Pet Photography Tips: Getting the Perfect Picture of your Pooch

Here at Silicon Beach Training, we are big fans of Rhian White’s dog photography so we asked for some tips on getting the perfect pooch picture. We think you will agree that the following post is crammed full of them so have a read and then go and take your dog for a walk with your camera! Once you’ve captured your images you will want to use Photoshop to get them ready for print. 

Rhian is an outdoor dog photography specialist who runs Brighton Dog Photography.

“Photographing dogs in the outdoors can often be a challenging task, but it can be one which is ultimately very rewarding. In this article I’m going to discuss some techniques and points to remember that help me get that perfect shot.

dog photography tips

Patience

It might seem silly to start with a point that has nothing to do with my camera nor with the dog, but having patience is always at the forefront of my mind. Dogs don’t always do or go where you want them to (I frequently only have one hour in which to get a selection of shots of a dog I have only just met, so the pressure is on) and it makes no sense getting frustrated.

The more patient you are to get the shots you are after, the more likely you will get them. It helps if you try and practice with the dog little and often. Depending on the dog they will get bored, and if they do put the camera away, go and do what the dog wants for a bit and then come back and try again.

Realise that it can take many attempts to get what you are after, so patience with yourself and your dog is paramount.

Not a dog person? Don’t worry we have plenty of photography tips for people too.

Enthusiasm

On my dog photography workshops I am constantly encouraging others to be as enthusiastic as they possibly can.

If your dog is not the best at sitting still for a photo, but they do sit still for a few seconds, then praise, praise and then praise some more. Dogs want to please you and they will be very happy if you tell them they did a good job, even if it was just for one second.

The next time they will be more likely to sit and you will have a better opportunity to get the shot you are after. Even if they only half do what you wanted, go crazy and make them think they did they best job in the world!

Where they like to go, not you

Even if you dream of taking a photo of your dog running through the shallow waters at low tide, there is very little point in trying to get this shot if your dog hates the water. You mustn’t get them stressed just so you can practice your photography. You will get the best results by taking them where they like to be the most. If this happens to be rolling round in cow pats on Devil’s Dyke then so be it!

If your dog is enjoying the experience then this will come through in your photography. Concentrate on making it their best day ever, every time. They will learn to love the camera.

Lighting

If you aim to take photographs during the ‘golden hour’ (approximately one hour after sunrise and one hour before sunset) you will stand a much better chance of achieving good lighting and a beautiful exposure.

During the middle of the day is to be avoided, especially on a sunny day in the middle of summer and especially if your dog has black fur. The contrast between the strong lights and darks can be too much for many cameras. Softer, golden lighting looks so much better and your dog will appreciate being out and about when it is cooler too.

Get on the ground

A lot of my most successful shots are taken from the dog’s point of view. In some cases where the dog is very small this will mean lying flat on the ground so I always make sure I wear old clothes.

If you do have a wide angle lens this would be the best time to use it as you can get some interesting angles of dogs looming over you.

Context

I like portraits of dogs where they take up most of the frame, but I also love images where you see the dog in the context of where they are. The image above of young Arty perfectly reflects firstly, one of his favourite pastimes (digging up the beach) and secondly, of a magical morning when he and his owner got up very early to experience low tide at sunrise on Brighton beach. The lighting was astonishing and by placing Arty smaller in the frame we can see some of what all the fuss was about.

Background

I try to place dogs in front of a background that complements the colour of their fur. It’s important that there is plenty of contrast between the dog and the background so the dog stands out.

The image above of Albert works well because the green hues contrast nicely with his black fur. Using a zoom lens I managed to blur the background which also helped Albert to stand out. His cute face also helps!

Get to know locations

There are always going to be certain times of the year when certain locations are more interesting than at other times. Stanmer Park for example is currently awash with Bluebells, and as long as you make sure your dog does not trample all over them these can provide a beautiful setting. Pretty soon there will be field upon field of Poppies up near Stanmer too.

Watch out for the Spring tide on Brighton beach and all of the parks look great during the Autumn when your dog can lark about in the fallen leaves.

Action, or the lack thereof

Getting shots of dogs in action can be some of the most fun to get, but if you have a dog that doesn’t like to move very much when you want them to, it can be quite tricky. Of course it helps if you have a camera that can capture dogs at speed, especially for the really fast ones.

My rule of thumb to get the best action shots is to shoot the dog running towards you but slightly off to one side and get them running towards the sun. Get on the floor or use a monopod for extra balance.

Mostly I shoot in Continuos Focus bursts, but sometimes I will focus on a single point and shoot a quick burst when the dog enters the area where I have focussed. The image above of Boo going after her ball was taken in Manual focus and using flash.

If you have a dog that can and does like to run, but just not when you are asking them to (don’t try and make a poor old lame doggy run around) I have a little trick that makes them move. You will need another two people (unless they are able to sit and stay and wait for you to tell them they can come) to help you. Get the first person to take the dog to where you want them to start from and when you are ready get the other person to run away as fast as they can, but starting from where you are. The first person should then let the dog go and run out of shot and the dog should run after the second person and you can get your action shot. I’ve never been in a situation when this hasn’t worked, so give it a go.

Post-production

I use Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop for the post-production of all of my images. Lightroom is fantastic for editing a large number of images quickly and for those where I feel some extra work is needed, I move over to Photoshop for some extra tweaks. Whether this is removing the odd bit of eye gloop, dust or shadows, Photoshop is amazing at allowing me to quickly edit my images using only a very small number of tools.

Generally I only use the Stamp and Spot Healing Brush tools, but I also utilise the powerful Shadows/Highlights function too which can turn some images I’m not too fussed about in to ones where I am extremely pleased. I really love colourful and vibrant images so back in Lightroom I tend to up the Vibrance and Saturation, crop where appropriate and that’s it.

Lastly, it goes without saying really but the more you practice and search for the best times to photograph your dog, the better. Be prepared to have lots of unsuccessful shots, but they only serve to make the better ones all the more satisfying to achieve.

To see more of my images please visit my website: www.brightondogphotography.co.uk

I also have a stock site which contains all of my best images which are for sale: brightondogphotos.photoshelter.com 

Become a fan on Facebook and enter my competition to win a free photo shoot for your dog.”

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Aaron Charlie

Aaron Charlie is a Creative Design & IT expert at Silicon Beach Training. Connect with Aaron on Google+

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One Comment

Diane says:

Great article! Lots of awesome tips. Once the snow melts i’ll be taking the whippet out for a photo shoot :)

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