Unleashing the Charm: Commercial Dog Photography vs. Portrait Dog Photography

Did you know that I also photograph for dog brands? It started back in 2014 (eeeek, nearly a decade ago!!) when I just ventured into dog photography after getting my first whippet – at the time I’d been photographing weddings and families.

My now good friend Debbie, from Redhound for Dogs, had seen my ‘Whippet Snippets’ page and reached out to me about doing some product photography for her brand of dog attire, of course I said yes! Little did I know at the time how much of a difference there was between private client shoots and commercial or brand photography, which is usually used for marketing, PR, websites, and of course social media

A Tail of Commercial Dog Photography 

The main difference, and it’s quite a big one, is that in commercial dog photography, the focus isn’t always the dog (the shock of it!) With private clients, it’s all about capturing the personality and essence of your dog in beautiful surroundings and the images are mainly just for you to love; with commercial dog photography you have to add in the product or service, the brand ethos and how they want to make a potential client feel, how the location and props work with the brand colours, as well as the little details that can help sell the product or service.

All this then needs to translate to thousands of people who need to know quickly what the image is telling them when they first see it.

Lights, Camera, Action!

Another thing which is difference is scene setting. When you are doing a commercial dog photoshoot, it’s not always about positioning the dog in a nice environment and taking the shot, you will often need to create a bit of movement. Now of course who doesn’t love an action shot! But rather than having a dog flying full on to the camera (which is sometimes the right image to have!), commercial photography needs something a little bit more subtle, like a hand which is obviously going to a treat bag, or a shot of a dog mid-way being put in a drying robe.

Even though photography is static, you can still give a sense of movement, and that’s something which takes practice, and patience with dogs (and humans!) as it may need to be repeated several times.

I need some space! 

It’s okay – we aren’t breaking up! One of the fundamental things differences when composing an image for a commercial shoot vs a private client shoot is make sure there is a lot of space around the dog or scene. Why? Text & cropping – images for brands are at some point going to be used for marketing or advertising, or they might need to be cropped for social media or website banner bars.

So where on a portrait shoot, I would compose the images thinking of how this will look in a frame or on a wall, on a commercial shoot I would put, much more space at the bottom, top and edges of an image so it can be used in multiple different crop types.

Also thinking about the background – anything too cluttered is a big no-no for being able to overlay text! (or in some instances, overlaying a product) Below is an example of how a horizontal image with plenty of space means it was easy to crop to a square format with still enough room to overlay plenty of text.

The one thing which is the same on a commercial dog shoot and a private shoot

Regardless of what type of shoot I’m on, the thing which is of the upmost importance is that the dog is comfortable and happy. There have been many times where a dog who usually is happy and confident doing what they are asks, decides today is the day that they aren’t happy doing it.

Gorgeous Freckle was on a shoot for The Innocent Pet Company who needed some imagery of dogs looking happy and healthy in nature to overlay their products onto. Usually, Freckle does a good sit and wait, so I found a gorgeous spot for her, but she just wasn’t happy with it so rather than keep trying to get her in that location, I just let her move around and relax, and when she was in a good position, made a funny noise, which got one of my absolute favourite images from the day.

Since 2014 I’ve photographed for drying robes, pet food brands, treat companies, interactive toys, dog walkers, dog beds, dog coats to name a few and the images for my clients have been published in the likes of The Times, Town & Country and many more.

I hope you enjoyed this brief insight to the differences between a commercial dog photography shoot and a private client shoot – I could go on about location scouting, creating shot lists, sourcing dog models, working with multiple dogs, timescales and more but I’ll leave it there otherwise you could be here a while!

Is this for you?

If you are a dog brand and you’d really want to elevate your images and reach your ideal clients, drop me an email to kerry@furandfables.com – I’d love to hear from you!

Kerry x

(ps I’m always looking for dog models for brand shoots, so if your dog can, at a very minimum, do an excellent sit/stand & wait, is well socialised and good with other dogs, has solid recall and doesn’t resource guard, feel free to pop me an email at kerry@furandfables.com – I’m based in the Lake District but I travel all round the UK for client shoots!)