Dog Portrait Tips from the Doggyloot Photographer
Everybody loves puppy pictures, and as the staff photographer at Doggyloot.com I especially love them. Today I’m going to give a few tips on how to capture a great photograph of your canine companion.
When photographing a dog, I am always on one knee or lower. More often than not I’m actually lying on the ground propped-up on my elbows with my camera.
I do this because getting down low is the best way to get a clear view of the dog’s face. As people, our brains are setup to recognize faces, and the most looked at photographs always include at least one face. It’s part of the reason portraits are eye-catching. So when you pick up that camera, get down low.
Focus on the Eye
Regardless of what camera you’re using, the eye is the focal point of any portrait. When your pup looks directly into the camera lens, the eventual photograph will give the impression that the dog is looking out of the photo directly at the viewer.
It may take some time to get it right, but focusing on the eye is the difference between a nice picture and a heart-stopping one.
Get Help and Treats
There’s a saying in show-business that goes “Never work with children or animals”. It’s not because animals and children are bad, it’s because they’re unpredictable. Your pup doesn’t know what’s going on when you put that camera to your eye. How are they supposed to know to look directly into the camera lens and sit quietly?
They need a little help, and so do you. When I’m struggling with a restless dog during a photography session, I call upon two human-helpers to get things back on track. I have one assistant hold one of the dog’s favorite treats over my shoulder or directly over the lens of my camera. This will encourage the dog to face the camera lens, if not look directly into the camera.
I’ll then have my other assistant hold the dog’s leash to prevent them from rushing the camera and ruining the shot. For my work at Doggyloot, I often photoshop out the leash afterwards, but if you’re following the steps I listed above: Get Low, Focus on the Eye; everybody will be so caught up with your dog’s beautiful face they won’t even care about a leash dangling in the background.
Portraits are wonderful, but nobody said they have to be solo events! Everybody likes to see a group of puppies playing, or a dog and their person having fun. But even if there are two or more faces in the picture, the above rules still apply: Get Low, Focus on the Eye, and (if you need it) Get Help and Treats.
Get those settings right!
This tip is a bit more technical, unless you’re shooting on a smartphone. If you’re shooting on smartphone you can ignore this tip and just go nuts. The smartphone is already doing everything it can to make the best picture possible. This also goes for point-and-shoot cameras and SLR (Single Lens Reflex) camera set to ‘automatic’. If you’re using those settings, just have fun.
But if you want more control over the settings of your point-and-shoot or SLR, the first step is to familiarize yourself with ‘shutter-speed priority mode’. Different camera companies will have different acronyms to refer to shutter-speed priority mode. I know for Canon cameras it’s referred to as ‘TV’ but you’ll have to check your camera’s manual to be sure.
Because dogs can be unpredictable and quick, it’s best to setup your camera to capture images very quickly. Shutter-speed priority mode allows you to set how quickly your camera captures a photograph while letting the camera figure out the rest of the settings to make the best possible image.
When I am photographing, I set the camera to a shutter-speed of 1/200 of a second or 1/160 of a second. Because the shutter is moving so quickly, it can make a clear, crisp photograph even if your dog suddenly turns its head or begins running.
Alright Doggylooters, that’s all I’ve got for today. Get out there, take a lot of photos, and have fun!