If you own a dog, chances are 90 percent of your camera roll on your phone is just pictures of your pup. It’s also very likely that a majority of those photos are blurry outtakes because it’s so difficult to get your dog to sit still. As a professional dog photographer, I have experience photographing every type of dog. Whether your pup is camera shy, stubborn, or overly excited, here are some dog photography tips to get the perfect shot of your four-legged best friend.
Get the Right Light
Lighting can easily make or break a photo. If you want a golden hue to your photo, schedule your shooting around sunrise or sunset. Overcast days are also ideal because they provide even lighting. However, if you have to shoot in the middle of the day when the sunlight is harshest, try to find some shade.
When shooting inside, try to find natural lighting and avoid dark rooms with no windows. When there is little light, your photos will be blurry since dogs are constantly moving.
Use Treats and Toys
If your dog refuses to look in the camera, you’ll need something to bribe them with in order to get them to look at you. Whether your dog is motivated by treats or their favorite toy, test out what gets their attention.
After you let your dog get a sniff of their treat or toy, place the reward at their eye level so they are looking directly at your camera lens. The key is to snap the photos quickly and reward them often before they lose interest.
If nothing seems to be getting their attention, try whimpering or making other weird noises to get them look at you. You can also try dancing and waving your arms. Trust me, you’ll feel strange and awkward doing it, but it often works!
Less Distractions the Better
When you take your dog out of their usual environment, chances are they are going to be over stimulated. If you’re in a public area, there are so many new sights, sounds and smells they want to investigate. To get that perfect shot, find an area that isn’t heavily populated so your dog can focus on you without being distracted.
If you’re somewhere that is dog-friendly, let your dog play for a little while and get their energy out before you snap a pic. Once they settle in and become more comfortable, then you can try getting their attention for a photo.
Get Down at Their Level
Dogs are closer to the ground than we are, so it is best to get down to their level. By squatting or laying on the ground, you can see things from their perspective. If your photo shoot is outside, be aware that you will most likely be getting your clothes dirty so wear an outfit you can easily clean.
Don’t be afraid to experiment with different angles and perspectives. For example, you can take a mixture of full-body, plus head and shoulder shots.
Focus on the Eyes
It’s true what they say, eyes are the window to the soul. You can learn so much from a dog just by looking into their eyes. If they are out of focus, it takes so much away from the photo.
By focusing on the eyes, it will draw your viewer’s attention to your dog naturally. If your dog has a longer snout, a lot of cameras will automatically focus on their nose, so make sure you are manually focusing on the eyes before you snap each picture.
Use Burst Mode
Unless your dog is sleeping, chances are they are not going to sit in front of the camera for very long. In order to capture the perfect shot, it is best to use burst mode so you don’t miss your opportunity.
Use a high shutter speed (1/400th of second or higher) for sharp and in-focus shots, especially if you’re trying to capture action shots of your dog running or playing with other dogs.
Frame Your Dog
Look for different elements around you that you could use to frame your dog for better composition. By doing so, your viewer’s attention will be drawn directly to your subject. You can use things around you such as flowers, leaves, tree branches, windows, etc. Don’t be afraid to experiment with your dog photography!
Don’t Forget Grooming
You’ll want your dog to look their best in the pictures, so don’t forget to groom them prior to the shoot. Set up a grooming appointment or give them a bath the day of so they are squeaky clean. Don’t forget to brush out your dog’s fur for a smooth and shiny look, especially if they have long hair. We don’t want mats or flyways taking the focus away from your dog’s beauty. Also, use a grooming wipe to remove your dog’s eye gunk.
Patience is Key
It is rare that you’ll get the perfect photo first try. In order to get the photo you’re hoping for, you have to be patient with your dog and give them time and space. Dog photography is challenging and takes a lot of practice. Earn the dog’s trust by playing with them, giving them treats and talking to them. Once they have settled in and are more responsive to your commands, then you can start taking photos.
Think of a photo shoot as bonding time with your dog. The more fun you have with them, the more likely they are going to listen to you. If you become easily frustrated or angry when they aren’t listening, chances are your dog is going to pick up on your negative energy.
Don’t give your dog a reason to create negative associations with your camera. Go with the flow, have fun and see where it takes you. Some of the best shots come unplanned!