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I get asked for basic tips on how people can take better photos of their pets A LOT so I decided to put this information, that I prepared for my appearance on The Morning Show, on my blog so it can be easily shared.

ten tips for taking better photos of your dog

Ruthless Photos’ ten tips for taking better photos of your dog
1. Create a positive association with the camera
Introduce the camera slowly by firing off some shots near the dog while doing something that it enjoys – stroking it, feeding it, playing with it, etc. Teach them from early on that the camera/phone is nothing to fear.

2. Bribe them with their favourite thing – toy, treat, empty toilet roll, whatever works
No one likes working for free, use your dog’s favourite things to keep them interested in the job at hand.

3. Use noise to get their attention
Many craft shops sell the squeaker for soft toys and most dogs will stop what they’re doing and look at you when they hear that squeak. You might even be lucky and get a head-tilt.

4. Get down to their level
While shooting from above can be a really effective way to photograph dogs, try getting down to their level sometimes to show the world from a dog’s eye view.

5. Use soft natural light, not flash or harsh sunlight
Unless you know how to use off camera lighting I recommend that you avoid shooting with flash or in full sun. Your photos will be much more pleasing if you place your subject in soft natural light or open shade.

6. Always aim to get the eyes sharp – the eyes are the window to the soul after all!
Unless you’re specifically choosing to be artistic by focusing elsewhere your photo will look best if the eyes are sharp. If you don’t know how to achieve that with your DSLR read the section in your manual that explains how to change and move your AF point.

7. Look out for background clutter
Things like washing lines and wheelie bins can ruin a photo. Don’t just look at your dog in the viewfinder, look at the whole scene and adjust your position if there are things behind your subject that aren’t very pretty. Another thing to look out for is trees and lamp posts that appear to be growing out of your dog’s head.

8. Use a fast shutter speed
Most cameras (even some phone cameras) will allow you to manually set the ISO, aperture and shutter speed. Learning how these settings work together is the first step in taking better photos. Setting your shutter speed to 1/500 or more (you can use auto ISO and the TV setting until your have a full understanding of manual controls) will help reduce the chance of getting blurry photos from camera shake or your dog moving slightly.

9. Take lots of photos
Dogs aren’t robots and unless you have a highly trained one you’ll probably need to take several photos to get just one money shot. Be grateful you’re shooting digital and not film!

10. Keep it fun, don’t get impatient or frustrated, reward often
​I’ve mentioned rewarding your dog three times now because it’s such an important​ part of the process. If your dog isn’t having fun or you get angry when it doesn’t do what you want you’ll struggle to get good photos. If you find yourself getting frustrated put your camera away and go play with your dog instead. You’ll both be glad you did.

“Wow, what an experience. I attended the Brisbane workshop in September 2014. I cannot believe how much I learnt. Photographing pets is such a niche and unique area, and standard photography courses simply don’t provide the information needed to really succeed in this field. This course did. The teachers were so willing to impart their knowledge and share their tricks of the trade. This course was well worth the investment for anyone who wants to specialise in pet photography (whether as a business, or even just to capture great pictures of their own pets or pets in rescues etc). I would be really tempted to do the course again next year if it is run again, because it was such a steep learning curve so I think I could pick up more next time. Also, it was so much fun!”

We wrapped up our second and final Zoomies Pet Photography Workshop for 2014 in Kiama last week. Judging by the feedback we’ve received so far, both were a huge success. There were two great groups of attendees and everyone went home with very full brains. We had pretty unfavourable shooting weather in Brisbane, but we soldiered on with ponchos and umbrellas. Thanks to our models Blue, Amadeus (not pictured) Theodore, Asti, Focus, Scarlet, Sonny, Elouise and Luca for being such troopers.

“Professionally organised, patiently taught by exceptional talented photographers who were all willing to share their knowledge and specialities with every attendee. No question was out of bounds, no question was too silly, information was repeated as many times as we needed. We were all encouraged and inspired every day. The hands on approach allowing us to work with real dogs in real situations under their guidance was a once in a lifetime opportunity. I would highly recommend the workshop to anyone wishing to improve their photography skills. Lots of laughs lots of learning lots of new friends and LOTS OF FUN!”

