Going it alone with the camera doesn't have to result in images of cats sitting behind cage bars or blurry action shots that weren't supposed to be action shots. When you need to photograph adoptable animals and everyone else is busy cleaning cat cages, talking to adopters, or walking dogs, try these tips for shooting solo.
For dog photographs, try tying the dog to the inside of a fence or other solid object with a fairly short leash. Attach the leash fairly high so that she doesn't become entangled. If you're outside (in an enclosed area), squat or sit down with your back to the sun. When you speak to the dog or call her name, she will—hopefully—come toward you as far as the leash allows.
Pre-focus at that distance, and then try to get the dog's attention by making a squeaking or squealing sound, asking her if it wants to "go for a ride," or meowing in a high-pitched voice like a kitty. If you're really coordinated, you can position a squeak toy under your knee and, when the dog is in position, kneel on the toy. When she looks your way, snap the picture! Or, try pre-focusing so that you will be all ready to shoot, and then throw a soft object (like your hat) straight up in the air. As it comes down (hopefully behind you instead of in front of the camera), it should attract the dog's attention and she should look your way. This takes practice, though, and you'll have to be fast with the trigger finger and get ready to shoot as the object is sailing up into the air. Don't get excited and move the camera as you take the picture. You need to hold the camera perfectly still to avoid a blurred image. It's easier said than done, but with practice you can perfect the technique.
When taking pictures of a cat in his cage, swinging the door open will probably encourage the cat to come to the front of the cage, look down, and try to figure out his escape. With the flat of your hand facing the cat's face, you might have to visually give the impression of pushing his face back in quick succession a few times (like a crossing guard stops traffic)—until he "backs off" and figures out that he is not going to be allowed to leave. This method of visually "pushing" the cat back may—at first—cause it to look "pout-y" or upset with you, so then you will need to try to make various "mouse" and "bird" sounds to make him look curious and happy before you snap the photo.
Trying to single-handedly photograph an animal is very difficult, but with patience, creativity, and determination, it can be done!
Marti Houge, of Works of M'art, is a professional animal photographer