Top tips for taking the perfect picture of your dog
They’re cute, cuddly and lovable.
For millions of people around the world, our pet dog is a big part of our family and photographing them is what we enjoy doing.
Just like kids, if you point the camera at a pet they suddenly develop a mind of their own.
In this article, I am going to share with you some thoughts and tips that I have developed over the years.
It helps to visualise the picture you’re trying to capture, but allow for the unexpected which may be entirely different from your original idea – only perhaps better. If something unusual happens, be ready to take some shots before going back to your original idea.
I find it best to produce a picture that exhibits their unique and special personality – it’s cute stare, playfulness or seriousness, its shyness or friendliness. For this to work well, you will need to get a few close up shots of the dog’s face and expression to fill the frame.
You need to work quickly and even if they’re dozing, a cute expression can disappear in an instant.
We all snap away using our camera phones these days, but if you’re after something more special, I recommend a digital SLR. This allows more control and creativity with the shot that will give you even more stunning pictures.
The added advantage is that you can use a longer lens in the 80 to 135mm range that fills the frame from a comfortable working distance. This also eliminates the problems of distortion with shorter lenses.
Shutter speed and Aperture
Unfortunately, we can’t just shout out, “hold it!” and expect Max to stand still. Since dogs move around in an unpredictable manner, a fast shutter speed helps avoid the blurred effect. I use a minimum of 1/125. So we need to balance the shutter speed with the aperture to obtain the deepest possible depth of field – i.e. a small aperture.
I tend to choose Aperture Priority as it gives more control of the depth of field.
For static shots a wide aperture such as f/5.6 will help blur the background and concentrate the viewer’s attention on the subject.
Having a sharp image is essential. The cutest face and expression can be lost in a blurred image. For this reason I select AF – Continuous for shots of the dog in
action. This keeps the camera focusing on your dog as it moves. For still shots, I use AF – Static with the multi –selector focus pointing to the eye. A dog’s eye can be very expressive and this is what will engage the person looking at your photo.
If possible, use natural light and avoid flash as this causes red-eye and can also frighten the dog. I prefer outdoor shots in open shade and using reflector boards to bring out the texture of the fur. For darker fur that absorbs more light, experiment by applying negative compensation (reduce by a stop or so) so as not to turn black fur grey. Conversely, lighter dogs reflect more light and you may need to apply positive exposure compensation (add a stop or so) to avoid underexposure.
Digital photography has made getting the correct exposure so much easier. Using the histogram in the image playback reveals a great deal both about exposure and about shadow and/or highlight clipping. I use this all the time with any type of shot as it is more objective than examining the image itself in playback – especially in bright conditions.
As with any good pictures, watch the background carefully. Avoid distractions and simplify!
Placing the camera down to the animal’s level works well, but do experiment as some great portraits have been taken from all sorts of angles. As we mentioned above, visualise what you want to express about their personality and take the picture from that viewpoint
For maximum impact fill the frame with your dog.
Having someone to assist in the shoot can be very helpful by whistling and making noises or waving a bright toy to attract their attention. This usually only works once or twice so be prepared to shoot!
Finally, be patient and have fun!