Pet Pawtraits, Studio

Finding your subjects motivation

Through the process of my Pet Paw-traits I learned a lot about how to get the best from from a dog during a photoshoot. Generally I had between 20 minutes and an hour with each dog so I had to learn quickly what motivated each one. Some dogs just love playing and will give you their undivided attention for the hope that you will throw them a ball, others won’t even bat an eyelid at an annoyingly squeaky toy but will give the most adorable expressions on the promise of a treat.


The best place to start is clearly to ask their humans, they know them better than anyone else, it will save a lot of time if you know in advance of the shot what is likely to work. Occasionally I would throw something else into the mix if I feel the dog is getting bored of treats or tired of playing, quite often their owners are surprised at how nicely they will interact, in general its all about judging your audience.


My preference is to save the play for towards the end of the shoot, after you’ve got some really nice simple portraits in the bag, this way any great shots you get of them playing are a real bonus plus everyone gets to have some fun. The one ultimate key to getting creating great images of dogs is patience, you have to allow the dog to relax and be natural, if you’re stressed the they will be stressed, dogs are like emotional sponges.

  • Text Hover



Toby Lea

Leicestershire based photographer, specialising in people, places and pets