Recently we ran on on-line dog show on our Mad About Schnauzers Fundraising Facebook group. So rather than walk your dog around a show ring, entrants posted photos on Facebook. We thought that it might be helpful to give our Mad About Schnauzers members some top photography tips in advance of the show. I spoke to 4 wonderful professional pet photographers who between them gave me 12 tips for taking fabulous photos of your dog. We shared the tips on our Facebook groups and had a very positive response.
I have to confess that I have thousands of photos of my dogs on my phone, and about 3 of my human family! I bet many of you are the same! My dogs also have their own Instagram and Facebook page which means I am constantly snapping their antics.
Unfortunately, loads of my photos are dark, blurred and not framed well. I would love to be able to capture some beautiful images of my gorgeous pups. I thought that the 12 tips for taking fabulous photos of your dog were too good not to share further as a blog post.
TIP 1: GET DOWN TO THE DOG’S EYE LEVEL AND FOCUS ON THE DOG’S EYES
Getting down to the dog’s eye level gives a different and more interesting dynamic to how we normally view them when we’re standing up. Changing the angle in this way also creates distance to the background.
Tip 2: GET AN EXTRA PAIR OF HANDS TO HELP YOU
Ask an extra pair of hands to help position your dog whilst you take the photo. Take along your family or a friend to help you get the shot. For you to get far enough away for a good composition sometimes the dogs get bored and wander off. So ask someone to put them in position and talk to the dog until you’re ready and they can quickly dash out of shot. Or your assistant can put them in a wait then call them, so you shoot them from a different angle than if you were by yourself.
TIP 3: GET THEIR ATTENTION
Encourage your dog to look at the camera by using something that they love and holding it just above your camera’s lens. This could be a treat, a ball or their favourite toy – anything that motivates them or grabs their attention (even for a second!). You can also try making unusual noises to get their interest – try out your best ‘meow’ or ‘woof’, or use a kazoo or bird call. The stranger the better, as your dog will probably already be used to squeaky toys or the sound of your voice.
Tip 4: INCLUDE PROPS TO ADD INTEREST
Using a prop adds that something extra to photos. It can be a stick, ball, a sprinkling of leaves or even their favourite toy which will keep the dog engaged and make it fun for them.
TIP 5: WATCH OUT FOR BACKGROUND CLUTTER
Before you hit the shutter button, take a moment to look around and more importantly, behind your dog. The last thing you want is a fence post sticking out of Fido’s head or a bright yellow bucket in the shot! For this reason, shooting in your garden can be tricky. You can either move Fido away from the distracting background or just try changing your shooting position a little bit.
Leads are another thing that can often be distracting in a shot. If Fido really does have to stay on his lead for safety reasons then try and hide it behind him or hide it in the long grass.
TIP 6: LIGHTING
Ideally, we want bright, diffused light for Fido’s shots. A little light cloud is ideal as it will provide you with a soft, natural look. Too much sun and you’ll have lots of harsh shadows. On those rare days when there is lots of sun around try and find some nice open shade. The even light will be very flattering for a portrait shot. If you can have the dogs facing the sun, you’ll get some lovely catchlights which helps define the eye area in dark eyed dogs.
TIP 7: BEST TIMES TO SHOOT
If you want to have the most beautiful light available then you need to shoot in what is known as the Golden Hour. This is the hour just after sunrise and just before sunset and during this time the light is low and warm and shadows less harsh. Ideal for Fido’s portrait! It pays to plan ahead though as you only have a short opportunity to capture the Golden Hour but if you miss it then there’s always tomorrow!
TIP 8: SHOOT WITH THE SUN BEHIND YOU
Shoot with the sun behind you and the dogs looking straight into it. This can sometimes lead to the dogs squinting a little, but you want their shadow to fall in a straight line directly behind them. This means that there are no shadows falling over part of the dog’s face and all of their fur is lit evenly by the sunlight. This especially applies to those dogs with darker fur.
Tip 9: PHOTOGRAPHING BLACK/DARK DOGS
If you’re shooting outdoors, stick to shady areas and keep the light behind you (so it falls onto the front of the dog). When indoors, try to position your dog in front of a dark background, with window light behind you. A darker background will help your camera balance out the light levels and match the tones of your dog’s fur.
TIP 10: MAKE IT FUN
Remember to positively reinforce your dogs behaviour and take regular breaks. When asking them to pose we are asking them to use their brains and listen to you; so we want to make it as fun and enjoyable as we can. Take along treats and toys for after each pose, whichever your dog prefers. People ask me how I get dogs to look so well behaved and it’s always bribery, why should they work for free? The more we let them enjoy it then the chances are they’ll be happy to pose for the camera regularly. If your dog is a bit too wriggly for posed shots then focus on action shots instead. For energetic dogs action shots are great at capturing their personality and are so much fun to get involved with.
TIP 11: ACTION SHOTS (PART 1)
Whether it’s a mobile phone or a high end DSLR camera, actions shots are achievable but make sure you are in a bright open environment to help capture the speed of the subject. Practise makes perfect but the results are worth it. Always keep it rewarding for the dog with play time and the odd tasty treat.
TIP 12: ACTION SHOTS (PART 2)
Find an open space with plenty of room to move and make sure your background isn’t too distracting – a field with some simple trees or bushes in the distance will do just fine. You can make it easier to predict where the dog will run by getting a helper to throw a ball in your direction – with any luck the dog will follow the ball and run straight towards you! You can also use narrow paths or channels between shrubbery to guide your dog in a specific direction. Don’t forget to get down low to capture the action!
Many Thanks To Our Professional Pet Photographers
Moody Hues Photography
The Artisan Hound
Megan Williams Photography
Rae Prince Photography