“My dog would love to model for you!” “My cat has a really unique look and would be perfect as a model.”
I hear these types of comments whenever someone finds out that I am a commercial pet photographer (see site). And then they usually proceed to show me lots of adorable photos of them on their phone. (Which I love, by the way!)
The truth is, your dog or cat is gorgeous and obviously very much loved. But there is a difference between having a great pet and having one that can model. And, I do find that some people are simply unaware of just what those differences are. So, this post is to go through some things to think about before you start. Let’s see if the pet model world is for you!
1. Know why you want your pet to be a model.
This is a big one. Why do you want your dog to model? Why is your cat the perfect one? Is it because they will enjoy it? Or…is it you?
Sit with that for a moment. Because, in reality, your pet does not actually know they are modelling. What they do know is that they are taken to different places, with different people, who ask them to do different things. So, what you need to be realistic about is: will they enjoy what they will be asked to do?
Brands love photos of happy, healthy and, most importantly, relaxed dogs (even if they will not always describe it that way). Now, by ‘relaxed’, I do not mean sleepy, although sometimes that can be a great look if you are photographing a bed. But your pet does need to be generally content in the situation they find themselves in. Certainly not afraid or anxious. And not overly excited either. That happy, calm, confident vibe is what we are looking for. And these feelings show up in their body language which get recorded in photographs and video.
So…if your furry friend would rather just live their days looking at you adoringly, begging for belly rubs and treats, please let them do so. Because – and this is important – There is no job worth making them miserable for.
2. Be clear and honest about what your pet can do and what their limitations are.
A solid and consistent sit/stay is an invaluable skill and I would say, without it, your pet will not be a good candidate for working on a commercial set. But that does not mean that you should fib about whether they can, in fact, sit and stay. It will become all too apparent when they are asked to. It is your reputation on the line, not theirs.
It is also important to know how they react to the more common things on a studio set – flashing lights, beeps/sounds, people talking, food left around. Can they keep their focus on the task at hand or do they get distracted? Or, worse yet, does it make them upset?
Here is a list of some other things that are not required for every job, but very valuable for a photographer or agency to know.
- Do they like to wear clothes? Not just, do you dress them up?
- Can they wear anything on their head for an extended period of time? (sunglasses, hats etc.)
- Do they like to go in the water and/or get wet?
- Can they put their head down on command?
- What tricks can they do consistently when asked to? (ie. holding items in their mouth, getting up on back legs, play bow etc.)
If your dog or cat has a unique skill, please let us know! But, only if you can recreate it consistently. And remember: there is no job worth making them miserable for.
3. “Getting along with others” is valuable.
Often times, your pet will not be the only one on set but there will be other pups and maybe some cats. We need to know how your dog will react in that environment. It goes without saying that any food aggression, dog aggression, or a high prey drive is not good. But, knowing that these issues exist can help mitigate any risk to you, your pet and other models.
Additionally, if they feel a need to exert their dominance in situations with other animals by marking or mounting, that can be hard to manage. The opposite is true too. If your pet becomes scared of normal interaction with another dog or cat, and exhibits it by peeing or hiding, it is best to know now. It means that they should probably only be on jobs where they are the only model. Again, you guessed it, there is no job worth making them miserable for.
4. You need to be dependable and clearly communicate.
If you say you will show up, you need to show up. Please do not agree to something and then email the night before to cancel because ‘something came up’. You will only be remembered as the person who caused unnecessary stress to the team and probably will not be invited again.
On the day of, please arrive on time. It is nerve-racking to have a set full of people waiting for the talent to show up.
This means planning ahead for the things you can. Do you know how long it takes to get to the location? Do you know how to enter the location? Where to park? How long it will take you to walk from the parking to the location? Give yourself more time than you think you need because it never goes completely according to plan.
Same thing for the end of the day. Give yourself extra time for your next appointment and do not schedule yourself for something vitally important directly afterwards. Dogs and cats are individuals and sometimes it can take a few extra minutes to get the shot. If you need to leave early, that is almost as bad as not having shown up at all.
We really just need to know what you are doing. You would be surprised how many times I send out an email and simply do not hear back or someone responds long after the session has occurred. If that happens, the dog is often struck from our roster because there is not enough time to chase people down. It’s not a problem if you are not available – I simply need to know.
5. Generally, you will not have access to the images.
Of course, the question is: why? Let me explain…
The company has a brand. What’s that? Simply put, it is how a customer feels about a company. People react to visual things, so photography heavily influences how we perceive a company, what we think their values are, and whether we will purchase from them. Understandably, companies go to great lengths to protect their brand and will only release images that represent them best. So, after a full day of shooting, they might only choose 3-5 hero images.
It is important to know that the images chosen are usually a part of a marketing plan or launch. Obviously, the company wants to be the first to show those images to their audience in the context and channels they have determined will give them the best ROI. So, the images are guarded. And no one else has them, including models.
What about the rest of the images not chosen? Can you have them to share on your Instagram? The short answer is often no, and here is why.
- Those images are not the best representation of the brand. If they were, they would have been selected.
- Those images do not actually ‘exist’. In other words, even if a company wanted to give them to you, the photos could not be released until they were edited. In most cases, the company has moved on, the photography team has other projects for other clients in the works and there is no time to go back and do additional editing of images that will not be used by the company.
- The company purchased the license to images from the shoot. It would be unethical to give other images to a third-party for free.
There are exceptions to this, of course. But, you will often find that it is small businesses and solo-preneurs that will let you have access to images, not the larger, more established brands.
Bonus Point 6: We would LOVE to have you as a model.
Our dog and cat models are the best and it is a big deal when they get to be models. They love the hustle and bustle and are more than happy to work for praise and treats. I even give them a great vinyl badge/sticker (see below) when they complete their first shoot with us.
Their humans often get to see and try products before anyone else in the market, and have the thrill of seeing gorgeous photos of their pup or kitty out in the wild for all to see! We truly have fun on these sessions and make sure everyone has a good time.
So, if you think you and your pet would enjoy this, please apply below. We cannot wait to meet you!
(Note for dog moms and dads: We get our awesome vinyl sticker badges from Sticker Mule. We’ve been loving our products and they just released 3 new tools, Trace, Upscale, & Redraw to help anyone create high-quality images for their own stickers. It’s a fun way to create your own custom stickers or magnets of your pets!)
Want to apply to be a model?
It all starts with an application!