Chances are good that your pooch is simply adorable. Capturing with your camera that “something special” that is the essence of your dog’s personality CAN happen. Dogs are wiggly, squirmy, distracted little beings and it’s true that getting a good photo can drive a human bonkers. There ARE, however, a few tricks I’ve learned in my five years of photographing the pups and dogs in my school that can up the odds that you’ll be successful.
SHOOT OUTDOORS. The light is much easier to work with and your photos will look more natural and less “staged” than those taken indoors. Shoot in indirect light rather than bright sunlight. I’ve found that the early morning and late afternoon light is softer and makes for better photos.
DON’T DIRECT: Let your dog simply go about his/her business and try to capture your photos at times when your dog isn’t paying much/any attention to YOU. If you try and pose your dog or use your voice to get his/her attention, things quickly turn stressful. Most dogs will pick right up on this and there goes your shoot!
OFFER PROPS: Using things like a Nylabone, stuffed toy or tennis ball as interactive objects is a good way to capture fun photos, as dogs tend to curl themselves around their favorite toys and just naturally stop and pose while gnawing on a bone. You can also use the toy or bone as a lure....waving a tennis ball often gets the intense attention of a ball-crazy dog, for instance. If you can hold the toy in one hand and snap photos with the other hand, you’ll get something worth sharing. And the dog gets the treasured object as a reward. Also consider bringing out an old, metal wash bucket or maybe a picnic basket to use as a prop. Try placing your pup inside....or simply let him sniff it and see what happens. You just might get a prize-winning shot if you're patient and open to the possibilities.
USE TREATS: This can sometimes work to get a dog to sit or lie down, but treats can also elicit the drooling response in your dog, so use sparingly. Treats can sometimes be too distracting to a dog, as some become more interested in the FOOD than in playing, and play is the thing that makes for the best photo opportunities....so choose wisely. I often use treats when I am placing a hat or a scarf on a dog and I want to distract them from THAT object. Sometimes this can be successful...
DOG UP, HUMAN DOWN: Dogs are short, so make use of places/props in your yard where your dog can be a couple of feet higher than you when you take the photos. Rock walls, stairways and benches or chairs are some examples of places where you’ll be able to be position yourself more at eye-level with the dog. You’ll want your camera lens straight-on rather than tilted up or down for the best photos.
LIE DOWN: Toward the end of the day here at puppy school, all the dogs are tired and they like to lie down on the deck in the shade. This is one of my favorite times to photograph them. The light is soft and I don’t mind lying face down on the deck to get close up shots of paws and muzzles and eyes and noses. The results are often stunning. I’ve also gotten some really cool photos by lying down in the grass in front of my dogs.
TAKE LOTS OF PHOTOS: When your dog is in a great position, snap a lot of photos from different angles and focal lengths. You never know WHICH photo will be the “perfect” one, so work quickly and snap often.
Have fun....and feel free to share your best shots with me by sending them to firstname.lastname@example.org. I’ll post them on my Facebook site for all to enjoy!