We've all seen those adorable dog photos. They are on billboards, in magazine ads, on store products, in funny internet memes? Let's face it. Who doesn't love pet photos? Of course, many people are inspired by their own little fur baby and want to get great photo for themselves. However, what they often get are pictures of butts and tails because their dog turned around at the last second, or stopped doing that cute pose as soon as the camera was up and ready. Sometimes the photo just plain falls flat of expectation. Getting great photos of our four-legged, tail-wagging family members has been a problem plaguing mankind, pretty much since the invention of the camera. Below are a few helpful hints to help you get better results with your own dog.
1. Get help and don't do it, alone. I have to say, this is probably legitimately the number one helpful hint to successful pet photography. Yes, of course many people can and do get great photos while working alone (like all of my examples below) but I have done it both ways and speak from years of experience when I say it is definitely better for the photographer and the dog, if there is help. The best way for a second person to help is to stand directly behind the camera, placing their face on an even plane with the camera lens and talking with the pup or making noises. This generally keeps the dog's eyes looking close to the lens and creates an illusion of the eyes looking at the camera and making a connection with the viewer.
2. Pick a time when the animal is sleepy, especially young ones. Most types of puppies do one thing more than anything else...sleep. After they wake up from a nap, they are usually feeling frisky and wanting to play. That's a tough time to try and keep them in one spot long enough to get even one photo, much less a few options. However, after running around and burning off some of that energy, they start to wind down. They get more and more calm as time goes on and they move toward needing another nap. This is generally a great time to try to get a few shots. They are less likely to try to run off and more likely to sit or lay in one spot.
3. Get down on their level. I think the single biggest mistake that people make is standing above animals to get a photo. This isn't a complimentary angle for humans and it's the same for dogs. Sometimes, you just have to lay down in the grass to get the best presentation.
4. Use a clutter-free background. This can usually be accomplished with a very shallow depth of field, using a wide open aperture on a good lens, and/or moving in very close to your subject but it can also be as simple as moving to a de-cluttered area. Distracting backgrounds can be things inside a house, like furniture, toys or people. Outside it can be cars and trucks, telephone poles, signs and more. Like with people, there's nothing flattering about a picture of Spot where it looks like there is a telephone pole growing out of the top of his head. Just move off to the side, a few feet, and try again.
5. The most important thing is to be patient. When you present yourself in a calm, relaxed, patient manner, that translates to the animal you are working with. Dogs, especially, are very sensitive to human emotion. That's why they are used for companion animals (and earned the title "man's best friend"). All your dog wants to do is please you and make you happy. If you are trying to get a photo and are getting upset, frustrated or angry because things aren't going smoothly (and they usually don't), your dog will immediately pick up on that and will become uncomfortable because he won't understand why you're upset with him. It's better to walk away and try at another time, than to find yourself in that situation. Dogs also have a great memory and if that "big, dark eye" coming out of your head causes you to get upset, your dog will quickly learn to avoid it.
I hope that you found these tips to be helpful to you. Feel free to post your own pet photos on our Facebook page or tag us on Instagram @TSGallantPhotography.