Having a high-quality camera is a great asset in getting the perfect shot but you don’t need to rush out and buy a super expensive camera – a phone will work perfectly fine in many cases. Just make the most of what you have.
Focus on the eyes
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The eyes are the windows to the soul and this is no different for animals. To create a compelling photograph, keep your dog’s eye pin sharp and in focus. This will create an engaging portrait that will allow the viewer to have an immediate connection with the subject. In camera - use a single focus point and place it over the dog’s eye (unless your camera has an animal eye autofocus - in that case lucky you!). When using a phone, you can tap on the screen to tell it where to focus.
TOP TIP: The closest eye should always be in focus. Get down low
Most people take photos of their dog in a way that is comfortable for them - standing up with a camera held slightly below their eye level. Unfortunately, this is not the most flattering angle of the dog and quite frankly, it’s BORING.
One of the biggest differences you can make to improve your photos is to take them from a lower angle. This means that we can see life from the dog’s point of view but also it will make your dog appear more powerful and more impactful in the frame. That way, you will get more presence from the dog, more foreground and better context. Getting down low really helps to connect with dogs at their level.
Next time you're out getting photos, have your camera or phone low enough so that you begin to get some foreground in the image.
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Make use of natural daylight
Photography is centred around how we use light.
The best natural lighting for outdoor photoshoots happens in the first few hours after sunrise and last few before sunset.
If you’re shooting mid-day, opt for an overcast day because clouds give us a lot of flexibility in terms of soft and even light.
Avoid harsh and direct sunlight as much as possible, as it creates very bright highlights and unflattering shadows.
If you’re taking photos indoors, position your dog in a spot with a lot of natural light or a big window.
TOP TIP: You should avoid using flash. Direct flash is unflattering and animals get red eye too.
Get their attention
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Unless you’re photographing an extremely well trained dog, it is unlikely that your pet will pose exactly how you want them to. Dogs will respond differently to different things but there are a few methods we can use to get our dogs to look nice and alert:
If your dog loves toys then try using some of their favourite toys (e.g. a squeaky toy)
Use treat as a lure. They key with treats is to use high value treats (e.g. not an every day treat/food that your pet finds irresistible)
Noises - ask them questions like “what’s this?” or “who’s that?” or use other words that have special meaning for them. You could also use animal sound apps or YouTube etc.
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Use your camera’s frames-per-second tool by applying burst mode (high-speed drive mode). It works well for pets because it shoots with a fast shutter speed to freeze the moment. This tool helps ensure that you get the right shot and don’t miss any important moments. Burst mode is a function typically available on majority of smartphones.
Don’t cut off parts of the dog. For example, don’t clip their ears, paws and tail. This doesn’t mean you should always try to take body shots, you could either try head & shoulders, or head only.
Always check your background: don’t have trees, branches or other things growing out of the dog’s head (this can be avoided by stepping slightly to one side and choosing a different angle).
If the dog is looking to one side, give them space to look into (also referred to as ‘negative space’ in photography.
Ask for help
We all need a helping hand sometimes. You could ask a friend or a family member to assist with entertaining the dog while you take the photos. This will make the photoshoot easier and a lot more fun for everyone involved.
Reward Your Dog
Last but not least: don’t forget to pay your model. Throughout the shoot, offer them something that will keep them motivated and to let you take photos for a bit longer. The
reward is up to you, it can be anything from treats and toys to belly rubs. At the end of the day, nobody likes to work for free!