As we all know, any type of mountain job requires planning of some sort. Working outdoors (especially in the winter time) can be the biggest blessing, but it definitely brings its own share of challenges. To add to these uncertainties, including pets (specifically dogs) in the mix will need some preparation of its own. Dogs are incredibly beautiful and fascinating creatures. Photographing them can be an entertaining, rewarding, and fun job. As with any job, there are certain things you should prepare and expect. We are going to go through a few of them today. If this sounds like a job you would be interested in taking advantage of, definitely keep reading!

Preparing for the hike

Like most jobs, there are some things you will need to prepare prior to embarking on your journey. Researching the specific breed of dog, you will be photographing can make things easier on you and the dog’s owner. Some dog breeds that are typically fit for hiking (such as Siberian huskies) have very energetic, playful, and stubborn. It can be helpful to know some of this information prior to the hike, so you know what kind of job you are walking into. Another helpful thing to do prior to the hike/job is to talk to the dog’s owner and find out what basic commands this specific dog knows. Every dog’s skill set is slightly different, so knowing this information ahead of time can help you make sure you are able to communicate with your subject in the best way possible.

You can also ask the owner to bring familiar objects (such as a toy or blanket) to make sure their dog is the most comfortable they can be in an unknown situation. While you are speaking with the dog’s owner, you will also want to make sure they have the correct gear. For winter hiking, dogs will need gear to make sure they are safe and comfortable. It’s essential for them to have dog snow boots. This will protect their paws from any damaging objects in nature. It will also make sure that their paws are
warm throughout the shoot to prevent any disturbances in the animal’s comfort levels.

In addition to the snow boots, if the owner would like to go dog skijoring (also known as dog skiing) you will need a skijoring harness. These are special harnesses used for dog skijoring. Skijoring is a mix between walking your dog and skiing. Basically, the dogs will pull their owner on skis. It’s very important for the owner to have this specific harness to ensure the dog’s maximum comfort. It will be the easiest to work with dogs when they are most comfortable.

As far as your own preparation, you should bring a bag of gear that will help the job run as smoothly as possible. In this bag, we would recommend toys, treats, a different lens, extra battery, a longer leash with extra room for the dog to run, tripod, and multiple memory cards. By having these items on hand, you are demonstrating a step above the expected in providing an excellent customer service experience.

In addition to these preparations, it’s important to check out the weather for the day you are planning to have the shoot. This might seem obvious, but it can be very important in the case of winter hiking photography. If you want your shots to have more snow on the ground, you may need to plan your shoot around the latest snowfall.

Best practices for camera settings

In most cases, if you are hired for this job, you will already have photography experience. But there are some best practices for both outdoor and pet photography that are important to remember. If you are looking for a general mode to be in, we would recommend Sports or Continuous mode. This is because, on a hike, there is going to be a lot of movement. This will prevent getting a plethora of blurry shots that cannot be used. In general, we would recommend using a wide aperture. This is usually best for pet photography. This is because it focuses on the detail of your subject, while still providing an excellent view of the entire landscape.

During the shoot

When you actually begin the hike, there are a few “best practices” that you can do to make sure you get the best photos possible. The first thing is to get
acquainted with the dog (or dogs) you are working with by allowing them to get familiar with your gear. Allow them to sniff your camera and even take a few test shots. By taking some test photos, the dog will be able to hear any shutter sounds that the camera might make. This can ensure that they are not startled when they hear any noise from the camera during the shoot. In addition to this, getting down to the level of the dog can be helpful for making sure the dog is comfortable. It can also provide some unique angels that will capture the detail of the settings and the details of your subject. It’s important for the dog you are working with to trust you, by getting on their level physically, you will be able to provide some of that trust.

Even if you are a seasoned photographer, photographing animals and outdoors, in general, can be an exciting challenge. With this being said, there are so many photo possibilities when using a moving subject in the beautiful scenery. If you enjoy working with animals and spending time outdoors, this job would be perfect for you! If you have a dog of your own, it could be helpful to take some practice shots for your portfolio. We hope that these tips help you in your quest for becoming a photographer for dogs on winter hikes!