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Tips & Tricks

4 Simple Tips On Photographing a Puppy To Get Unique Pet Portraits

By Hanssie on June 11th 2016

With their boisterous energy, sweet puppy faces and little paws, what could be more fun than photographing a puppy? Of course, when photographing pets, even in a controlled environment, like a photography studio, they can be unpredictable, and puppies bring a whole set of challenges. There’s no shortage in cuteness, but short attention spans coupled with the inability to sit still creates an environment that will take some patience, and lots of energy to capture great shots.

In the following video from Fstoppers, Lee Morris takes his new 9-week old Vizsla puppy, Leo, into the studio for some adorable shots as well as gives some simple tips for photographing a puppy in three unique scenarios.

Gear Used

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1. Don’t Place Them On The Ground

Puppies are wiggly and love to explore, so if you give them too much space to wander, they will do so! Lee recommends keeping them on a higher surface (like a coffee table) and something easily moveable/turnable, so when the puppy wants to lay down facing away from the camera, you can just rotate the surface (in this case a small ottoman).

2. Use a Macro Lens To Get Closeups

Because of their little faces, getting close enough to a puppy to get its features may be difficult without a macro lens. Lee uses a 60mm lens typically used for wedding ring shots for his portraits of Leo.

3. Consider Lighting

When lighting a puppy in studio, you can light them pretty much the same as a person, keeping in mind that the puppy has a bigger nose so be aware of shadows. Make sure you use a strobe light to freeze them in motion since they move very fast, all the time.

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4. Use Props To Get Unique Looks

The use of props for any portrait session, pets or humans, adds more interest in the image. In one of the setups, Lee uses an Alien Bee ring flash to get not only interesting flat light, but also as a natural circular frame in one of the final images. For the last setup, Lee also uses plexiglass and honey to shoot through, with which he was able to get some unique shots of Leo with his little tongue out. When using the plexiglass trick, just be aware of reflections off the glass and keeping the glass clean.

[REWIND: Father’s Day 2016: Photography Gift Ideas For Dad]

Watch the video below to see the pictures from Leo’s session or see Fstopper’s post here.

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Hanssie is a Southern California-based writer and sometimes portrait and wedding photographer. In her free time, she homeschools, works out, rescues dogs and works in marketing for SLR Lounge. She also blogs about her adventures and about fitness when she’s not sick of writing so much. Check out her work and her blog at Follow her on Instagram

Q&A Discussions

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  1. Hayley Lawrence

    Thank you for this article. I have been interested in using a ring light to photograph dogs, but I was afraid they would be indimidated by it. It looked like Leo was avoiding looking at the light most of the time. Would you say this was the case?

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  2. Ralph Hightower

    My wife and I had our Beagles, all six of them in ages from 4 months to 6 years, in a group photo done by a professional dog photographer. The youngest was positioned sitting between our oldest, Ranger and Runner. All were sitting, four have had obedience training. Runner doesn’t care for puppies until they lose their puppy teeth. Anyway, Roseanna, the youngest, lays down. Runner puts a paw over her and says “You’re not moving.”

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    • Hanssie

      LOL. Love it. SO if any of the tricks above don’t work…get the elders to regulate.

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  3. Karen Borter

    Hanssie … get outta my head ;) I am going to a friends house tomorrow and will be shooting their dog. While it’s not a puppy, he is young still this gave me some ideas. In other news; man is that puppy cute in the video. The plexiglass / honey trick is awesome.

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    • Hanssie

      Right? I love the plexiglass trick. I am also a fan of the smidge of pb on the nose. So cute.

      Good luck on your shoot!

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