One of the biggest questions potential clients have is, “My dog does not have a good stay and has to remain on leash. Will you still be able to get portraits of my dog?”
My answer? Yes!
Safety always comes first. If your dog needs to remain on leash—for any reason, there are a number of tricks that can be used when shooting your portraits. Typically, I use a combination of leash handling during the session and editing when creating the final portraits. A little pre-photo preparation can turn your on-leash portraits into off-leash portraits during post-processing.
Let me show you a couple of examples.
On-Leash Portrait 1: Sadie
Sadie was a lovely subject during her session. She posed like a champ, and never let the leash hold her get in her way. In this portrait, Sadie’s dad exhibits the perfect leash-holding technique. He was standing off to Sadie’s left and kept as much of the leash from touching or crossing over Sadie’s body as possible. It’s usually far easier to edit out the leash if it involves editing the background and not a large portion of the dog. The more the leash touches the dog the more editing is required to create the final artwork.
As you can see in the before (above) and after (below)images, I removed the the leash and collar tags from this portrait of Sadie. Because you can compare images, you can clearly see the differences. However, without the comparison, you wouldn’t know there was ever a leash involved.
There were other post processing changes that I made for artistic purposes. For instance, in the original photo, there were a number of highlights in the trees behind Sadie. Softening those did not affect the overall golden glow of the light, but did remove the visual distraction, focusing the viewer’s attention just where it should be—on Sadie.
On-Leash Portrait 2: Tuesday
At the time of our session, Tuesday was a very energetic not quite two year-old Labrador Retriever. Like most young dogs, she was a lot like an overgrown puppy. She would have greatly preferred to be moving and not staying still. So, we chose to leave her on leash for her posed portraits. Tuesday’s dad took on the leash holding duties, standing off to her left just out of frame, while I captured this portrait of her.
Just like with Sadie’s portrait, I removed Tuesday’s leash and her collar, giving the resulting portrait a less-cluttered look. Additionally, I cleaned up the debris on the bridge, and removed the distracting vegetation alongside and behind Tuesday. Making these additional edits helped to keep Tuesday as the center of attention.
On-Leash Portrait 3: Ticket
Oh, my goodness! How can you resist a fluffy Golden puppy?
Obviously, it’s not realistic to expect a puppy to be able sit still for the duration a portrait session—and chasing him around would tire us out pretty quickly. So Ticket stayed on leash for his formal portraits. Once again, we used our tried-and-true leash-holding trick to make it easier to removed. Ticket’s owner stood off to the left holding the leash high enough to keep it from crossing over his body or drooping into the vegetation.
Editing Ticket’s final portrait was extremely simple. I removed the leash, easily replacing it with blue sky.
Light retouching/editing is part of creating the final artwork for a portrait session. A little pre-planning and teamwork during the session, not only keeps your dog safe, but makes for some fantastic final images.