As soon as I saw this session from Jenn Repp Photography I knew that it had to be featured here on Being Boutique! I’ve lost count of the number of times a client has requested that Fido or Fluffy join them for “just a few shots” and each time I felt uninspired and lost when it came to posing. Well, Jenn has mastered the technique of incorporating these beloved pets into her photo sessions and today she is coming to the rescue of photographers everywhere and sharing some of her favorite tips and tricks for how to get clients smiling and tails wagging!
Hi, my name is Jennifer Repp. Most people call me Jenn, NEVER Jenny. Some call me Repp. A few call me J.R. and a handful just “hey photographer!” (that’s mostly the wedding crowd). I recently got engaged to my favorite person on the planet, so I’m in the midst of planning my June wedding. Together, we have a sweet dog, named Olly, who believes she is a human. We haven’t had the heart to tell her otherwise.
As far as my career is concerned, I started out with a journalism degree, but found myself more interested in the photographers and their work, than the beats I was assigned. Eventually, I enrolled in photography school, worked commercially for a year, then (reluctantly) photographed a friend’s wedding, and never looked back! That was 6 years ago. Yes, I was the “friend with the fancy camera.” Luckily, I actually had some know-how on operating that fancy camera, and I’m good at staying calm in chaotic situations (like a wedding). After connecting with my clients on their wedding days, they began contacting me when they were starting families, and suddenly I also had a booming lifestyle portrait business.
I love being asked by my clients if they can bring their dog to our session. In this day and age, or at least in Seattle, dogs are family members. We treat them like children, so it’s hard to leave them out of the important moments.
If you’ve been asked to include a dog, the most important thing the client needs to bring is a baggy of treats. This can even be a handful of the dog’s regular food if the client is worried about too many calories. Most dogs will always respond to food. If you get the unique case that doesn’t, maybe try a favorite toy—preferably squeaky. Also, try to set the session in a location that isn’t filled with people and allows the pup room to move. Tight quarters can create anxiety in some breeds, and a lot of people around will be distracting.
When you arrive at the session, I recommend keeping your camera tucked away while allowing the dog to come to you and check you out. This would be a great time to give a treat—never be afraid to bribe a dog’s affection. If the dog won’t come to you, don’t force it. Let the couple/group take the dog on a little “walk” away and back while you shoot with a longer lens. This can help the dog get used to your presence and the click of the shutter. I usually keep this routine of walking and stopping, while shooting with my long lens, until the dog will come to me. When this happens, I know I can put a wider lens on and get closer without scaring the dog (again, have treats ready).
(Jenn’s favorite go-to lens for those gorgeous up close shots is the luscious Nikon 35mm 1.4)
Once the dog has become ok with, or maybe even loves, your presence, you can work on more poses. Sitting is clearly the easiest way to get a portrait of everyone together at the same level. The dog is going to move around quite a bit, so be at the ready. When attempting to capture portraits, I’ve noticed that most dogs won’t look at me when my face is hidden by my camera. I typically align my shot, peek over my camera to make eye contact, and yell the dog’s name, or “treat!” or I whistle, or any combination of these. The dog usually responds, just try and ignore the look of confused pity in his or her eyes.
From this point on, you are free to run the session as you please. I like to get down to the dog’s level and shoot with the pup in the foreground, or allow the dog a little playtime mixed with some clicks of the camera. I also like to have the couple drop the leash (if the dog is trained to not go sprinting away and/or we are nowhere near a busy road).
“You can get some great moments when you direct the shoot as you would if the dog wasn’t there. It’s a lot like it is with children (have you noticed the similarities?). Once you ignore them they want the spotlight.”
You end up with beautiful poses and an adorable dog staring right at you begging you to once again pay attention to him or her. Remember, treats, walks, patience, play, and praise! Good luck!
And as if that article wasn’t already pure gold, Jenn also shared some more about herself and her business in the following interview:
Being Boutique: What are your guiding business principles?
Jenn: I strive to stay true to myself as an artist while always putting the client first. This is a creative industry but it’s also built on customer service…excellent customer service is key, a hand written thank you note here, a sweet treat there. You can be the best at what you do, but if clients don’t book/refer you, you are out of business. Also, I always try to grow and improve. I believe there’s always room for improvement. Learning new techniques and/or business practices keeps me inspired.