As soon as breakfast was over I got in my car and drove the whole way home to my hairy family in Sydney (husband included). There was much punk rock karaoke and far too many cans of Red Bull, but I managed to make it there in one piece. I’ve done the return drive to Queensland twice this year now and I’m more than confident that there won’t be a third time! I’d barely unpacked when it was time to pack up again and drive to Kiama for workshop number two. We were a lot luckier with the weather this time around and, once again, huge thanks to all our models – Ody, Demi (not pictured), Keyah, Bandit, Flynn, Pablo, Matilda and Ronnie.

“It was an honor to meet and learn from all the teachers who shared a wealth of information with us over the course of the three day workshop in Kiama. Especially loved being able to photograph our dog models in such gorgeous locations! Definitely an unforgettable experience and a once in a lifetime opportunity. I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend this workshop to anyone interested in this area of photography if it is offered again in the future. It was truly the icing on the cake of my 12 day trip to Australia, and a heap of fun… More than made up for those excruciatingly long flights to and from the USA!”

We’re very grateful to all our wonderful sponsors who helped fill our bags to the brim with goodies – Porteen Gear, Chew Chomp & Chill, Seldex, Brilliant Prints, Henry Hottie, Ezydog (thanks to Sue for the lovely photo of her greyhound wearing the harness she won in the raffle), Happy Paws Training Treats, Love Em, Porters 4 Pets and Dog Pack. A special mention to Canon Professional Services also for loaning us LOTS of pro gear for our attendees to play with.

Our bags were a real hit at the workshops. If you have goody bag envy you can enter our raffle to get your hands on the last one. It contains our very coveted 120 page workshop booklet that is not available to buy and was exclusively available to our workshop attendees.

We don’t currently have any plans to run these workshops again, but I do offer one-on-one mentoring sessions to pet photography enthusiasts (in person and online). You can get in touch by email to find out more information and to register your interest. (Please note that mentoring is not available to established pet photographers, or anyone that intends to start a pet photography business, in the greater Sydney area.)

If you’d like to see more behind the scenes photos from both workshops you can check out our Zoomies Facebook page.

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Does your dog have star quality?

I’m putting together a database of models for future commercial jobs and mentoring sessions. If you live in Sydney and own a well trained dog (any breed or mix of breeds, size or age) I’m waiting to hear from you.

Contact me and I’ll reply with an application form and further details.

Last weekend I flew up to Brisbane to do some planning with Charlotte from Charlotte Reeves Photography for our Zoomies Pet Photography Workshop up there in September. We spent many hours working on course content and we managed to fit in two location shoots as well. On Saturday we photographed Bruce (whose adoption photos I did when his name was Xerox and he was a Fetching Dog) in the pine forest. We were very unfortunate with the weather (and mosquitoes) but Bruce was a trooper and didn’t let it dampen his spirits one bit. Then on Sunday afternoon, after more work on the course content, we drove to Bribie Island with Charlotte’s own dog Luna. I haven’t spent much time around Danes, so I was really surprised to see how much she ran and ran, and relentlessly fetched her stick from the water. Someone had built a shack and a teepee on the beach, so I happily posed my subject in them. The sunset was utterly amazing. We think it was Mother Nature’s apology for such terrible weather the day before. Kaylee from Dog Breath Photography will be holding one of her off camera lighting classes at the pier there so fingers crossed the sky will be equally impressive, cause she’ll ROCK it!

There are only a couple of spots left on our Brisbane workshop (and just one in Sydney). Register today if you want to secure one of the last remaining places. This is a once in a lifetime opportunity, you don’t want to miss out.

Pet photography enthusiasts, are you following our Zoomies Pet Photography Workshop Facebook page? If you’re not you’ll be missing out on a wealth of valuable hints and tips – before and afters, Q&As, video tutorials and more. Some people seem to think that we use voodoo, but it’s really not that hard to make beautiful images, once you know how.

Here are some of the B&As that I shared. If you click on the photo (while viewing this post in a browser) it will open in Facebook and you can click on the arrows in the top right hand corner to view the image full screen.

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Do you find that when you photograph black dogs they end up looking more navy than black? See the comments on Facebook for a quick tutorial on how to remove colour casts using Adobe Photoshop.

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This last one is a different kind of before and after – it highlights how my style has evolved in the last few years. I might revisit this image in another three years, just to see where my journey has taken me!

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If you’d like to join us on our pet photography workshop in September there are still a couple of places left for the Brisbane one. Head on over to our website for full details .