Dog Photography

PF 069: Improve Your Dog Photography Now With 6 Easy Tips

Dog Photography Tips for Your Family Pets

We don't pretend to be dog photography experts, but we've spent a fair amount of time photographing our pets over the years, both young and old. With that experience in mind, we have six proven tips to help you get nice photos of your pets and have fun while shooting.

There are a few more bonus tips in the podcast that came up during the discussion, so please give it a listen.

1: Have Patience!

The average adult dog has the mentality of a three year old human. Keep your expectations realistic. They won't have a long attention span before they get bored, distracted or otherwise become disengaged with your photos.

If you're shooting puppies, expect their attention span to be even shorter.

For puppies, we recommend playing with them before the shoot to get them a bit tired. Not so tired that they need a nap, but a restful puppy is much easier to photograph than one trying to lick or eat your lens.

2: Know Your Purpose For the Photos

While I like to visualize my photos before the shot, Lee is much more comfortable getting photos as the moments come. There is merit to both ideas, but it's hard to wrangle a puppy for a specific shot. You'll save some frustration if you follow Lee's example and get what the dog gives you.

Which approach you take depends upon why you want the photos. Are you taking shots of family pets, as we do? Do you want to capture your dog in a photo that shows off their personality, or do you want more of a portrait style shot? Maybe you want a shot of your dog with his favorite toy.

Golden Retriever with ball

You can use your dog's color to help determine where to shoot. Some dogs have great color contrast. Others, such as our Black Lab, seem to absorb light and the background becomes critical to get a decent shot.

3: Get Down on Their Level

For the most part, we see our dogs from above. It's a pretty common point of view.

Zach as a puppy

They're cute, but getting down on their level can give you a photo with a perspective most people never see. If you want to take a nice photo, put your camera someplace interesting.

Dog Photography

4: Prepare to Come Away Without a Shot

Any number of things can interfere with your dog photography session. The dog may not give you an interesting look. The weather may not be great. We often shoot in our back yard that hosts a number of oak trees. That means we get a lot of dappled light, making it difficult to get the shot we envision.

Sometimes you need multiple takes to get the shot you have in mind. If it doesn't happen on the first three or four tries, your dog may no longer have an interest in performing for your camera.

I really like getting shots of our dogs running toward the camera. The problem is that there is a sweet spot where the dog is in the right spot for your composition.

Will the dog look into the lens with a happy smile and ears flapping? Most of the time, not in the spot where you need it to happen. Especially if it's a puppy.

I tried this recently with our Golden Retriever puppy, Emma. Sometimes she looked the wrong way, as my daughter was running along-side to get her to perform. Emma often tumbled head over heels in the sweet spot. Then there were times I just didn't nail the focus.

You only get so many tries with a shot like that one.

However, your circumstances may vary. Some shot may be better than no shot. In our case, we can try again if we don't get the shot we want.

5: Get Engagement with the Camera

When you look at your dog photos, you want to see your dog looking back at you. Just as with portrait photography, the eyes are where you find the action.

One of the best ways to get that engagement is to have someone assist. It may be possible to do dog photography by yourself, but I wouldn't recommend that as your first approach.

You take care of the photography. Let your assistant take care of engaging the dog's attention and getting her to look toward the camera.

That may mean using squeaky toys or other noise makers. Some dogs work well with hand gestures. Others zero in on food or treats right away. A reward for the dog can reward the photographer with an intense look of concentration or excitement. However, it may also result in the dog jumping over you to get the treat in your assistant's hand.

Use your own best judgment depending upon the personality of your subject.

6: Action is for Older Dogs

Dog Photography

I won't say you can't get an action shot of your puppy, but our experience tells us that it's much easier with an adult dog. Puppies are all over the place – physically and mentally. Our pups can start running toward us and get distracted along the way, tumble over, or just decide to stop and scratch something.

Older dogs are eager to please and you can get them to do the same action plenty of times before they lose interest.

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