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How to Take Photos Featuring Dogs and Babies

You may think trying to photograph a dog — a being that doesn’t understand English the same way humans do — is the pinnacle of difficulty. But you’d be wrong, because, see, babies don’t really know what humans are saying to them, either.

It’s not like you can have a little conversation with them: “Okay, so now we’re going to take your photo, and we want you, Michael, to sit up against that pillow and look happy but not excited and kind of gaze at Keeto. Now Keeto, what you’re going to do is . . . .”

No. That doesn’t happen in the real world. Working with human babies is just like working with dogs, so put them together and it’s quite the . . . um . . . skill developer. The one exception tends to be infants. The younger they are, the easier it is to work with them (typically). Here’s a little breakdown of tips and tricks, based on the ankle-biter’s age:

  • Newborn: Make sure he’s fed, and then crank up the thermostat, strip the little pork chop down, and swaddle him up. As long as he has a full belly and he’s comfy, he should pretty much sleep through the whole episode, and that’s a good thing (unless you want his eyes open; then you have to sort of wait for that to happen).

    After he’s all wrapped up, place the pooch and then place the infant. If the dog is calm, have the dog lie down, and place the swaddled infant right against the dog’s side, in the space between the front elbow and the back leg — again, only if the dog is used to the baby and is calm enough for this sort of thing.

    After that, get creative. You can try a face-to-face shot by placing the infant on his tummy in front of the dog’s face or anything else you can think of. As long as the baby keeps sleeping and the dog tolerates it, keep shooting!

    When the baby is old enough to start crawling and tugging at Buster’s tail, Buster may not be so tolerable anymore. And if you’ve got a high-energy dog on your hands, pairing him with a newborn may not be the best idea. Always remember, safety first!

  • Toddler: Put the dog and child in an enclosed area and let them interact freely and naturally. To encourage them to play with each other, give them toys or other accessories to share. Things like long rope toys, scarves, and big plush balls all work well.

    Every second is different, so be sure your memory card has plenty of room. Also look for sweet moments between play, like if they stop to look at each other, or if the dog licks the child’s face, or if the child goes in for a full-body hug.

    image0.jpg

    35mm, 1/250 sec., f/4.5, 100

    This image was caught when Aidan and Libby took a break from playing with each other. They were in perfect position for a portrait, so the photographer called both of their names to get them to look at the camera.

  • Preschool through about 10 years: Children in this age range have their own personalities, likes, and behaviors. Because these factors can vary widely, how you handle kids this age all depends on your specific situation. Basically, play to their strengths.

    If the child is quiet and calm, set up shots that highlight that trait. Maybe the two sit together near a lake or pond at sunset, or you get a shot of the child reading her favorite story to the dog at bedtime. If the child is active, take them outside and get some shots of them running around, skateboarding, or playing together!

  • Other ideas:

    • Dog and child sharing food

    • Dog looking in on baby in the cradle

    • Child crawling on dog

    • Dog and child napping together

    • Dog and child watching a movie together

    • Dog and child getting dirty, knocking over a plant, or otherwise getting into trouble together

Before you set up any shots with a child of any age, be certain that the dog is good with children. Ideally, you’re working with a dog and child who already live together and are familiar with each other. You should know the limits of what the dog will tolerate and respect those limits. Safety is a priority at all times!

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