Do you love dogs but struggle to capture your canine on camera? Never fear, we have 10 dog photography tips that will help you create fabulous images.
Who can resist a cute canine? Dogs are undoubtedly man’s best friend, but are they a photographer’s? If you have one in your family, you no doubt love taking photos of him/her.
But are you getting the best results? Here are our top ten tips on how to get adorable results with your dog photography.
1. Use a Fast Lens
Dogs don’t hang around! Blink and you’ll miss their antics so it’s important to use a fast lens and a fast shutter speed.
My go-to lens is the 70-200mm f2.8 telephoto – it’s quick enough to freeze movement on those all-important running shots, plus you can zoom in and out quickly should you need to. It also pulls in the background nicely on shots.
Make sure you shoot at a high frame rate, otherwise you’ll miss out on those special moments.
Prime lenses are also good – 50mm or 85mm will work well. Be careful about opening up your aperture all the way down. Sure, opening up the aperture will give you faster shutter speed and lovely bokeh. But it might also blur parts of your subject’s face.
2. Create Bokeh Effect
The bokeh effect is pleasing to the eye. It separates your subject by blurring the background elements. This is especially useful if you are photographing the dogs in a visually distractive background.
Here’s how to get a bokeh effect in dog photography:
- Use a large aperture (like f/2.8 or f/1,4)
- Position the dog far away from the background.
- Use a Telephoto lens to enlarge/blur the background elements
- Move closer to your dog when shooting.
3. Use a Faster Shutter Speed
Dogs are active animals. So if you want to avoid motion blur in your dog photos, you should use a faster shutter speed like 1/400th of a second.
4. Good Lighting Is Key to Good Dog Photography
Photography is all about lighting. Dog photography is no exception.
Schedule your shoot during sunrise or sunset if you want that golden hue in your photos. If that is not possible, an overcast day is best as this provides even lighting.
If you must shoot in broad daylight, when the sunlight is harsh, try shooting in shade. Then play with shadows to get unique effects.
If you are doing an indoor photography session, shoot near a window to illuminate the dog.
5. Focus on the Dog’s Eyes
Your dog’s eyes should be the focal point of your photo.
We as humans are hard-wired to make eye contact. Use this to your advantage in dog photography by focusing on the dog’s eyes. Doing so draws your viewers attention to your subject naturally.
First focus on the eyes and then re-compose as needed using the focus and re-compose method.
6. Use a Great Background
The background of the frame is as important as your subject.
Find a nice backdrop which contrasts with the color of the dog. Tree trunks, logs, gates, benches, brickwork, and doorways all make great backdrops or frames for dog photography.
7. Frame Your Dogs for Better Composition
Look for elements that could frame your subject. You can immediately draw the viewer’s attention to your subjects by doing so.
Use things like tree branches or windows to help you with framing.
8. Groom the Dog Prior to the Shoot
Make sure the dog is groomed prior to the shoot, especially if the breed is long-haired–this will save you vital time later in lightroom or Photoshop.
Make sure the grooming appointment is as close as possible to the day of the shoot.
If they cannot be professionally groomed, make sure they have been brushed well before they arrive and there is a brush on standby, should further grooming be needed.
9. Tempt the Dog with Treats
Who doesn’t love a treat?
Dogs definitely do! Bring treats along–lots of treats! This is the key to success, nine times out of ten. Use them to get the dog to:
- Stay in one position;
- Look at the camera;
- Look off to the side of the camera; and
- Tilt its head.
Don’t reward them with the treat until you have secured the shot you want.
The act of giving the dog a treat can also reap rewards–the act of them catching the treat in their mouth, or the dog chewing, can be amusing additions to any dog photography image collection.
10. Get down and (Probably) Dirty
Don’t be afraid to kneel or even lay on the floor. You need to be at eye level with the dog for the image to have an impact, so you need to be low to the ground.
If you are shooting outside, this will often mean kneeling on muddy footpaths or ground, so make sure you are wearing clothes you don’t mind getting dirty.
11. Use Props
Who doesn’t love a cute canine in a hat? If your canine has a favorite item of clothing, use it–props make memorable images.