Being Boutique: Speaking of improvements and customer service, how have you set you and your business apart from the crowd?
Jenn: That’s a good question. It seems pretty tricky in this day and age, with the market being saturated by so many very talented photographers, beginners to long-time professionals. I don’t have a secret formula. All I can say is that I’ve done everything I can to stay true to myself and my belief that the best photographs capture real moments. When it comes to making any decision: lens, angle, process, branding, etc, I always ask myself, “does this represent me and my brand?” It was a piece of advice I was given from another photographer when I was first starting out and I’ve never forgotten it. I’m also a people person who works well under pressure (thanks to years as a restaurant server). Many of my clients become my friends because I talk to them and get to know them during the shoot. This makes them more comfortable in front of the camera allowing me to capture those real moments I believe in.
Being Boutique: What three things do you make sure to always do with every session?
Jenn: Laugh, talk, and definitely high five…or fist bump!
Being Boutique: Your sessions sound like a lot of fun! Who has been your favorite client to work with?
Jenn: I can’t just choose one. My favorite clients are the clients that allow the moments to happen. They don’t try to force everyone to hold a fake smile or jump in the air. They trust me capture the right moments and let the people involved just be themselves.
Being Boutique: With so much emphasis put on the “moment,” what has been your most rewarding moment as a photographer?
Jenn: Seriously? Again, how can I pick just one? I will tell you just one, but that doesn’t mean it outweighs pretty much every moment I get to spend behind the lens. I received an email from one of my couples after they received their wedding book. They were thrilled with the book, but more importantly thrilled to have so many happy photographs of one of the groomsmen who had unfortunately passed away just after the wedding. It’s always rewarding knowing that you are able to capture time and deliver it to clients wrapped up in a bow of emotions to keep forever.
Being Boutique: Now for something fun… What’s something few people know about you?
Jenn: I was a gymnast and can beat almost anyone in a handstand contest. I’ve only lost once and it was a fluke.
Being Boutique: Really! That flexibility must come in handy with some of the crazy poses we get into as photographers. But if you weren’t a photographer, what would you want to be? Why?
Jenn: It’s a tie. The easy answer is a graphic designer. I love everything about design and it uses so many of the same principles as photography that it just makes sense. My other choice would be a cold case detective. I’ve become pretty addicted to almost any sort of criminal/detective show—they keep me company when I’m up editing late at night—and I think piecing together the psychology of all involved (criminals, victims, and police) along with the evidence of unsolved cases from a fresh perspective would be such a challenging and fascinating job.
Being Boutique: We’re just now finishing up the first quarter of 2013. What are your business goals for this year?
Jenn: I need to find a better work/life balance. Since the weather in Seattle is so finicky, the majority of all bookings happen in the same time frame, June-early October and then a quick hit in November for Christmas photos. The spring is also pretty busy but nothing like the summer and fall. I always feel the tide of work sweep me away in June and before I know it, it’s December and I’ve formed a serious relationship with my computer, while forgetting what everyone I know looks like. I vow that this season, I will give myself at least one day off a week and take a vacation (the wedding will cover that!) without letting my work suffer. I actually think it will improve it…I guess we’ll see!
Being Boutique: Thank you for sharing this fantastic session! What was so special about it?
Jenn: This is my favorite location to shoot. Fall is my favorite time of year in Seattle. I love her style and the couple’s easy with each other, and most importantly, I loved this adorable little pup! (We loved him, too!)
Thank you so much for the helpful article and interesting interview, Jenn! We should all feel a bit more prepared and confident when including pets in our sessions from now on, and I, for one, am adding doggie treats to my shopping list right now!
Jenn Repp is a journalist-turned-photographer who captures life’s moments in vivid detail. A self-proclaimed “Nikon girl,” Jenn creates beautiful images for her clients while remaining true to her brand and personal style. Her work conveys a rich depth of emotion and the focus is always on the relationships between the subjects while capturing the laughter, smiles, and quirkiness that are the signature of a session with Jenn.
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