I am not a photographer, I just love taking pictures. People often compliment my photos, commenting that they never get such good ones of their own dog(s) and assume it must be because I am a dog trainer and dogs listen better when I am around. I am getting ready for my third annual Santa Paws parade* and thought I might share some insights and tips around photographing your pooch and how to create great images.
*Starting on December 1 on my Facebook page, every day until Christmas a different Santa Paws photo will put a smile on your face, make you laugh out loud or go “awww”.
Pup-arazzi secrets for success
Be smart, plan your photo shoot for after walking or playing with your dog when they are calmer and want to rest. Bonus: they might be panting. Tongue-out photos look cheerful and happy, and they improve visibility of a black or fluffy (or black and fluffy!) dog.
It’s a numbers game. Sometimes I take 30 or more photos until there is one I like.
Natural light outside generally produces better photos, indoor shots often turn out very dark and editing can be tricky. On a sunny day be aware of the shadows – your own as well as what angle you need for your dog’s face to be visible and not overshadowed. Avoid dappled light. An overcast day is a great time for a photo shoot.
Be mindful of what’s in the background. Move aside objects you don’t want in your picture. Change location if it’s not working.
How to get your dog to look at the camera? Prick up their ears? Tilt their head? Capture their attention! Try holding up a tasty treat or their favourite toy and play around with the positioning to find the spot where their eyes look straight at your lens. It also works well to use a squeaky toy or make silly sounds yourself (like a kissing noise, whistling, screeching like a parrot, clicking your tongue, etc). Find the balance between getting their attention and over-exciting them. It might take a few tries. Stay patient and calm! If these suggestions hype up your dog too much, calmly talking to them might just do the trick, for example saying good boy/girl in a soothing voice. If this sounds like a tall order or you don’t multitask well, ask someone to assist you. Have your helper stand directly behind you when getting the dogs’ attention.
Play around with the angle you are taking your photos from. A downward angle is just one perspective, sit or lie down for a same-level view or for pointing upwards, or take a photo of your dog from behind. You create different effects and moods this way.
Props and dress up
Props and dress up can be fun but keep it simple. The least objectionable (from the canine point of view) way to attire your dog are bandanas and bow ties. Costumes are not for everyone. Hats can be tricky. Novelty glasses even more so. Take some time to familiarize your dog with them before your photo shoot. Praise them for accepting them even for a moment and build on that. It’s pretty normal that initially a dog tries to paw or pull off the unaccustomed thing but a little patience combined with lots of calm, positive feedback often pays off.
Go with the flow
Sometimes things don’t go to plan. Instead of getting frustrated, get creative! 4-month old Rosie just couldn’t cope with a hat on and thought it was the greatest fun to rip it off. Look what a cute photo I ended up with!
Rarely a photo is just perfect. There are great free photo editing apps available. I often use a combination because I like different features. I use Snapseed for cropping, tuning and some effects. If I want to add text, a frame or some overlays Pixlr is my go-to. There are countless photo editing apps out there, play around with a few and find the ones that work best for you.
It’s fun to play around and see what happens. I recently discovered that close-ups with the wide angle lens of my phone can create comical perspectives. Don’t delete photos you don’t like too quickly. Sometimes inspiration strikes and stunning images can be born.
Stay calm, be patient and above all have fun when doing a photo shoot with your dog. HO HO HO!
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