the dogs were wearing leashes...

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