One of my favorite subjects to photograph are animals. I am sure if you have looked through my images on this website you can see they dominate most of my work. I have to admit this is not the easiest subject to photograph as they are not into posing so I will share a secret with you.
Your going to think this may be a bit crazy but I have found it to work every time. When I am photographing say a dog or a horse I patiently watch them for a long time to try and get an understanding of their personality. Horses, cats, and wildlife tend to be a bit more elusive then dogs but still they all have a unique personality that I want to capture when I photograph them.
So here is how I do it. I will start off taking some photographs just to see how they react to the camera, Horses and cats could really care less and totally ignore you but a lot of dogs see the end of a camera lens as a big eye that is trying to dominate them. Many people think their dogs just do not want their picture taken but in reality they think you are starring them down to dominate them particularly if the dog is follower and not a leader. So we have cats, horses, and wildlife who are not interested in you and dogs who seem to be afraid of you and that big eye pointing at them. What do you do?
I back off and usually use a long telephoto lens so I can zoom in close but not be in their comfort zone and here is the secret weapon, I just silently ask them to "show me who you are."
What? Yes I know this sounds crazy but animals pick up on energy and body language beyond what our minds can comprehend and when you communicate with your mind and body to them they can better understand what you want. So I silently ask them to show me their unique personality by speaking these words in my mind silently. It works every time. They will for just one moment look at the camera and give you a look that you will know is your cue to click the shutter.
Before I ask for this special moment I always make sure I am ready with my camera settings and positioning for the best composition. I also center myself and relax. They will only give you this special moment once so you have to be ready. Some animals will play to the camera for awhile others will give you just a split second. But I always know when that moment comes because I can feel their presence. After words I thank them and I do not take any more photographs and walk away with gratitude.
Crazy as it sounds it works every time. I invite you to try it. Start by making sure you and your camera are ready and then center yourself and ask your next animal subject to show you who they are and be ready as they reveal themselves to you.
By the way this also works for very small children, before we program them to look at the camera and say "cheese."
Here are some examples of some of my subjects that gave me that special moment.