How to Photograph Dogs
Whether you're an amateur or professional photographer, you can take photos of dogs that showcase their personality. At first, a certain dog might not seem photogenic, but if you know what you're doing, you can get shots you're proud of. You can work with the dog and make adjustments to your camera, setting, or angle to get quality images. With hard work and a little practice, you'll be able to take dog photos that you or their owner will cherish for years after the moment has passed.
Preparing for the Photoshoot
Groom the dog. Just like when photographing a person, you'll want the dog to look their best before you take pictures. Grooming the dog before you start can help them look clean, healthy, and happy in the pictures. Gather all your grooming materials beforehand and get to work: brush their fur, clip their nails, and clean any hard-to-reach areas.
- If this dog spends time outdoors and has matted fur, consider bathing them before you take the photos. Although grooming can be a hassle, you'll be glad you got them looking spiffy once the pictures are taken.
- Don't buy any grooming materials that you don't have. The dog does not have to look perfect, and you'll want them looking natural. Just groom them to their personal best.
- If you do not own the dog you're taking photos of, ask its owner to groom it well before the photo shoot.
Find the perfect background. Pick a place that the dog is comfortable with and that you find aesthetically pleasing. If this dog is familiar with the area, they will be more likely to cooperate with you. Avoid choosing a background that will distract the dog: even a backyard can make for excellent photos.
- If you want action shots, consider picking a background outdoors. Dogs will be at their liveliest if they have lots of room to run and play in.
- If this is a personal photoshoot, consider a meaningful background. Ask the dog owner about special or personal spots if you do not own this pet.
Plan your photo shoot when it's sunny outside. Schedule the photo shoot during a time with lots of natural light to get the most photogenic pictures. Artificial light is better than flash photography, but if you can photograph dogs in sunlight, you will get the best results.
- Avoid using flash photography at all, if you can. You may think that night photographs will look cool, but dogs are likely to get redeye using flash lighting.
- If you take indoor photos, pose the dog near a window with lots of sunlight. Low lighting will wash the dog out and make for dull photos.
Consider the dog's personality when planning your shoot. Think about this dog's temperament. If they are more playful, you may want to photograph them romping around outside. If they're quieter or shy, you could photograph them resting in the shade or on a relaxing walk. Photograph them in their element, and you'll be most likely to capture their personality.
- If you've never met this dog, get to know the owner beforehand and ask them to share information about the dog's personality.
- Keep the dog's physical traits in mind, too. If this dog has darker fur, find a lighter background to contrast (and vice-versa if this dog has lighter fur).
Taking the Photos
Decide what feeling you want to portray. Photographing dogs will give you less time than photographing human models, so pick two to four images you're set on getting. Keep a mental note of your "must-haves." Spend an even amount of time on each to pace yourself so you have time for all of them.
- Some potential shot ideas include:
- Action shots
- Dog tricks
- Formal portrait
- Sleeping photos
- Photo with you or the dog owner
Find a focal point. Focal points are key to taking clean, professional photographs. Choose an interesting focal point that really captures the mood you want. This could be the dog or it could be something next to the dog. Think about it before capturing the picture.
- When doing close-ups, choose a part of the dog (like the tongue or tail) to be the focal point.
- Look at their eyes: eyes are expressive and make interesting focal points. Close-ups on faces look best against neutral backgrounds where the eyes can pop.
Shoot from many angles. Once you've picked a set location, shoot from different angles to get a variety of moods. Experiment with different angles: try some pictures looking down on your dog, some looking up at them, some close-ups, and some from far away.
- Take a lot of pictures. Dogs move around a lot and are not made for photo shoots, so taking many pictures increases your odds of finding "the one." Don't wait until the dog is perfectly posed. Take as many pictures as you can so you have a lot to work with later.
Take action shots. Posed dog photos are excellent for formal shots, but action shots better portray the friendly and loveable nature of dogs. Action shots are more candid and may allow you to really capture the dog's personality.
- Candid photos often make for the best action shots. Catch them in a moment where they've forgotten the camera. Let them loose in a park or your backyard and take pictures of them having fun.
Capture what makes this dog unique. If they can do a special trick, get it on camera! You or their owner will appreciate a picture of their abilities for years to come. If this is not your dog, chat with the dog owner before you shoot and ask them about any poses or tricks their dog knows.
Take breaks. Be patient with the dog and notice if they get irritated. When the dog gets tired, take a five to ten minute break while they rest. Think about how frustrated photo shoots make people: dogs can get just as overwhelmed.
- If the dog falls asleep, take pictures. Dogs look cute when they're sleeping, and if you experiment with different angles, you can make the sleeping dog an interesting subject. If the dog is camera-shy, now's your chance to get close-up shots.
- Have fun with the photoshoot! Taking pictures of a dog does not have to be stressful. Mimic their sense of playfulness, and try not to take the session too seriously.
Working With Dogs
Get down on the ground with the dog. Having a picture from a "dog's eye view" is best for close-ups. Get on your knees and take a couple shots from the dog's level. If you have trouble bending over, elevate the dog so that they reach your level (especially if they are a smaller, easier-to-lift breed).
- If you lift the dog, make sure you set them somewhere safe where they are unlikely to fall off. Never leave them somewhere high unsupervised, and lower them to the ground if they seem agitated.
- If the dog is smaller, get as close to their eye level as you can. Lay on your stomach if you need to. You'll get photos with a greater sense of intimacy if you can see the world from their perspective.
Reward the dog for good work. Bring dog treats to pamper the dog at set points during the photoshoot. Rewarding them for good behavior will help them stay in an ideal mood. Ration out how many treats you want to give before the shoot so you don't give more than is healthy out of desperation.
- Dog treats can also help you get a dog's attention. Hold a treat in the direction you want the dog to look and snap the photo. Just make sure you give the dog the treat afterward, or they might feel frustrated.
Distract the dog with toys. Use dog toys as props if the dog is not naturally playful or is agitated. Let them have a play break and take pictures while they aren't looking. This can let the dog recharge their batteries while you snap some fun candid shots.
Take photos for up to one hour. If your photoshoot lasts any longer than one hour, the dog is prone to getting restless. Preferably, plan on a 30-40 minute photographing session to keep the dog in a happy mood.
- Don't make the dog sit in one place during the entire photo shoot. Mix up the poses and backgrounds to keep the dog happy and rested.
Wrap up your session if the dog is irritable or tired. Some dogs last longer in photography sessions than others. If the dog keeps falling asleep, growling, whining, or running from you, it's time to end the photo shoot. You won't get pictures worth keeping if they are unhappy.
- You can always take more pictures later so don't feel bad if you didn't get a certain shot. Talk with the owner afterwards if this is not your pet, and plan a follow-up shoot as needed.
- Consider asking a friend or family member to help you take pictures. One person could help keep your dog comforted and happy while the other takes the shots. You can also ask the dog owner, if this is not your pet.
- Animals do not naturally sit still, so use a high shutter speed setting on your camera. If you use lower speeds, you risk blurry pictures.
- Experiment with your technique: try new angles, backgrounds, and approaches if you feel your photos are repetitive.
- If you take a bad photo, don't sweat it: take as many as you can, and you'll have at least a few worth keeping.
- Pets look cutest when they're in their element and doing what they love. If you have to choose between more casual photos and more posed shots, choose candid pictures. Your photo shoot will go best if the dog forgets about the camera.