How To: Photograph Your Dog :: Digital Photo Secrets

How To: Photograph Your Dog

by David Peterson 1 comment

Your dog is an important part of your family. She’s the first to greet you when you get home, and she’s always excited to see your face. Why wouldn’t you give your dog the royal treatment with a professional photo shoot? It’s not that difficult. You just need to know a few things about lighting and your dog’s temperament. The rest is a piece of cake. I’ll show you how.

Dogs are best photographed outside. There are a few reasons for this. For one, dogs are much more playful than other pets, so there’s a better chance you’ll get a nice action shot like the one above. The second reason has to do with avoiding flash. Whenever you’re indoors, you usually have no other choice but to use the flash, and that will give your dog a terrible case of doggy red eye.

The best time and place to photograph your dog

Try to photograph your dog after a morning walk when the sun is coming up. If you have your dog do some exercise for 30 minutes to an hour, he’ll be much more calm and willing to work with you as you take the pictures. I also like to keep some toys in the back yard so my dog feels at home with the photo session. If she starts to lose interest, I just throw around her favorite bone, and she perks right up.

The early morning is nice because the light from the sun comes in at an angle. Unlike the light from the midday sun, it isn’t harsh. It’s a kind of soft light that brings out colors and details you wouldn’t ordinarily see and is called the golden hour. If you can’t control the time of day when you take the pictures, bring a diffuser of some kind. A while umbrella can make a big difference. Just hold it above your dog, it will distribute the light more effectively.

Consider the background

As with any image, avoid overly “busy” backgrounds with too much detail. You don’t want the fencepost in your yard popping out of your dog’s head. There’s one handy way to get rid of a busy background. Pick a wide aperture for your lens. When you go with an aperture between F2.8 to F5.6, you effectively blur the background so much that it can no longer distract your viewer.

I also like to pick a background that’s either the same color as my dog or a complimentary color. If you don’t have something like this in your shooting environment, you can always set up a small studio backdrop in your backyard. Just place your dog on a table in front of the backdrop and keep her busy with some toys until you get the shot.

Pet handlers make the process go much more smoothly

Which brings me to my next point. Whenever you’re photographing your pets, it helps to have a pet handler. Go get your kids, your roommate, your wife, or your husband to help you out with this. When someone else is keeping your dog entertained, you can focus on setting up your camera for the shot. Trust me. It makes the job a heck of a lot easier.

Get a variety of shots

Go in from up close, and then back up a little to take another shot. The more variety you add, the better. Most people make one big mistake when they photograph their dogs. They don’t get on eye level with the dog. Whenever you take the photo from up too high, it makes your dog appear tiny and insignificant. Get up close and lay flat on your stomach to take most doggy pictures. Doing so will give your viewers a look into the world your dog sees every day.

Just being close enough makes a huge difference. You should try to fill most of the frame with your dog. It sometimes helps to zoom in or use a telephoto lens. That way, you can still get pictures from far away, and if your pet handler is distracting your dog with some toys, she won’t even know you’re doing photography. Dogs, just like humans, act a little different when you’re photographing them. It helps to keep them unaware of your presence.

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About David Peterson
David Peterson is the creator of Digital Photo Secrets, and the Photography Dash and loves teaching photography to fellow photographers all around the world. You can follow him on Twitter at @dphotosecrets or on Google+.