SIT. STAY. SMILE | TOP TIPS FOR TAKING BETTER PHOTOS OF YOUR DOG
As a nation of dog lovers, it’s only natural that our phones, cameras and computers should be crammed full of photos featuring our favourite four-legged friends – I mean, what else are you supposed to show to all your friends and family? But it isn’t always easy getting that perfect shot of your precious pooch – dogs are notoriously naughty, wriggly and downright difficult to take pictures of. One minute they’re focussed directly on your, the next – squirrel! But don’t despair – I’ve compiled a list of my top tips for getting the most out of your photography. Let’s get started!
YOUR KIT IS NOT EVERYTHING
Trust me – you do not need the latest and greatest camera with a fancy lens to get great photos. Sure, it’s ideal if you do have a DSLR, or even a compact camera with basic exposure controls – but it’s not the be all and end all – so don’t get hung up on it. Heck, you can use the camera on your phone if you want (most mobile phones have decent cameras these days anyway). What matters is how you use what you have!
So, you have your camera/phone – what else do you need? Not much, really! Dogs are pretty simple creatures (gorgeous, goofy, incredible, simple creatures) and odds are you already know what makes them tick. So grab those tasty treats, that trusty tennis ball, stick, squeaky toy, or whatever else motivates your pup and grabs their attention – and use it!
That’s pretty much all you need to get started. Over time you can add to your arsenal of toys and noise makers, but as long as you have a handful of treats and a squeaky toy then you’re good to go. Now it’s time to get out there and take some photos!
GET DOWN LOW
First things first, dogs live on a whole other level to us humans – literally! For the most part, dogs are quite a bit smaller than us, and they see the world very differently. We want to tap into that, and the key to most great pet photos is feeling like you’re a part of their world (I say ‘most’ because there are, of course, exceptions to the rule – more about this later). So, prepare to get down low and roll around in the mud, nettles and god-knows-what else to capture your pooch down at his level. It will make a world of difference when you see the world from his perspective!
DON’T FORGET YOUR BACKGROUND
This tip is so super simple, but so easy to overlook, and it can make or break your photos – your background! If you’re lucky enough to have a camera that can control depth of field, crank that aperture up (remember, a greater aperture means a smaller f-number – confusing, right?) to blur out your background and focus all the attention on your furry subject. If you can’t control your aperture, never fear! There are still a couple of things you can do to banish that distracting background. If you can zoom, take a few steps back and zoom in on your dog – this cuts through the background clutter and helps isolate your subject. If all else fails – move! Keep it simple and look for a location where the background is less distracting (think textured walls, wooden fences, hedges or bushes). Ta-da! Instant awesome-ness.
IT’S ALL IN THE EYES
Remember when I told you to get down low? Here’s the exception to that rule (okay, it’s not the only exception, but probably one of the most important ones, so listen up!). I remember a client once told me that her favourite photo of her dog was one where he was looking straight up at the camera, because that’s how she sees him every day when she looks down at him. This is so true! Unless your dog is huge, most of us spend most of our time looking down at our dogs, while they gaze adoringly up at us (especially when we’re holding the treats!). So let’s make the most of that in our photos! This is where the treats/toys/noise makers come in super handy. Get your dog into a sit (or at least a stay) and position yourself directly in front of them, hovering over them as much as you can (if your dog is a little in the large side, you may need a vantage point like a step or ledge). Then squeak that squeaker, wiggle that toy, use that buzz word (Walkies! Cat! Bacon!) – all the while holding it right on top of your camera (the closer the better, creating the illusion that they’re looking straight at the camera), and snap away!
Posing for the camera is hard work! So don’t be afraid to give your pup plenty of fuss and love and reward for behaving in front of your lens. Don’t give too many treats (we want them to be a motivator for future photos) but give plenty of praise and love whenever they do what you want for a shot. Also, remember to give them a break and a drink every now and again, especially if it’s hot outside. We want your dog to associate photo shoots with fun times, so that they don’t run for the hills next time you break out the camera!
EMBRACE THE GOLDEN HOUR
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – British weather sucks. If it’s not raining, it’s probably freezing cold or blowing a gale (with the exception of this recent heatwave!). So if you’re lucky enough to get some sunshine, make the most of it! Lighting is everything in the world of photography, and the best time for photography on a sunny day is an hour or two before sunset – the golden hour. You may have heard me mention this before, but it’s when the sun is lowest in the sky, and on a nice day it casts a gorgeous golden glow across the sky, filtering through the trees and illuminating everything in the most beautiful way (your furry friend included!).
PATIENCE IS KEY
Whoever coined the phrase ‘never work with children or animals’ probably didn’t have much patience. Sure, dogs can be frustratingly uncooperative at times and are so easily distracted, regardless of their obedience level. When shooting in a new environment with new smells, sights and sounds, dogs just want to be dogs and explore! I often see clients getting frustrated when their dog doesn’t cooperate on a shoot, saying ‘they’re normally so well behaved’. But you know what? Let them do their thing! Let them be a dog for a while. Why are we photographing them in the first place? To capture them and what they’re all about – if that involves running in circles or chasing leaves across the park, then shoot that! There’ll be time for sit and stay later – in the meantime, be patient, and just embrace them being themselves for a while!