Dog photography requires patience, especially for beginners, because the subjects are often moving around quite a bit! The tips in this article will not only help you to find a balance in photographing moving subjects, but also advance you to the next level of dog photography. You’ll learn the basics of this style of photo taking, including tips and tricks from a dog photographer to help you create art that’ll last a lifetime.
So, if you’d like to start taking quality photos of your best four-legged friend which you can hang proudly on your walls for years to come, keep reading for 6 simple tips for taking your best dog photos yet!
1. Burn Excess Energy Before the Photoshoot
Before ever asking your dog to sit for a photo session, spend time together exercising. Get the ball out for a game of fetch, or go for a walk to wear off some excess energy before the shoot. Your dog is likely to get excited about going on an outing, and the best way to mitigate the trouble of a bouncy dog is to exercise them before ever picking up the camera.
When you’re ready to start snapping, you’ll be glad that you took that time to burn pent up energy beforehand, and your dog will have a much easier time sitting for photos!
Canon EOS 5D + 50mm @ 50mm, ISO 250, 1/320, f/4.0
2. Don’t Just Wing It
Although when photographing animals you can never fully prepare for what’s to come, it does help to think ahead. Whether you’re going for a candid vibe, or a more formal feel, preparing gives you the best chance for success in your images.
When searching for a location, choose the one that your dog enjoys and where she is relaxed. Having a happy dog during your photos will allow you to capture a true sense of her personality!
The important planning steps before bringing your dog into the shoot:
- Decide on the background you want
- Figure out ideal lighting conditions
- Adjust your camera settings
- Take a test shot
Canon EOS 5D + EF24-105mm f/4L IS USM @ 92mm, ISO 100, 1/1000, f/4.0
3. Avoid Distractions
Your dog is going to get distracted, it happens. Depending on their personality, you’ll likely want to limit others around during your photo session to help keep your dog’s focus on you. Choosing locations with limited distractions is ideal, and will allow your dog’s personality shine.
Although treats can work well to get your dog’s focus, it can also cause unwanted excitement. Once your dog is in frame, I recommend using a squeaky toy to grab their attention at the exact moment you’re ready to take the photo. You’ll likely get the perfect eye contact and cute head tilt you’re looking for- but it’ll happen quickly, so make sure you’re ready!
Canon EOS-1Ds Mark II + 50mm @ 50mm, ISO 500, 1/50, f/6.3
4. Use Natural Light to Your Advantage
Learning how to use natural light to your advantage can be tricky, but there are simple ways to make it your best lighting yet.
The best natural lighting for outdoor photoshoots happens in the first few hours after sunrise and last few before sunset. If you’re shooting mid-day, opt for an overcast day as this is when you’ll get the most consistent lighting, and the least amount of shadows. When back-lighting your dog with the sun, try placing a white sheet or poster board on the ground in front of them to reflect light onto their face.
If you’re taking photos of your dog indoors, set up your shoot in a room with big windows offering ample natural light. You’ll want to use the same reflection trick as that outdoors, and use a white sheet to bounce light onto your subject. Because lighting can be tricky indoors, opt for a quality tripod, and use higher ISO and wider aperture for the clearest image.
Good lighting is essential to a quality photo, and natural light can be a wonderful tool when used correctly!
Canon EOS 5D + EF24-105mm f/4L IS USM @ 65mm, ISO 100, 1/640, f/4.0
5. Go to Eye Level
For some of the most engaging and mesmerizing photos, you’ll want to keep your camera at or below the dog’s eye level. This literally means laying on the floor or ground if you have to!
Perspective is key to capturing magical dog photos. Try lying in the grass in front of your dog and shooting through the green blades, or give your dog the height advantage and shoot them looking down on you from above. A clean blue sky framing your mutt’s beautiful face can truly make the most dazzling photograph to hang on your wall at home!
Canon EOS 5D + EF24-105mm f/4L IS USM @ 105mm, ISO 100, 1/40, f/4.0
6. Look at the Whole Picture
It’s easy to focus entirely on your subject and forget about the background of your image, but this isn’t ideal for capturing a memory to cherish for years to come. Remember when photographing your dog to keep the entire image in mind, and opt for a clear frame behind the subject. Also, by creating distance between your subject and the background, you’ll get that beautiful background blur you’re looking for!
Canon EOS 5D + EF50mm f/1.8 @ 50mm, ISO 100, 1/1250, f/2.0
Time to Get Shooting!
Patience is key in dog photography. Go at the pace of your dog, prepare ahead of time, and use this guide to have frame-worthy photos of your best four-legged friend hanging on your wall in no time!
This guest post was contributed by Carly Sutherland, an animal rescuer, educator, and advocate, as well as the creator of Carrots&Carlos. She also rehabilitates sick and neglected animals and shares inspiring images of their progress on the Carrots&Carlos Instagram page. Thank you to Carly for sending this guest post!
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