Ensure your non-prop portraits are completed first, and then play with props. I find bright or patterned bowties, sunglasses, hats, scarves, coats, jumpers, and bandanas work really well in dog photography.
Please be wary though–every dog is different and some will not like to be dressed up. If you try something and it doesn’t work, move on–never force the dog to do something it doesn’t want to do.
12. Be on the Ball with Action Shots
Toys are often the key to good action shots. Sometimes a simple tennis ball or a stick is all you need.
Make sure you leave these shots to the end of the session–it doesn’t matter if the dog gets disheveled now.
Set your speed to around 1/1000 or more to freeze the action.
Either you or someone behind you can throw the ball away from you: then capture shots of the dog running back towards you with the ball in its mouth; and
Have someone stand far away from you and throw the ball towards you (so that it lands in front of you, or just off to your side): then capture shots of the dog running at you without the ball in its mouth.
13. Learn How to Handle Different Dog Breeds
Educate yourself on the breed of dog you are dealing with–different breeds have different temperaments.
Some dogs are quiet and sweet-natured, such as Golden Retrievers; while others are bred for hunting, full of energy and don’t like sitting for long, such as Spaniels.
Know what you are dealing with before the shoot, so that you know the best way to handle the dog during the session.
Pro Tip: Always get down low to the ground when you first meet any dog and talk quietly to it–establish trust with the animal.
14. Think Safety During Dog Photography Sessions
Is the location in which you want to shoot safe for dogs?
- Make sure there are no busy roads nearby, which the dog could run into;
- Steer clear of long grass–dogs can scratch their eyes when running through it, plus it can be home to nasty ticks;
- Is there anything hazardous or distractions (other dogs or livestock) nearby.
15. General Advice for Dog Photography Sessions
Here are a few more practical dog photography tips I have learned on the field:
- Keep the dog on its leash until you are ready to start shooting–this will keep them calm and prevent them from tiring themselves out.
- Make sounds with a squeaker or whistle to get the dog looking at you.
- Don’t be afraid to have the dog look off-camera and into the distance.
- Use different photography composition rules to draw attention to your subject.
- Take a mixture of full-body, plus head and shoulder shots.
- Most importantly, make it fun for the dog. If at any point, they become distressed or too distracted, pause the session.
16. Patience Is Key in Dog Photography
You need plenty of patience for good dog photography; for every dream shoot with a well-trained dog, there is an untrained, boisterous puppy.
So allow plenty of time for your shoot. Earn the dog’s trust: play with them, give them treats and talk to them. Get their owner to engage with them to calm them down or get them to play.
Even when you’re faced with the most challenging subject, the shoot should be fun for everyone involved. If the dog does not play ball (in more ways than one) for whatever reason, re-schedule and try again another day.
17. Practice Makes Perfect Dog Photos
Good dog photography takes practice, patience and a nose for sniffing out perfect images. But it’s always fun and if you love dogs, it can be a genuinely rewarding experience.
So why not try our tips and take your canine candids to the next level.
Related Article: The ultimate guide to Pet Photography
Be Inspired by the Best Dog Photographers
Here are some of the best dog photography accounts to follow on Instagram:
Elke Vogelsang takes stunning studio portraits, which are a joy to view. Often quirky, but always picture-perfect, Elke often uses her own three dogs as models.
Andy Biggar captures some genuinely emotional images with his work–I challenge you not to be moved:
Kaylee Greer is an award-winning pet photographer and takes the most whimsical images of dogs, under the name Dog Breath Photography:
Purrpaws Fotografie images by Natalie Große are soft, dreamy and super sweet:
Mareike Konrad is a fine art and commercial dog photographer. Her beautiful images make stunning portraiture:
Vieler Photography by Christian Vieler captures the most fabulous faces of dogs going after their treats:
The Dogist by Elias Weiss Friedman combines dogs and street photography:
The Artisan Hound by Josie Baughan has some breathtakingly beautiful images:
Isabel Pössl incorporates the most stunning colors and backgrounds into all her images:
Mutley’s Snaps by Ewan Cheyne have a particularly polished look about them, and they are committed to getting clients to print their images:
Related Article: Family Photography Tips
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