The Top Five Dog Photography Tips To Get Better Photos
While pets are the focus of my photographs, they aren’t the only thing I have to consider when composing an image. A lot of thought and preparation goes into taking great photographs of your pets so I thought I would give you some tips.
The following are the top 5 tips to get better photos of your dog.
Location, Location, Location
Just like real estate, the location of your pet photography session can make or break your photos. Just imagine for a minute, that you've taken a perfect photo of your dog - the expression on their face captures them completely, they were looking directly at the camera and sitting exactly how you imagined. They look perfect.
However, as you look at the rest of the photo, the image starts to fall apart. Behind your dog you see an overflowing garbage bin with rubbish tumbling around the ground, as well pieces of rubbish blowing across the grass. Or perhaps they were positioned with a car park behind them so their backdrop are rows and rows of cars. Or it could even have been taken in a park - however all you can see is a flat parkland of grass with nothing of interest happening.
All of these scenarios will negate the great photo you took of your dog. Instead of focusing on your dog and how great they look in the photograph, viewers will now be distracted by the background and your image will lose the overall appeal.
You need interest in both the foreground and the background of an image to really make it pop. However, you never want the background of an image to overshadow your subject. You want the background and location to compliment the subject and not detract. Think of pretty foliage, nice flowers, interesting shrubs of varying heights in parks, including both water and sand in beach images as well as the skyline. Or perhaps shooting with a beautiful pier or rocks in the background at the beach. These are just a couple of items to get the ideas flowing for you.
Location is extremely important so make sure you take note of your surroundings to set your photos up for success.
I cannot stress this one enough. You need to have a lot of patience if you want great images of your pet. As much as we love our furry buddies they aren't exactly the most reliable when it comes to doing what you want. And even if they do do what you want, you then have to be quick enough to capture it (though that's another issue for another day).
Back to patience - before you try to take a photos of your pet, you need to acknowledge that your plan probably won't actually go to plan :)
Nothing derails a plan more than a happy dog or cat discovering something new and going with it. You need patience to adapt to these changes in your plans and go with the flow. Animals are very attuned to energy, especially of their owners, and nothing will ruin a photo session faster than frustration and negative energy. You pet will know that something is wrong and will try to fix it the best way they know how - by trying to be close to you, by trying to comfort you with their presence. Which in this situation - is exactly what you don't want! As a close pet, is one you won't be able to photograph properly.
So rein in the frustration when something doesn't go to plan and roll with it instead. If your dog decides he wants to sniff that flower instead of sitting near the rock, where you want him, well now it's up to you to get in the best position and frame him sniffing that flower into a great image.
Remember - patience. Patience also flows right into the next tip.
Follow Natural Behaviour
For the majority of the pets I photograph - they know some basic commands like sit and shake but they aren't used to obeying a variety of commands for a prolonged period of time. And that's ok. Try following their natural behaviour . So instead of forcing your dog to sit when he wants to stand, let him stand.
I'm not saying don't try to get the sitting pose as well, but by letting him stand and not trying to force him into an uncomfortable position that he doesn't want to do, look for ways that make him want to do it naturally. Take note of the area you want him to sit - is it comfortable? Are you asking him to sit on some concrete that's hot to the touch (who would want to sit on that)? Perhaps the area is slippery and he has more balance on all fours. Perhaps he's in a new place and with all the new sights, smells and people he feels more comfortable on his feet where he react more quickly.
Then do your best to accommodate these. Too many distractions? Try another area where there aren't as many he can see. Ground too hot? Move to a grassy area that's more comfortable etc. By trying to think about an area from the dog's perspective we can start to see it how they would and accommodate them where we can which will ultimately get you the images you want, in the poses you want because we've now made it more natural for the dog to comply.
While praise and treats can work great for some pets. A lot of dogs become very reward conscious when treats come into play. They then get so focused on 'getting the treat' that they can't concentrate on anything else and let alone doing what you want for a photo.
So if that's your dog, I'm going to introduce you to my not so secret weapon: noises.
Weird noises and sounds make your dog look at you. If it's something you don't do often or that they've never heard before then they will take a moment when they hear it to look at you. And it's on those moments where you take the photo. You have to be quick, as if only lasts a second or two but it works a treat.
Just don't use the same noise repeatedly or you lose their reaction. Once they know it’s you making the noise then they can dismiss it and keep ignoring you. So make sure to mix up the sounds and use them sparingly.
Keep It Fun
Nothing ruins a session more quickly than boredom. Your dog has a limited attention span and my recommendation is that instead of trying to work against that, to work with it instead.
What do I mean by that? Simply put - make sure that you have play breaks. Nothing is going to bore your dog quicker than trying to repeatedly force him into a position while you take a gazillion photos.
Your dog is going to get bored, be more easily distracted and stop listening to you if you go down this route. It's a much better idea to break up your time with play. It will give your dog a break, keep them entertained and it will act as a 'reward' of sorts for a job well done.
So make sure you throw that ball, let him sniff that interesting spot and run around. Both you and your pets will enjoy it and it will make getting those more posed photos much easier to capture as they are more likely to listen to you if they know they are going to be rewarded later.
Just remember, that a lot of factors go into getting good photographs of your pet. These five tips are just a few of them that should get you started.
Or if that all sounds like too much work and you want to hire a photographer instead so that you can simply play with your dog while the professional does their job - then please contact me to book your session ;)