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.
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
No one likes working for free, use your dog’s favourite things to keep them interested in the job at hand. All dogs are different, find what motivates them the most – a toy, food, an empty toilet roll, whatever works!
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.
If all that fails and you’re still struggling to get great portraits of your dogs it’s time to call in a professional! I eat, sleep and breathe this stuff and would love to create images for you to cherish forever. Contact me today to get your booking on my calendar.