In this post, I will be focusing on some useful commands that you can give your dog that are great for photography shoots! Some of them may seem obvious and are just general, basic commands; however, you’d be surprised how often I am asked how I get my dogs to sit for a photo and just how many people are shocked by my response, which is “I tell them to sit and stay!” So let’s jump into the commands I use while out on the trail or at any point when shooting the dogs and some tips to make your shoots run smoothly!
Basics: You’ll want your dog to know its basic commands and actually do them when told and if distracted because while out shooting, there tends to be a lot of distractions. Basic commands for a photography shoot include Sit, Down, Come, and Stay; though, honestly, I believe “Stay” to be the most useful command as a whole. If you can get your dog to stay, whether sitting, lying, or just standing there and they don’t move so you can back up and get a photo, then you’re already in the ballpark of what needs to be done! Having a solid “Sit” and “Down” can prove useful for posing and making things easier on you as the photographer, as well as leads into other commands I will be talking about! “Come” is useful for people like me, who will pose my dog somewhere and then would rather not have to go back to said location to get them, so a solid recall is helpful in getting your dog back to you after they have waited for the photos to be done.
Head Down: Teaching head down proved very useful for me during shoots. *See the featured image for a perfect example of the command in use for a shoot.* If the command itself doesn’t give it away, “Head down” means your dog places their head down. As in, chin to the floor or wherever you want their head to go! It can help create some really cute photos and give you different angles to shoot from. Often, head down is paired with down as you usually have your dog lay first for their head to go down; though, it’s not necessary and there are many ways to use the command with your dog sitting or even standing, just as long as there is an object for them to place their head on!
Stand: If your dogs are anything like mine, sometimes, if I say stay, they automatically sit and if you’re anything like me, I don’t always want them sitting for a photo! There are other times I have them in a sit/stay, but decide I don’t like the way it looks and want to change it. Instead of having to get up from wherever I am, as it’s usually lying on my stomach on the ground or crouched somewhere uncomfortable, I can simply give the “Stand” command and they will stand in the spot I have them in. This gives me the ability to keep shooting instead of getting up to pose or adjust them!
Up/Place: Being able to point to a spot and have your dog go their on its own is extremely helpful during a shoot. I can’t tell you the amount of frustration I have had having to constantly move and place a dog that doesn’t know this command. It can even lead to the dog being uncomfortable as you try and get them to sit in certain locations. Some dogs can become nervous when being “forced” into a spot, by say, lifting them onto a log; however, when they can walk or jump there on their own, getting praise along the way, it can be a much more positive experience.
Eyes Here/Focus: Have you ever been shooting and you’d like a shot where your dog is actually looking at the camera, but they just can’t stop moving and looking around? Using either “Eyes here” or “Focus” made all the difference in our shoots! Both commands mean the same thing, your dog puts their eyes on you, aka the camera! This is a great tool to get them to focus when distractions are around and get those shots you’re looking for rather than trying to get their attention by saying their name, clapping, whistling, or any other means of snagging their attention.
Hold: A great command for shoots, especially if you're photographing for a promotion of a product! Having your dog be able to hold a leash, bag of treats, a stick, a toy, or whatever else fits the photo can make for some really cute shots without any hassle from you and again, when your dog knows the command, doing it successfully makes it fun! They enjoy pleasing you and doing things correctly, so it's one more "trick" that leads to tail wags and treats!
Blending Commands: Those are the very basic commands I use during a shoot; however, it’s how you use them that can really make all the difference. For example, I have Winry go “Place” on a nearby log. I walk a distance away and crouch to begin shooting. I decide I dislike the location or I am simply not feeling the photos I am getting so I switch to a new spot. Still, I don’t like it, but I still feel this spot has potential, so instead of going to Winry and posing her, she can do it herself using all the commands listed above. I ask her to “Come” and she begins walking toward me. I then ask her to wait and “Stay” before she reaches me, simply putting her in a new spot without moving from my own position. I get a few photos of her standing before I ask her to “Sit” and snag some photos in that pose. Then I try her in a “Down,” then a “Head down” for a few more. At this point, I have the shot I want and give her the release command, which in our case is “Okay” and she can break her stay and come back to me for treats and praise! Her tail is wagging and I am pleased by my photos. It’s a win/win and a positive experience all around! No frustration, no confused dog, no posing her, no photographer getting tired from getting up and down to keep changing things. With these tools, you'll have a much easier time getting the more posed shots you're hoping for!
— The Wayfinder