Nick Ridley, expert dog photographer, very generously shared a few tips and tricks to help you take better pictures of your dogs.
Whatever breed of dog you own, these tips will help you take better pictures of your dog whether that’s for promotional purposes or for the family album.
Ten Tips for Photographing Your Dog
1. Get some help! Your dog needs to be calm and at ease and it often helps to have a second pair of hands available – a handler to manage the dog while you manage the shot.
2. Know your equipment. If you’re taking photographs for family albums, then a simple camera or even your smart phone will do. However, if you want to take action shots or arty shots then you will need a camera where you can alter the aperture and the shutter speed and possibly use different lenses.
3. Choose your location. Dogs look more natural out of doors and you won’t need to worry about lighting. A bright cloudy day is better than brilliant sunshine as the shadows will be much softer. Arrange the shot so the light is coming from behind you and toward the dog. If you want to take pictures inside then you will need to consider using studio lighting and possibly a fill-in flash bounced off the ceiling.
4. Check your backdrop. Make sure it is clear and uncluttered. You want the dog to be the focus of interest not the clutter in the background.
5. Think security. If the dog might run off then keep it on a lead and/or in a secure environment. The lead can be hidden over the back of the dog or in the grass so it is not noticeable in the finished picture.
6. Start with static shots using the zoom function of your camera. Both you and the dog can remain still while you take head and shoulders, head and chest, and full body shots. Don’t allow the dog to run around before taking these shots or all your pictures will show the tongue hanging out and you’ll have trouble getting them to settle.
7. Position your dog at about 45 degrees rather than facing directly towards you, it makes for a more natural pose. Some dog breeds have very narrow chests which don’t look good from straight on. If you are taking a picture of a stud dog for promotional purposes, then position the animal side on and ensure the legs, tail and ears are demonstrating the breed characteristics to best effect.
8. When taking the shots, position your camera at the dog’s eye level. With tiny breeds and puppies this could mean lying on the ground. Even with larger breeds you’ll be sitting or crouching. If you take the picture from standing the dog will always be in a slightly unnatural pose, looking up at you, and could be foreshortened. It’s not a good perspective – you get much better pictures when the camera is at the dog’s eye level.
9. Be patient, you may have to take a lot of pictures to get exactly the shot you want. That said, beware of stressing your dog. Don’t make the photography sessions too long. And have treats or a dog biscuit handy as bribes and rewards.
10. Never use a flash directly toward the dog, it often results in red or green eye where the light reflects off the animal’s retina and appears to glow. And it can alarm the animal.
And most importantly, have fun photographing your dog!
Follow these top ten tips and you should find you’re taking some excellent pictures.
There is a lot more that can be shared about photographing dogs including taking action shots that need a very fast shutter speed to freeze the action; taking shots of puppies where the trick is to get them to stay still while you take the photograph; using props to make the dog look where you want it to; and more.
If, even after reading these tips, you want a professional to take your photographs for you, or you want to learn more from Nick, we encourage you to check out his website at www.nickridley.com.
“Photography is about setting up the shot. The photograph is seen in your eye long before you press the shutter button. Top of the range equipment won’t take a better picture if your composition’s not right, if the light’s not in the right place, and if you haven’t thought about the shot in the first place.” Nick Ridley, www.nickridley.com.