On-Set Animal Handler: A Top Priority

In my animal photography business, I am very thorough in meeting the needs of every advertising agency and individual involved, including the pets. My profession illustrates my passion and what I do, as well as my love for each participatory domestic animal. I feel it is my responsibility as a commercial dog photographer to treat not only every client with great respect, but the animal as well.

Before I begin working with a client or advertising agency, I present them with an estimate for the cost of the entire production, whether it is featuring animals or personal pets. This estimate invariably includes an animal handler as well as back-up dogs or cats to ensure the session goes as smoothly as possible.

Oftentimes, the client prefers using real owners and their own pets to accurately portray the bonding relationship they have. With the familiarity of one another, it may be assumed that the animal and owner will understand each other and production will go smoothly. With this assumption, the advertising agency or client would rather do without the professional animal wrangler and back-up dogs or cats, as he feels both are unnecessary.

Behind the scenes for a National Pet Food Brand. The animal handler is keeping the cat calmed and making sure he is fine.

For many clients, these “extras” are simply not a top priority; many of the clients feel certain that everything will work seamlessly without the professional on set.  However, there are several significant reasons on why an animal handler and back-up dogs and cats are crucial to the success of the shoot.

One reason for this is the practicality and cost-effectiveness of this valuable addition to the production crew. For instance, the real owner, along with the animal, eventually discovers that being in front of a production crew in an environment that is unfamiliar to the pet can be quite intimidating. The owner and the animal may begin to feel unsettled and stressed as they both attempt to be a part of the perfect shot while on a production set with bright lights, unfamiliar noises, and several people.

Repetitions occur quite often in order to get the precise photograph in which the client envisioned. Without the animal wrangler, these repetitions may come at an additional cost for the client, as we must spend more time to get it just right. It is my responsibility to deliver exactly what each client wants, but with many repetitions the animal may become restless and anxious; he also may not be as cooperative as everyone would like. This is where the dog wrangler comes into play. This professional understands how to keep an animal calm and how to refocus the animal on the task at hand.

Another reason is that the hired animal handler plays a profound role in any photography or commercial session. He is trained to know precisely when to reward the animal with positive reinforcement and is very knowledgeable in the area of animal body language. The animal handler keeps a watchful eye on the dog or cat and is able to intervene if the animal becomes stressed, bored, or begins to exhibit undesirable behavior.

There are also times where the client wants the animal to do something different after many repetitive shots. Cue the dog handler, who can help the client achieve what he wants in terms of a different type of pose or action from the dog or cat. If it is not successful, the animal handler is able to use the qualified backup animal in which he is familiar with to get that perfect shot. This is an additional benefit of this needed professional.

When I am hired to work with an animal owner and the animal, I have a dedication and responsibility to be the best dog photographer I can be. In order for me to deliver amazing results, I can only focus on the photography aspect of the shoot. This is another reason why an animal handler is so very significant in making the session successful; this professional is able to keep a watchful eye over the animal at all times.

Throughout my years as a dog photographer in Los Angeles, I have come to realize that the animal handler and backup animals should never be underestimated. To me, having the wrangler and the extra animals on the set is essential. Being a commercial animal photographer, I believe the time spent in producing the commercials should be enjoyable for everyone involved. When the needs of the animal are put first and foremost, the experience can be not only enjoyable, but fun as well.