How To Photograph Dogs

After years of photographing animals, and trillions of photographs of our Irish Terrier (ok, trillions is a bit of a stretch), I have come up with a list of foolproof suggestions to improve your dog photography.

But before you begin to implement any of these suggestions, go dig up your manual and study it. Nothing is more frustrating than trying to figure out the best settings to use on your camera dial as your dog does a triple flip off the diving board.

1. First tip, relax!

Forget about that stock option for a million bucks or the shopping spree in Aruba. Take some deep relaxing breaths. Watch your pet. Keep focused on the present moment and only that moment. Now shoot!

2.  Set the shutter speed to at least 1/250 of a second or faster.

You know how to do that because you have read your manual. If not, do not pass go…go back. Read your manual. You want crisp, clean images with no blur. If you are using a point and shoot, no worries. Just put the speed dial on the action icon.

3.  Vet the background.

Poor backgrounds ruin more animal portraits than any other factor except incorrect exposure, so check it out and move your pet to another location if the background has a parking lot full of screaming kids, a garbage truck on the move or an ugly fence.

4. Move In Close. 

Move in close to give your viewer a sense of being right there. This will also help to crop out background clutter you can’t eliminate.

5. Always focus on the eyes.

Point  your autofocus square on the eyes, wait for the lens to focus, and shoot!

6.Compose the image at your pet’s level.

Get down..get down. Unless your dog is as big as a miniature horse, you need to get down low enough to photograph your pet at eye level. If you are photographing a puppy, get flat on the ground and use your elbows to prop your camera up to your eye.

7. Keep It Simple. 

Concentrate on capturing one thing and one thing only. Do you want a photo of the swimming pool and activity around your dog, or your dog? Decide. It is usually impossible to capture two ideas in one photo.

8. Avoid Harsh Light.

Bright sun works for scenic images but not animals. Shoot early in the morning or late in the afternoon to avoid the harsh glare of noon day sun.

9. Use Props.

Try a battery-operated toy, a bright cloth flapping in the wind or a stuffed animal.  Be ready! Props only work until your dog gets bored, so you have to work quickly.

10. Know Your Flash Range.

Memorize the flash-to-subject distance range for your flash and stay within the range.

If you want more information on any of these subjects, check out my other blogs, or if you want easy, buy my book!

Good shooting!