Tips and tutorials

Dog Photography Tips: Shooting Your Dog Like a Pro… With a Camera!

There are some difficulties accompanying photography as a career or a hobby which no amount of education can prepare you for. One of those difficulties is avoiding frightening away readers by finding a title that doesn’t involve the words “Shooting Your Dog”  in some variation. Finally, I just embraced it. Now, on to some of the more practical and universal issues you may encounters when photographing the best friend you have without opposable thumbs.

dog photography tips
Photo Credits: Eve Dias

Dog photography tips

Context and Character

This one’s maybe the second most important considerations when shooting  your dog’s portrait: avoiding artificiality. My method for determining authenticity levels for a shoot is asking myself the following question: How likely is it that this dog would sit regally in front of a dramatic waterfall, her carriage held flawlessly? How likely is it that this dog will or would sit still in front of a colored silk backdrop long enough for his noble bearing to be capture?

Bosten terrier travelling -- dog photography tips
Photo credits: Matthew Woolly/500px

I’m not asking that to suggest that it’s unnatural for all dogs to be photographed in more prepared tableaus like that. I’ve worked with some show dogs for whom that kind of thing seems not only natural but more appropriate than any alternatives I considered. However, if your Boston Terrier loves to get lazy on the couch with you, make the shoot about him lounging, maybe with you. On the other hand if your Border Collie would go crazy sitting on a couch waiting for something to happen, take her to the park and get some great fetching, playing, jumping, sprinting action shots.

Quick Shutter Speeds and “Burst” Settings

Should your dog lean more toward the rowdy than the relaxed, take advantage of quicker shutter speeds that allow for action shots without, or with far less, blurring of shots. The “burst” or continuous high speed option allows for a series of pictures to be snapped in quick succession. It’s particularly fun for tricks, jumping, Frisbee/ball catches and anything else dynamic and action-based.

Dog in flight -- Dog photography tips
Photo Credits: Glenn Nagel/500px

Make Like a Girl Scout (or Boy Scout, I guess) and Be Prepared

Should you decide to take some extra time for your shoots (or not), always keep the camera close because you never know when the cute’s gonna happen.

Photo Credits: David Hodgins/500px

Time is on Your Side

Ever since I first heard ‘Time is on My Side” by the Rolling Stones, I suspected that Mick Jagger was referring to dog photography. Now I know that he was. Why? Because the average professional photographer, unless paid a fairly hefty amount of money, isn’t going to spend any more than a few hours with your furry friend. You, however, have a few hours, many hours, a few days, months, years, whatever to get a great picture. I’m not saying that you should casually snap random pictures but you can definitely spend time getting your pooch comfortable with the camera, trying different things, shooting when you know the light is right, etc.

A dog covering its eyes -- dog photography tips
Photo Credits: Ksenia Raykova/500px

Natural Light

Natural light is virtually always preferable to artificial alternatives, flash in particular (that’s a fairly safe rule for all photography, in my experience). As is the case with people-photographing, a flash can give subjects a washed-out, artificial look. Although people are far less likely to sprint out of the room and hide under the bed because they’re frightened of the flash or attack the photographer. Believe it or not, I’ve seen bigger dogs go after someone for hitting them with a flash.

A dog in field -- dog photography tips
Photo Credits: Lothar Adamczyk/500px

Have a Good Time

Since the second most important dog photography tip came first, I’ll make the first Most Important Photography Consideration last. That consideration is: Have Fun. If your photo shoot is characterized by your frustration and your dog’s confusion, anxiety and discomfort, not only will the experience be a wash, your pictures will reflect that. Work with your canine companion and strive to capture what you love about them and the finished product will be a good memory capturing the essence of your furry family member and not just a picture of a dog.

Dog running over water
Photo Credits: Dragan Todorović/500px

About the author

Amy Cobb feels most at home behind a keyboard or a snapping shutter. She’s a Jill-of-All-Trades media refugee turned blogger who, since jumping ship from the Fourth Estate, writes on all things media and media-education-related. Most recently she’s worked on pinning down the best photography colleges in the country. When not writing, Amy is doing her best not to torture the flora in her square foot gardening plots and she’s always at the beck and call of her Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, Snarls Barkley.

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