The definitive list of dog photography tips!
So you want to take awesome photo's of your dog but don't know how?
Well, you are in luck, today's blog is going to break down those barriers in technicalities and confidence to give you the tools you need to succeed and take better photographs.
This all sounds well and good but I don't own a DSLR so what now?
This guide has tips that are useful no matter if you are using your iPhone or mobile phone, a compact camera or DSLR. we will show you how to take your dog photography from snapshot to stunning!
So let's get to the tips yeah?
What is the one key thing every dog has in common but also makes them all unique?...
their personality! this is a key feature to really make the most of, owners know their dogs better than anyone are they a happy go lucky dog? are they a hyperactive full of life and vigour type? or perhaps they are quieter and chilled out, As with any photographs you really want to make the effort to show some charm and character a little glimpse of the personality of your subject and dogs are no different.
My personal favourite now, so let's talk angles ...
Angles and perspective are hugely important when it comes to taking photographs of our furry companions, think about it for a second when we look in magazines when we watch movies anything with video or photographs a great amount of importance is given to the angle and perspective, why? it's because one directly affects the other if you take a photo of someone from above they look tiny due to the perspective, now the same subject can be made to look huge by getting down really low to the ground. next time you photograph your dog try and get down on their eye level I promise you this will make a world of difference on its own because you are seeing the world from their perspective.
Another common question we get asked is "how do I keep my dogs attention"?
This may make us bad people but we like to have a pocket of the dog's favourite treats, I mean what dog could resist the lure of their favourite snack? alternatively, we find toys or training aids work wonders, do they have a favourite toy maybe it squeaks now this works absolute wonders for getting those photographs with the ears pricked up and eyes wide open, it is all about finding the right motivation for the dog in front of you!
My photos look busy and cluttered why is that?
When taking a photo we have to be mindful of all the elements in the frame, is there a bunch of clutter? is there a load of sticks or people or distractions present? it is very easy to focus purely on your subject and forget about the environment you are shooting in, take a moment to stop and consider your surroundings, a nice clean backdrop can make for a much more pleasant and appealing photograph.
I'm having trouble photographing my white/black dog why is that and how do I fix it?
We live in an age of digital technology and as amazing as it is sometimes there is certain situations where even the most advanced cameras can have difficulty when we press the shutter button half way down our cameras do something called metering, whats metering eh? well the camera takes and processes a measurement of the available light to work out quite how it should expose the image, modern cameras have several modes for metering, possibly the most common is matrix or evaluative it takes a reading of the light and tries to make an average called middle grey , this can pose a problem with high contrast or even low-contrast subjects such as white and black dogs , the resulting photographs may look too dark or maybe your white dog looks like they have an unearthly glow to them . This is where exposure compensation comes in, there is a little button on your DSLR that allows you to compensate for these kinds of issues but fret not mobile phone users I have come to your rescue too!
For white dogs use exposure compensation so go into the negatives which on your camera will be controlled by pushing this button and using the scroll wheel until you get the value you wish, and if you have a mobile phone do you see that little light bulb it will appear when you hold your finger on the screen you can drag up and down to change the exposure!
use the same techniques only in reverse for a black dog so head towards a positive value until you are happy with the results.
But my dog is nervous around unfamiliar people or objects what do I do?
Just like people all dogs are unique, some may have more confidence than any one dog should contain and meet and greet every person and situation without issue, others, however, may be a little shyer, So what can you do about this? our method for working with the shyer dogs is to use positive reward methods, oh cool you have looked where I want you to, give them a positive reward this could be with your voice it could even be one of our previously mentioned treats, play a game with their favourite toy with them around the equipment so it doesn't seem quite as scary and intimidating and I promise you they will warm up in no time but be patient and understanding.
I would like to add people onto my dog photography what types of shots work for adding the human element?
Well as a dog owner myself I appreciate the bond people have with their dogs, I myself have many photographs of my own dogs but very few that show me with them and would like to change that in future, my best tip for adding a human element to your dog photography would be to focus on the bond they have together, capture those real moments!
No matter how hard I try I can't seem to get good action shots help what do I do?
Action shots can be very tricky as there are many factors in play, the direction the dog is running, the amount of available light, camera settings such as shutter speed, ISO, aperture.
If you understand how all of these elements affect each other you can break down the elements of how to capture action, I try to steer away from the overly technical jargon where possible but think of taking a photograph like painting with light, the light is your paint, the sensor inside your camera is the canvas, not enough light and you don't have much of a painting, your camera needs enough light to properly expose a photograph but what affects how much light you get to the sensor? shutter speed is one element, the slower the shutter speed the more light is hitting the sensor, but we need a fast shutter speed to capture and freeze the motion for an action shot right?
another factor that affects how much light hits the sensor is the aperture or f-stop the lower the numerical value the more light is let through the lens this allows for more light to hit the sensor and allows a higher shutter speed, another benefit is this also allows you to have a shallower depth of field meaning more of your background and foreground will be blurrier which pulls the eyes focus on your subject.
what happens when you just don't have enough available light even though you have tried both of those things? surely using just those tips I will be able to nail my action shots every time? another important factor is ISO, to break this down into its simplest form this means how sensitive the sensor is to the light. the lower the numerical value, for example, ISO 100 the less sensitive the sensor is to the light available which is great if you have a nice sunny day but what happens if it's a gloomy overcast day and you want to get those action shots?
you can increase your ISO value with many modern cameras offering a range from ISO 100 to 6400 and beyond more light means faster shutter speeds but it does have one main drawback which is noise or grain in your images, the higher the value the more noise or grain appears in your images but this is often easily fixed when editing photos .
My dog won't stay still and I keep missing focus what do I do?
This a common question, dogs by their very nature like to move around we may be able to get them to sit but what happens when they move their head even slightly? you miss focus, right?
Depending on which camera brand you use depends on what the function is named but all camera brands feature different modes for their focusing
On Nikon cameras, you have AF-A (automatic), AF-S (single-shot) and AF-C (continuous autofocus).
On Canon camera's, you have One shot (single shot), AI FOCUS (automatic), and AI SERVO (continuous).
I advise to turn on continuous focus as when your subject moves even a little bit the camera will automatically track where you were focusing provided you half depress the shutter button so no more missed focus photographs yay.
I have heard a lot about back button focusing what is this and why would I use it?
Back button focusing is something that at first can seem like a strange and confusing concept to many but like many, since making the switch I myself have found an increase in accuracy in my focusing.
So what exactly is it?
put simply in your cameras many menus is the option to change the layout of certain buttons and functions of your camera back button focusing applies the focusing function to a button on the back of your camera.
now you may be thinking but that sounds daft why on earth would I possibly want to do that? before I go further allow me to explain that this is not a magical cure-all for your focusing worries but it does have its benefits.
when you change the focusing from the shutter button you no longer have to keep your finger on the shutter button to keep the focus on your subject. This may not sound like some kind of new found revelation but think about it for a second, think about photographing a moving subject like in the action shots we just went over those few fractions of a second to fully press the shutter button to take your photograph your subject may have moved a little, this results in a photo where you have missed the focus which isn't good right? well by applying back button focus those functions are separated so you can gain back those fractions of a second and effectively track your subject! resulting in more photographs with an accurate focus! yay, good results right?
now try combining this with continuous autofocus in our previous tip and you are all set to tackle any action shots!
This concludes part one of our Top Dog Photography Tips, if you would like to see more or if you would like to let us know if this guide has helped you on your dog photography journey please let us know we have a comment section below and the option to subscribe to our blog!
We also offer one to one and group workshops if you would like to go over it all in real life with a doggy model
or if you would like to see more behind the way we do things have a look here