Dogs have a wonderful sense of humour. The moment you turn on your camera – they stop doing whatever made you reach for it. The keys to great dog photographs are planning and patience.
Of course, sometimes our favourite photos are perfectly imperfect. And instead, what makes it a great photo is the moment in time captured.
Fortunately, with digital cameras, we no longer have to worry about the expenses of film and developing. We can take dozens of pictures and only print, save and share the perfect shot – no one has to know how long it took to take!
After you take all these amazing – and some will be hilarious – photos of your dog, it might be a good idea to get them printed on a book.
Some print shops will send you the book wherever you are in the world and let you customize it on an online platform. Best to have them made for very special occasions and not for casual events!
How to take the best dog photos
1. Get your dog used to the camera
Depending on whether you’re using your mobile phone – most modern phones have fantastic cameras – or a professional camera, you might need to get your dog used to the sight of something new and interesting, as well as the shutter sound and flash.
If so, have the camera charged and sitting around for a few days prior to your shoot. It won’t then be a brand new possible toy that must be inspected immediately by your dog when you begin using it.
If you just turn it on randomly, without taking any pictures, it will soon become ‘background noise’ that your dog ignores and you can use far more easily.
Next, add the shutter sound. Don’t aim at the camera, don’t try to focus on anything in particular because you can delete these test pictures. It’s another layer of sound your dog will learn to accept.
The addition of flash may cause a setback or two. Not all dogs are going to enjoy the flashing bright light (any more than we would) and he doesn’t know what it’s for, so you may want to add a distraction at this point by taking a flash photo at the same time as you throw his favourite toy.
2. Get to know your camera’s settings
Many cameras have multiple settings. It’s always worth trialling them all so you know exactly what setting best works for the space, light and of course, your dog.
And by knowing what type of photo each setting produces, you will know exactly which setting to use if your dog does something funny quickly.
“If you’re using a camera, set your shutter speed to a quick setting or ‘sports’ setting (to ensure a quick shutter in case your dog moves). It’s also handy to enable continuous mode for the same reason.
“If you’re using your phone, enable burst mode and if you’re in a good light, it should automatically have a quick shutter speed. Portrait mode on your phone creates gorgeous images with a blurry background but your dog will still have to be super still and obedient, as your phone takes longer to capture these photos.”
3. Set goals
Ask yourself some key questions, such as do you have a specific theme in mind for your photo? Are you just trying to capture some special shots of your dog?
Or do you just want your dog to be comfortable enough with the camera so you can capture one-off special or funny things that only they do?
If it’s the latter, steps one and two have you covered. Repeat step one until you know your dog is comfortable around the camera and won’t be likely to stop doing what he’s doing when the camera appears.
And step two explains the value of getting used to your camera’s settings. This is true in pretty much all scenarios, but it’s especially valid when it comes to shooting moving objects – like animals.
If you’re looking to set up a themed shoot, consider your backdrop, whether you may need an assistant and introducing some strong bright colours to your shots, even just a few, for a pop of colour.
During summer, we have the added bonus of longer nights and sunnier days, which will give you more shooting location options.
Outdoor shoots are always good because you can capture fun play sessions and you’ll be shooting in natural sunlight, eliminating the need for flash.
Vivienne shares this pro photography tip on choosing where to shoot:
“Make sure you choose somewhere in your home or garden which is decluttered. Somewhere bright but preferably not in direct sunlight (shaded under a tree in the garden, for example).
This will ensure there are no harsh shadows or highlights in your picture and will give you a tidy backdrop. If you’re shooting inside your home, choose a spot near a window with your dog facing towards the light.”
If you’re looking to specifically capture funny moments or notable things your dog does, you may only be able to capture these randomly or you might be able to set them up.
When we shot with the reality star and model Leilani Dowding she told us one of her dogs could high-five, so we were able to set this up. It’s a special thing D.o.g. does that we now have for her to save as a special memory of their shoot together.
And on our shoot with GBBO’s Jo Wheatley we were told one of her dogs, Otis loved his teddy bear, so we captured him with his teddy bear for her memory bank.
4. Test your shots
Whether you’re shooting inside or out, make sure there’s nothing in the camera’s line of vision that you don’t want there.
Once you’ve got your background in place, whatever it is, set up the props you want to use, if any, look through your viewfinder at all corners and borders, and test your shots.
Vivienne adds this pro photography tip on framing:
“To get the best angle I often drop down to the dog’s level. A lower shot usually looks nicer than one looking down at your dog, or one which forces him to look up too far.”
“I’d also recommend leaving plenty of room around the dog in case he moves at all. You can always crop the photo.”
5. Be prepared to bribe your dog
We’ve learnt the value of bribery over the years, as I’m sure most dog owners have.
On shoots, if you’re lucky, you get maybe an hour or so of a dog’s undivided attention before they start to become distracted and that’s okay, we don’t want the camera to outstay its welcome and for the process to become a little boring for our dogs, do we?
So, in order to capture as many great pictures as possible, it’s important to be prepared and know what makes your dog tick.
Vivienne recommends a quick game of fetch or a short walk before sitting down to shoot.
Reward your dogs
When you begin shooting, a well-timed squeak of a dog toy or the rustle of a dog treat package can focus your dog’s attention on you – and the camera – quite nicely.
Vivienne adds this pro photography tip on bribing canine subjects:
“I use squeaky toys to get a dog’s attention. If you have a family member able to clap or call the dog to look over towards the camera while standing behind you then that works too, but if not, I often hold a squeaky toy on top of my camera to get the dog’s attention.”
“And of course, make sure you reward good behaviour if they stay still for a good amount of time. Treats usually work well for this.”
“If you’re having your photo taken with your dog, a bit of broken up dog treat in the palm of your hand will also work more often than not too and can capture a lovely moment between dog and owner.
How to take a selfie with your dog
Ali Drew is a model and her dog, Bryan, is a social media star with an enviable following. They know what it takes to get a selfie and Ali kindly shared her advice on how to take a selfie with dogs.
“A tip for getting a good selfie with your dog is to try to hold a treat or a toy by the phone so it gets their attention, or if you can’t hold it at the same time as holding your phone, have the treat or their favourite toy placed behind your phone so your dog is looking in the same direction.
“Another tip, always take a few photos at a time and have if you have an iPhone, have the ‘live photo’ setting on (which lets you scroll micro-moments and choose the best one) because I can guarantee, if you take just one photo, your dog will be blinking or you won’t like yourself in the photo, so give yourself a few to choose from and the option to change the photo just slightly on the live setting.”
Love every photograph
Whether taking photos on the spur of the moment or planning ahead, make sure you have fun.
The photos you capture will serve as cherished memories for years to come and never underestimate the sentimental value of an imperfect photo.
So whether you capture a picture-perfect moment of your dog smiling towards the camera or they’re diving out of shot to chase a leaf, it doesn’t really matter.
In the end, they are all special, all important and ultimately, all perfect because you spent some good quality time with your best friend.
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