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8 tips to take better pictures of your dog

Updated: Jan 19, 2020

You can't ever have enough photos of your dog! (in my opinion anyway)

I love to scroll back through my phone gallery and remember puppy days (OMG so cute), beach days, long walk days, looking cute days (every day) and doing silly things days (most days).

If you're going take a million photos of your dog might as well make them good! Here are my top eight tips to help you get some great shots of your furry best friend.

Cute picture of a dog peeping over a chair

Let's dive straight in.

1. Get down to their level

Most photos we see of peoples' dogs are taken from a ‘human perspective’ – you saw your dog looking cute, grabbed your phone and snapped off a shot standing where you were. To be brutally honest, this is what makes 90% of dog photos so boring, because this is how we see dogs every day, standing up looking down at them.

If you get down to the dog’s level you instantly create a connection. Suddenly you’re seeing your dog and the world from their perspective and that immediately creates interest and feels more intimate.

(And yes, I was lying on my stomach, on the pavement, outside a cafe, to get this shot, much to the amusement of everybody drinking their coffee!! They had to actually step over me to get in or out the door!)

2. Get a connection

A chocolate lab dog sitting in long grass in Dunedin

Blue Syd is a little blue squeaky dog toy that lives permanently in my camera bag, along with a little bag of treats. I never know when I’m going to be photographing a dog so I like to have this stuff on hand all the time because it makes such a huge difference.

First I’ll get set up, make sure the dog is sitting where I want it to, the light is good, I’ve found my angle, taken a test shot, then - and only then - when I’m fully ready, I’ll squeak my toy.

For a split second the dog’s ears go up, they stare at you intently or tip their head to one side in that lovely, curious, questioning way and ‘click’ – a beautiful shot of your dog looking straight into the camera. But you’ve got to be ready!

Some dogs react better to a smelly treat then squeaker toys, but whatever you are using hold it close to your lens so the dog is looking right into the camera.

3. Find the light

Action photo of a dog chasing a ball on St Clair beach, Dunedin

I’m going to break this one to you bluntly – photos taken indoors using the flash on your camera are never going to look good. The light is harsh, front-on and just plain ugly.

Get your dog outside, in the shade if it’s a sunny day. If you have to be inside get them as close to the window as you can.

4. Fill the frame

Portrait of a border collie dog

If you’re taking a portrait get in nice and close. Fill as much as possible of your picture with your subject and make sure the eyes are in focus. If you’re using a phone or a tablet tap on the eyes to put the focus point there.

Watch out for distractions in the background. If there’s something bright or light in the background like a traffic cone or a child’s toy either move it, or move your subject or yourself.

5. Don’t get hung up about your gear

A Dunedin girl and her puppy playing in front of a pink door

It’s about the moment not the gear. Sure some types of photographs, like action shots, are harder if you don’t have an SLR, but there is nothing stopping you getting in nice and close for a beautiful portrait with your phone.

As long as you make sure you have good light and lots of it, i.e. outdoors, you should have a good hit rate.

6. Bring in the dog’s best friend

A girl and her dog photographed together in Dunedin

Add a human face and show the relationship between them and the dog. Get them interacting – playing together, running around on the beach or lying down having tummy rubs.

Dogs live in the now and they have a way of pulling people right into the moment with them. People become so absorbed on interacting with the dog they momentarily forget you’re there and you can get gorgeous expressions.

7. Try some action shots

If you’re using a camera that allows you to adjust your shutter speed and aperture, shooting your dog racing around and being silly is a great way to get really good at action photography!

Try some panning techniques if you are photographing the dog running along from the side. If your dog is running straight towards you set your focus on continuous focusing mode.

Action shots are harder using a phone or point-and-shoot camera as there is a slight delay between pushing the button and the camera taking the picture. The trick is to try and anticipate and set the camera to shoot in burst mode.

8. Practice, practice, practice

This is the most awesome thing about photographing dogs. They are the most uncomplaining subjects ever! They won’t give you cheesey smiles, silly faces or start whining they’ve had enough after five minutes (that last one might not apply to all dogs!).

If your dog is young or loves to play silly and jump all over you, a good long walk can burn off some of that energy and make things a bit easier for you.

Experiment, try different angles, try different toys or treats, try different light and different locations and then one day you’ll suddenly hit it and take a gorgeous shot where all these things come together.

Good luck, have fun and lastly, don’t forget to give your dog a big reward at the end of every photo session. (This photo: Liana-Bee Photography)

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