Are you struggling to take photographs of your dog?
We often struggle to take photographs that do our dogs and their character justice. Perhaps they’re just too fast for you, and you end up with a blur of a tail and nothing else. Or your dog is too dark, and all you can see is a pair of eyes. Maybe they’ve got a short attention span, and you can’t get them to look at you or the camera for that perfect shot and the authentic moments.
Here are a few tips for you to use when you are next out enjoying life with your dogs, ensuring it’s a fun experience too.
Get down to their level
The number one recommendation I would make to help create the best images of your dogs. I’m not suggesting that everyone spend the majority of their day lying in the mud as I do on a typical dog photo session, but it does make a massive difference to the final image.
When we are down low, the camera is typically in line with the dog’s eye level, and there is a real connection between our dogs and us.
You can also give attention to background elements and ensure our eye isn’t drawn to something that distracts from the dog’s face or perhaps sticks out of the top of the head, such as a branch or post. Work with the background colour to again help focus where we look in the final image.
You can almost see what they are thinking. It allows us to see that beautiful light in those sharp, focused eyes. We all know how much our dogs want our attention, so why not ensure we have that in the images we capture.
Focus on their eyes
It’s so crucial that the eyes are in focus.
We might love our dog’s wet nose and happy smile, but as I mentioned earlier, it’s their eyes that are an essential element in an image. So unless I want to focus on another feature of a dog’s face, my photographs must have the dog’s eyes entirely in focus. Use your camera’s focus selection facility to make sure that you select that part of the face when you take a photograph.
It is the camera’s depth of field that determines what is or isn’t in focus at the time you press the shutter button.
Use noises, important words, or treats to ensure you get the eye contact you desire. I have a necklace of different sound makers to grab their attention and get the sharp portraits I want for a beautiful portrait.
Get them up on something
If you struggle to keep your dogs in place for the photograph, sometimes putting them up on a log, seat, or boulder will help.
Please make sure they are safe and happy in the place you have put them, but use that time where they pause and survey where they are to take the shot.
It’s an excellent opportunity to show them in the environment too. Perhaps you have a perfect vista of the mountains behind them or a particularly moody sky like this image.
Watch the direction/strength of the light
Think about the time of day you are taking the photographs. Like humans, soft natural light is the most flattering for dogs. We want to work with the light to create the best images possible, rather than fighting the harsh light we often find around midday.
So think about when you might be out with the dogs; earlier in the morning and late afternoons tend to have the best light. The sun is lower in the sky, and the shadows are far less pronounced. It also helps us show the dogs fur, colouring and even muscle tone that much better.
You can always find a shady spot that helps control the issues you might have with direct sunlight and harsh shadows.
We want to avoid dark shadows, especially important for dog’s with dark fur. If you get it right, like in the image above, you can put the light behind the dog but generally have it behind you instead. Place yourself so the sun is behind your shoulder, the dog is looking towards you, and you will make sure you light up that face beautifully.
Photograph them in action and enjoying life
In the natural environment that your dog enjoys it’s likely your dog will be off lead and zooming around enjoying themselves.
So as well as looking to create calm and serene portraits, don’t forget to show them enjoying their time outdoors. For my sessions, I quickly work out what the dogs like to do most and work with them to create the most fantastic action images.
Use their favourite ball or throw to direct them to run in a specific direction towards the camera and try and get your timing right so that you show them focused on the ball.
Don’t forget to watch your shutter speeds to ensure that your action shots are sharp and freeze the motion perfectly, helping to avoid blurry pictures.
Make the most of the seasons
The UK certainly has all four seasons, and the landscape changes so much throughout the year.
So look out for elements that highlight the time of the year you are out with the dogs.
Whether it’s the stunning colours of the heathers in full bloom or perhaps there is a light scattering of snow on the ground. The colours and the contrast to your dogs help them stand out and makes for extraordinary images.
Capture them together
When you’ve more than one dog, it’s always lovely if you can photograph them enjoying their relationships with each other and the more natural poses too.
Whether it’s a group shot of them sitting all together (harder to capture, I’m sure, but something I have to be able to create for all my clients) or them chasing each other down the track, it helps to show how they interact and enjoy each others company.
Of course, you can always photograph them together on a lead as well; give them all something to focus on so that you don’t have to contend with all the dogs looking in different directions.
Throwing a stone or a treat in the direction you want them to look is a great trick to get them engaged for that perfect shot.
Think about different locations
Based, as I am in North Wales, the nearby countryside and the surrounding locations give us many photographic options and places to explore with my clients’ dogs.
We could head to one of our nearby country parks to explore the mountain views or get wet in a river stream.
Or how about taking a visit to Chester for the day? As much as I adore living in the Welsh countryside, it makes a nice change to take the dogs into the city for some time in the hustle and bustle. Both make for outstanding images and give variety to the photographs you have of our dogs.
Don’t forget the fun elements too
Not every image you take needs to be perfect or for the wall. Sometimes the shots you thought didn’t work turn out to capture the dog that you know best.
Look for the candid moments too. It could be the way they looked at you at that particular moment or how their tongue is always sitting out of the side of their mouth. These make for great memories.
Also, think about the whole day’s experience, bundling the dogs into the back of the car or how wet they always end up at the end of their walk. It’s all part of life as a dog owner.
Would you prefer to book a professional?
I’m going to be working hard to ensure that next year starts off with a bang. Starting with the celebration of what is my 10th year as a dedicated dog and equine photographer.
Why not celebrate with me and book your dogs in for a session and find as much enjoyment in the artwork I provide as my clients did in the last ten years.