Taking pictures of your dog, cat, or other pets are often similar to taking photos of your children. As promised here are a few simple, yet basic, aspects to keep in mind when taking pictures of your family dog(s). If there is interest, in future I can provide information to address more advanced approaches. These six tips will form a good base to get you started taking better snapshots of your family pet.
- Have an assistant, whenever possible. If you have a friend or family member you can put them to work in playing with the dog or pup or by acting as a distraction with a toy, for instance. Squeaky toys are good for getting dogs to perk their ears at attention and for directing which direction the dog faces.
- Turn off the flash and turn the beep feature off on your camera. Take your photos in a brightly lit room or outdoors so the flash is not necessary. Many animals become leary of cameras when the beep goes off every time the shutter is released. You don’t want your pet worried about the camera — you want him/her relaxed.
- Forget about posing! Attempting to pose a dog, especially with the dog looking straight at the camera, most times is so lifeless and lacks personality. The best photos are those where you capture your dog (or your kids) at play, concentrating or showing curiosity over something, or even relaxing after a long run or playtime. As mentioned, if you have some toys or treats with you, you can toss it out to get the dog moving or playing. When you forget about posing and simply allow your pet to be itself, not only will you capture personality but you’ll also find you enjoy these the most because the real essence of your dog/pet is captured.
- Turn your camera’s setting to continuous mode. Whether you have a point-and-shoot, a DSLR or a 35mm film camera, you will have that capability. This allows the camera to take a continuous stream of photos while keeping the shutter pressed, hopefully so you don’t miss some unexpected shots especially if your pet is moving.
- Take lots and lots of pictures! Don’t worry so much about perfection. Be more concerned about capturing special moments. If you have a digital camera, you have the luxury of taking all kinds of shots without having to pay for developing/processing. Simply delete the rejects after downloading them to your computer and hang on to the good ones (be sure to get them printed).
- Get down! This one is key. When you get down to the pet’s level (again, this is important for photos of children too) and preferably the closer the better, your images will immediately improve. If you have a DSLR, you can get even better results by attaching your zoom lens. This will allow you to be further away (out of their face), less intimidating, and to still capture those close up shots. Ideally, you want to nearly (or fully) fill the frame with your subject. You don’t want your subject to be a blob or dot in the frame.
The dog’s face fills the frame, concentrating on his eyes. He’s not looking directly at the camera (distracted) and the camera is not in his face because a zoom lens was used. The only thing done to this was to sharpen it slightly after downloading to the computer.
It doesn’t matter that this dog is not facing the camera — the image tells a story: she is hanging back while the other two are off hunting (typical of this dog). Taken down at the dog’s level and she nearly fills the frame.
Here the dog is captured playing in the snow (with snow flying). It doesn’t matter that the other dog’s head snuck in — it shows curiosity. Again, the dog mostly fills the frame.
Here’s a shot taken after the dog had sufficient time to play and wear off energy. He’s keeping still yet his attention is elsewhere (a distraction) and has that ‘posed’ look.
Copyright © 2009 Diane Schuller. All Rights Reserved. It is illegal to copy any part of this post or the photos without the written permission of the author. You may link to this page from your blog or website.
Diane is an on-location dog, pet & livestock photographer serving Grande Prairie & Northern Alberta/BC. Visit Diane Schuller Photography.