Top 10 tips for photographing dogs
Get great shots whilst keeping your dog happy
In this day and age, most of us love sharing our dog's photos. But do you know how to get the perfect shot whilst keeping your dog happy?
Volunteer Photographer Helen is a part-time professional photographer who takes amazing photos of our dogs at Dogs Trust Canterbury.
Here are her top tips for getting the perfect photo of your pooch, along with examples of some of the dogs she's snapped.
- Capturing movement
If you want to photograph your dog moving, chasing balls, catching treats and generally whizzing around having fun, you're going to need a camera with a fast shutter speed – 1/1000 is usually quick enough. This means that your camera is able to take the photo quickly, thus freezing the dog and capturing those action shots.
Sometimes though, you might want to give the impression of movement in your photos so you can get away with using a slower shutter speed. This photo of Roxy was taken with a much slower shutter speed of 1/125 and you can see the difference, as the photo is not as sharp as the one above.
Playing around with angles when photographing dogs often produces interesting images so don't be afraid to get muddy! If you are at eye-level with your dog you can work on capturing the world through their eyes. Try getting lower than your dog and taking the photo looking up at them to capture unique shots. Sometimes, sitting them on a bench can help to ground them but be careful they don't hurt themselves.
Alternatively, stand up and photograph your dog looking up at you as these often make cute shots.
- Photography rules
One of the main compositional rules is the rule of thirds. If you imagine that your photo is cut into thirds (either horizontally or vertically) the main features should run along these lines or the intersections of those lines to create a well-balanced shot. For example in this photo of Matty, the ground and autumnal leaves are roughly a third of the photo and the trees two thirds.
Another rule, which Helen nearly always uses, is if you've got a dog running from left to right, don't put the dog in the centre of the shot but leave some space on the right for it to 'run into'. You can use the same rule if an animal is 'looking' into the picture, leave some space for it to 'look into'.
Saying this though, rules are made to be broken, so go crazy and see if you can take a great shot, avoiding all the classic photography rules!
- Use of light
Photographers will tell you that the best time of day for photography is 'golden hour.' This is the time of day during the hour after sunrise and the hour before sunset when you get beautiful soft golden light. When photographing dogs for rehoming you have to work around their timetable so you can't always choose what time you photograph them.
If it's really bright try photographing your dog under some trees, which will disperse the light a little. However, you don't want it too dark either. The bulldogs were photographed on a very overcast day, as was this greyhound, Dion, so Helen upped the exposure afterwards. You can do this on most photo editing software (and even on Instagram.)
Most importantly, keep the sun behind you as this will light up the features in your dog's face. Black dogs, in particular, are hard to photograph which is why they often take longer to rehome so definitely make use of this tip, and if you have editing software, try upping the exposure on their face a little so that their eyes are easier to see - like Nadia and Dawson who enjoyed an extra special photo shoot at their local beach!
- Focus on the eyes
Always focus on your dog's eyes!
If the eyes are in focus the rest of the shot will probably work. Use treats or squeakers to encourage your dog to look at you and be really positive with your dog even if it takes a while to get the shot you're after.
- Try to tell a story
Taking a photo that 'tells a story' will get your Facebook friends and Instagram followers loving your posts! It could be a dog waiting for his dinner, interacting with a doggy friend, playing catch with their favourite human or even who is the tallest Dogs Trust resident!
- Capture their personality
This Helen's favourite thing to do when photographing dogs as you know they're having great fun messing around whilst they are being photographed. Try photographing your dogs jumping to catch a ball, catching treats (don't forget that quick shutter speed!) or asleep in their bed. Funny photos always work well so if you can capture those funny faces, even better!
- Keep things relaxed
Have a family member or friend on hand to help with photos, calling your dog so that it runs towards your lens or by throwing balls for him. Be careful though because too many people will cause distractions for your dog and it'll be harder to get him looking at you. No one wants extra legs in their photos because someone keeps standing in front of your camera so always encourage people to stand behind you or to the side.
Also, if you've got a nervous dog don't try to get it following too many instructions but just relax and photograph his natural behaviour. This dog, Raisin was a sensitive boy who wouldn't come anywhere near me but you can still capture lovely portraits from a distance without needing to worry the dog.
- Camera type
The best camera is the one you've got with you! As Helen is a professional photographer she uses a Canon 5D MK III but not everyone is going to have this type of equipment. You can have the most expensive camera in the world but if you don't know how to use it you won't take good photos. If your dog is doing something you want to photograph and you don't have your camera on you, use your phone!
This photo of Helen's rescue dog, Monty was taken the day he moved in. He was nervous enough without getting a huge camera out and clicking away at him so this photo was actually a screenshot from a video on a phone! He was doing his favourite thing – chasing a tennis ball. Even professionals use their phones sometimes... but rarely!
- Have fun
This is probably my most important tip of all! If you're stressing out over getting a shot, it's going to worry your furry friend so relax, enjoy yourself and don't worry if your dog won't do what you want. If you're enjoying what you're doing and love what you're photographing (and we all love our dogs!) then it's highly likely that your photos will reflect this. Have fun and don't forget to tag Dogs Trust in your photos!