Pets are family and it’s important to have quality photographs of them in our lives. Most photographers who have pets will find them in front of their camera from time to time, but as much as they love us, they aren’t always the most willing of subjects. Here are 11 Dog Photography Tips to help make better dog photos of your canine companions.
Connect like a dog lover
There’s a very good chance that if you’re interested in taking photographs of dogs this is a natural one for you, but it’s worth saying – dogs know who their friends are. If you’re photographing dogs because you love them, they can tell and they’ll give you more of themselves in a photograph for it.
Respect the dog
This is probably the most important dog photography tip to take away. While a photographer understands what’s happening during a photoshoot, the whole ordeal can be very confusing to a dog. Some dogs are afraid of cameras, or flashes. Pay attention to the dog’s body language to tell if you’re causing them stress or even potentially putting yourself in danger – a scared dog is more likely to bite. Look for signs like flattened ears, tail tucked between legs, and panting when it isn’t hot to indicate that a dog isn’t feeling the shoot and needs some time to chill out.
Treats, Squeakies, and Ridiculous Behavior
If you’ve ever squeaked a rubber chicken between your knees while sitting on the floor because your hands were full of camera and you wanted an eye-level shot of someone very short, you might just be a pet photographer. Sometimes things can get silly on a dog shoot – know this and embrace it. No shame – dogs won’t judge and their humans will be happy with the shots your absurdity awards them. It’s helpful to have an apron with pockets to keep treats and toys handy while you’re moving around after a lively subject.
Dogs will have individual reactions to different stimuli. A treat might be just the thing to coerce one dog into doing your photographic bidding, while another may be indifferent, and yet another might lose it and get completely over-the-top excited, becoming an unruly, slobbering mess (though, sometimes that mess is adorable and can result in a portrait with a lot of character – provided you’ve got a flash with a fast enough duration or can use a fast enough shutter speed to freeze the motion.) On the subject of treats – I recommend having hypoallergenic treats on hand to meet a variety of dogs’ health needs.
Sometimes dogs that don’t respond to treats will give a reaction to a toy, or vice versa. Toys that make sounds are great, like the aforementioned squeaky chicken. You can also make sounds or say words that they know – meow like a cat, say “squirrel,” make a “pssst” sound. You can ask their person what words they know and react to, but don’t forget to ‘throw them a bone’ – if they tilt their head when you say “treat,” give them one after a few tilts or you’re just teasing them.
What have your biggest challenges photographing animals been? How have your dog photos turned out? Let us know in the comments!
More Tips from Cooph
COOPH has teamed up with dog photographer Anne Geier to bring you eight tips in a short video that will give you a jump start on your dog photography. We’ll go over a few, and you can check out the rest in the video below.
Most dogs with a little training know some kind of cute trick. You can utilize these gestures to capture moments that show off the dog’s personality and relationship with its human, who taught them the trick.
Freeze The Action
Freezing dogs in motion can look really interesting. You can catch them contorted in mid-air as they go after a frisbee, eyes bulging underwater as they dive for a ball ala Seth Casteel, or just making a splash in shallow water, as Anne has shown in this video. Use a fast shutter speed or a flash, have your dog show off its athletic capabilities, and see what you can capture.
Try Wide Angle
If you’re shooting somewhere naturally beautiful, it can work well to go wide and include the scene. Most dogs love being outdoors and will look happy and in their element, and including the environment around them in some images can enhance the variety of your session.
Use Dog-Sized Frames
Skilled framing is a useful creative composition technique. When you’re photographing dogs, look around the environment you’re working in for places you could put your subject to frame them. Examples shown in the video include a small, dog-sized hole in a fence and artfully placed natural elements.
Check out the video below for four more tips and to see them all in practice. Which is your favorite? Are there any tricks you love that weren’t covered?
Dog photography is fun and rewarding, yet can be quite a challenge. Animal models must be coaxed and coerced into doing what you want them to do in front of the camera, and it takes trial and error to find what works. Luckily for those of you who are beginning, some photographers have done the legwork already and are willing to share their tips. We hope you enjoyed these dog photography tips. Let us know in the comments if you have any more!