• Matthew Brooks

Working with animals

"Working with animals is always going to be tough because the animal doesn't know it is an actor" - Kit Harrington

On a couple of occasions I have worked with various animals now. You quickly learn certain things and also quickly figure out why the saying "never work with children or animals" is so true.

So if you are new at photography or have never worked with animals before here are a few tips that I have learnt so far.


1. Be OK with not getting the shot you want.

You can't make animals do exactly want you want. So if you have this epic amazing shot in your head chances are it may not work out for you.

2. Trust the owner/handler.

If the animal is trained and you are working with a highly professional handler then your chance of getting what you want go up but let them know exactly what your vision is so they know how to position or motivate the animal to do what you want. If it is pet photography then the pet in question is likely to respond better to the owner.

3. Be prepared to Photoshop.

If you can't get the image you want in one go. Keep snapping until you get a couple that you can composite into one final image. If you are lacking in Photoshop skills then practice as it is almost an essential skill to pair with photography these days.

4. Account for way more time than you think is necessary.

As mentioned above, for the most part animals just do as they please. So that normal hour time slot you give customers is likely to get blown out of the water. I wouldn't even give a time frame just arrange to have your schedules clear and shoot till you get what you need. As you do it more often and pick up tricks then you can probably gauge how long it will take.

5. Don't get stressed out.

If you are stressed and annoyed and showing that then the likelihood is no one else is having a good time on the shoot either. Keep it light and just have a good time.

6. The safety of the animals and everyone else is paramount.

Don't get them to do stupid dangerous stuff, or wear them out excessively. If they get overly excited or agitated they could lash out at someone. Be sensible about what your doing.


“I call my horses ‘divine mirrors’—they reflect back the emotions you put in. If you put in love and respect and kindness and curiosity, the horse will return that.” –Allan Hamilton



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Hendy, Carmarthenshire

photographymb87@yahoo.com