Have you ever wondered how some people seem to always take the best photos of their dogs? Their pets seem to be born models, while your pet does everything but hold still or look at the camera. So what can you do to get your pet to cooperate for that awesome shot?
Since I paint pet portraits as a living, I also had to learn how to take the best photos possible.
Since my clients are all over the world, I often receive many photos of pets that are blurry, too dark or too light, with red-eye just overall poor composition. That gave me the idea to share some of the tricks I have learned to capture the best shot.
I use a Canon EOS 5D Mark IV and my iPhone depending if it is a scheduled shoot or if I am out and about capturing a pooch I come across. Today's phones have such great photo settings that it really doesn't matter what camera you use as long as you follow some simple tricks.
What you can do to take great photos of your dog
- Take lots of Photos
- Stay at Eye Level
- Turn off the Flash
- Go with the Flo
- Post Edit
Timing is Everything
The best time of day to take photos in natural light is a couple of hours after sunrise and a couple of hours before sunset. That's the time when the sun is low in the sky. Shadows tend to be softer and the light casts a warm glow over everything.
As it relates to your pet, try to take photos when they are not tired out. An alert dog tends to listen better than a dog that has been running around all day long and wants nothing better than to be left alone to catch some zzz's.
Introduce your Pet to the Camera
Some pets are camera shy. They get spooked by the clicking sound of a shutter or the flash of the camera.
Get down to the dog's level and let them sniff the camera. Then take some photos of random things, so your dog can get used to the dark thing in your hands. Talk to your pet in a calm voice and let it do its thing. If your pet senses that you are getting agitated it will get nervous as well. Be prepared to spend some time to get acquainted and just relax and enjoy the moment. As you do this more often your pet will automatically understand what you are up to and become more and more comfortable with you appearing with something dark that seems to be stuck to your face.
Take Lots of Photos
Let's face it the more photos you take the more likely it will be that you have one awesome shot. I take as many photos as I can as I follow the dogs around. Make sure your phone and camera are fully charged.
Stay at Eye Level
I can not tell you how many photos I get that look proportionally off since the photo was taken from above. It makes the head look huge and the body small. It is best to bend down so that you are more eye level with your pet. Some people place their pets on a table, but I learned the hard way that that might not be a good idea. My Yorkie thought he had superpowers and after sitting obediently for a while he decided he could fly and jumped off the table. At 3 pound jumping off a dining room table, well you get the idea. No photo is worth a potential disaster! It's like those people who fall off cliffs just to get that perfect selfie! Crazy, right?!
Lesson learned not every dog will be listening to the stay-put command. Don't force your pet into poses in places that they might hurt themselves. It's just not worth it.
Turn off the Flash
Indoor shots often have too little lighting and will trigger your flash. However, for a more natural look, you can try an off-camera flash. Turn it upwards towards the ceiling. This way the flash will bounce off the ceiling casting a more natural light. It won't give your pets red eyes either.
You can also add more lighting by opening curtains or bringing in another lamp from another room.
Go with the Flo
Some dogs are more hyper than others and to avoid frustration keep things easy going. It always helps if you can ask a friend for help to keep your pet in the location that you like them to be at. Toys and treats work with some dogs and not at all with others. You can try having a friend wave the toy and hand out the treats. Don't do it yourself, because before you know it you have that sniffing nose on you and you won't be able to both ward off your dog and get that shot you were after. Some of the best shots happen when you let your dog just do its thing, while you follow it around.
Even when I use my Canon and try to set my ISO, Shutter speed and aperture for that perfect shot, there are instances when a photo could look better. Sometimes it is the lighting, other times it's something in the photo that I feel is distracting.
I use Photoshop and Lightroom for most of my post edits. I have also started to experiment with many post-editing apps for my iPhone as well. Some of my favorites apps that work both on iPhone and Andriod are:
Adobe Photoshop Express
Adobe Lightroom CC
Taking photos of other people's pets
Every once in a while when I do a show or participate in a fundraiser I come across some really cute pets. I start by petting the dog while I talk to the owner. Then I take random photos and let the dog sniff my camera. As I feel that the pet starts to relax I just start taking photos. Some photos will be taking from a distance and others are close-ups.
Close-up shots can be just as interesting. I no longer remember the name of this little one but loved his two-colored eyes. At first, this dog kept running off. I decided to just sit on the floor and to click away aimlessly. That piqued his interest and he came back. I continued my clicking with intermitted strokings. Prett soon the dog relaxed.
He liked the attention he was getting and once I started to take photos of him, he did not stop following me. I had made a new friend! The original photo was taken inside and had all sorts of things in the background that did not need to be there.
By removing the background and cropping the photo I was able to bring the focus entirely on this dog.
I hope that you found this post useful and that you are off to take some great photos of your dog.