If you are like me, then your dog is your “Fur Baby” and very much an integral part of your family, so it’s no surprise you probably love taking lots and lots and lots of photos of them. We all want to be proud fur baby parents and show our gorgeous dogs off on social media, as our screen savers and in print in photos around our home.
They say never work with children or animals and ironically I do both! The reason behind that saying is because our little STARS can be highly unpredictable and don’t necessarily do what we want them to do when we want them to do it. But here are a few tips and tricks that will help you take your home dog photography to the the next level.
Become An Observer of Light
When you learn to use natural light for your subject it not only gives you a better photograph, but is much kinder on the dog -using artificial light such as a camera flash will likely upset or scare your dog as well as causing issues with reflection back off the retina which can cause red, green or yellow eyes. The best time to photograph with natural light is “Golden Hour” the hour after sunrise and before sunset. That said you can take photos at any time of day provided you understand the nature of light and the affect it has on your images. There are lots of courses and videos on YouTube about natural light for photography so check them out to learn more.
Personality Not Just Physicality
When I do the "Design Consulation" with my West Coast Woofers clients I ask lots of questions about their dog like - what makes them special or unique? What is their temperament like, are they chilled couch potatoes or are they the energiser bunny on steroids? I ask them to give me 3 words that sum up there dog. This is all so I can get a feel for their dog’s personality to make sure I capture them doing what they love best and in ways their human sees as special about them. I want to tell the story of more than just what the dog looks like, I want to capture the essence of it’s unique personality. I like to truly represent their character. So before you take that next photo of your Fur Baby, stop and think about what it is that is special about them and how you might be able to showcase those qualities in your photograph.
Choosing a Location
You will get the best photos and capture their true personality, when your dog is calm, relaxed and comfortable in the surroundings. So pick somewhere they won’t be anxious or stressed out, somewhere they have been to regularly and enjoy going to, or even just around the house taking a sleep in a cosy spot or playing in the back yard. Try to choose somewhere without to0 many other distractions for your dog - so that you give yourself the best chance of keeping their attention and getting those "window to the soul" eye shots in the camera.
Unaware Capture Some of the most amazing dog photos are the ones that they don’t even realise you are taking, being totally unaware they can just act natural, doing the doggie things dogs do. So observe them and try to work out any regular patterns of behaviours and be ready with your camera to snap it in a flash when it happens. Make sure your shutter speed is as high as you can make it for the correct exposure (eg Sports or Action Mode). The challenge of capturing fast moving dogs, or spontaneous movement means the faster the shutter the more chance of not having a blurry image. You can anticipate, and help by holding the shutter button half way down and waiting for the behaviour you want and then clicking it (avoiding shutter lag). A fast shutter will also help you avoid camera shake, but if you have to you can brace yourself and hold your breath when you press the shutter, or use a tripod and a self-timer or electronic shutter release - which all help keep the camera still to avoid blurry images.
Get Down To Their Eye Level
Most people take photos of their dog from standing height, as that is how we mostly view them. But for really great photos you need to get to to their eye level or even lower to get a different angle of view and perspective. I often end up laying down on my tummy for those incredible shots, especially for smaller dogs.
Up Close and Personal
Often people take photos showing the whole of the dog, and often in the centre of the photo. Why not focus on some aspect of your dog that is special to them or you, it might be the texture of their coat, eyes, whiskers, tail or some other part of them (I love cute butts!)…grab a close up shot. If you camera can zoom, then zoom in, if not, try cropping it later to get a different look.
Try taking a few steps to the left or right, to get a different angle of view or perspective. Try taking photos from above your dog, underneath your dog, or give them a big tummy rub and take a photo of them upside down! Pixels are free so go crazy and just experiment with all sorts of angle and heights.
You will get the best photos when your dog is happy and relaxed, so play with them, pat them and reassure them that this is all a game and lots of fun.
Be Patient and Practice
Great photos take skill and practice. Take lots and lots and lots of photos, have a look at them and work out what you did right in the ones you like and what you did wrong in the ones you don’t. Working out where you went wrong is a great learning opportunity so try to relax and enjoy the journey. Waggy Tails Karen