5 tips and tricks for photographing dogs (and other pets)

I took some photos of my dogs Ollie and Mia recently modelling jumpers that I knitted for them. And that got me thinking about the tips and tricks I use when photographing dogs (or other pets) to try to get nice photos. I also have experience photographing foster puppies over the years and while I’m by no means an expert, I’ve built up a few tip and tricks for photographing pets that I find help.

So often when taking quick photos of my dogs, I don’t have my SLR on hand, so I’ve tried to tailor my tips and tricks to using your phone (although I’ve cheated because all of the photos in the  post were taken on my ‘good’ camera).

Dog Jumpers 047 square1. One word – Treats

Before you think about anything else make sure you are armed with a bag of treats. This may be the only way to get your dog or pet to sit still for anything more than 5 seconds. I find holding the treat beside the lens or beside my phone, tricks them into looking directly at the camera. Or as happened when I was photographing the dog jumpers, Ollie looks like he’s staring ponderously into the middle distance, but is instead looking at R who was holding the treats just off camera. If you’re taking an impromptu photo of your dogs, or other pets, and don’t have treats available, grab their favourite (squeaky) toy and wave (or squeak) it beside the phone to get their attention.

Week 4 (143)2. The same rules apply

The same basics that apply to all photography also applies to photographing dogs or pets. Think about your light source, get them near a window or in natural light. Have a quick scan of the background to make sure there is nothing distracting there and remember the rule of thirds. Try to compose the photo so that your pet’s head is at one of the ‘points of power’. Most phone cameras will allow you to view the ‘rule of thirds’ grid as a guide.

Dexter 8 week old Jack Russell foster puppy3. Get down to their level

You have three options here – get down on the ground, lift your dog or pet up by placing them on a couch, bench or rock, or compose the photo so they are meant to be staring up (or down) at you. I’m one of these people how likes to get down on the ground to play with my dogs anyway so I can just grab my phone (which is nearly always in arm’s reach :/ ). But if you’re outside it might be less messy to pop your pet on a bench and hunker down so that you’re face to face.

Foster a puppy, dog, cat or kitten4. It’s all about the eyes

You have to get the eyes in focus, there really is no way around it. This is true for photographing dogs and pets, as well as people. I have a gazillion photos of dogs where the eyes are out of focus and they just don’t have the same wow factor. This can be really difficult to achieve, but you should be able to tap on the screen of your phone to tell it where to focus. This of course only works if you have time before your dog or pet moves again. If you’re using an SLR it can sometimes be difficult to tell if the eyes are in focus until you upload your photos to the computer, so just keep shooting. (Agh, I’ve just noticed that the eyes are not in focus in the shot below, but the runners give such a good sense of scale I don’t care).

Four week old pit bull puppy

5. Natural habitat

When I was photographing Ollie and Mia in their new jumpers I wanted to capture them looking natural, so off we went to the park with my camera and a bag of treats in my pocket. I think this worked better than just plopping them on the couch, or in the back garden. It can be great to get some non-posed photos of dogs and pets too. Some of my favourite photos are of dogs just being dogs, although you’ll have to be quick (and lucky) to get these shots.

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Puppy Love

I’ve been pretty quiet for the last few weeks. The main reason is that all my focus has been taken by Capstone project, which is essentially a group thesis. Working on a thesis is stressful enough, but working in a group brings it’s own challenges. Maybe I’ll write a little more about our project some other time.

Foster pups 046Right now I have puppy pics to share. I hadn’t planned to foster puppies while I’m working on the Capstone, as I had planned to work from the library and wouldn’t be around the house every day. Plus, our last foster didn’t work out so well. Daisy was a Staffie X, I love Staffies, love them but this puppy was crossed with a Collie and even at 10 weeks old was bigger than Ollie and Mia. They didn’t like that very much, a huge puppy bounding at them, so she went to another foster family for her own sake.

Puppy 2Anyway, last Friday I was up at the shelter and a litter of 8 puppies and their mum were coming back from a foster home to get their first vaccination and microchipping. They were separated from mum and paired off to go back into new foster homes for another three weeks, until a week after they’ve had their second vaccinations. Well 8 puppies running around my feet, who could resist.

Puppy 1I weakened, so now I’m working from home and having so much fun with this pair. They’re so easy to have around. With the heatwave we’ve been having we’ve been spending a lot of time in the garden or with the back door open, so we’ve had very few accidents in the house. They’re great at helping with the stress, when things are getting tough with the Capstone one of them will bound across the room and make me laugh.

These two ladies will be available for adoption through the DSPCA, subject to suitability assessment, home check and rehoming fee.

So busy…

I have 4 weeks of lectures left in my Masters and I am literally up to my eyes. As the Dowager Countess of Grantham so succinctly put it “What is a weekend?“.

I have finished a shawl and am half way through another, but haven’t gotten around to blocking or photographing either yet. Soon, maybe.

Dexter 8 week old Jack Russell foster puppy

But I do have a foster puppy called Dexter at the moment. Isn’t he a cutie? Dexter is an 8 week old Jack Russell puppy. His mum was tragically found dead and the kind members of the public who went to check to see whether she was dead or just injured found a 5 week old Dexter beside her. Mum wasn’t so lucky unfortunately, but now little Dexter is thriving.

He’s been with us for three weeks and is great fun to have around. He’s the perfect antidote to all the assignments I have stacked up at the moment. He’s getting his first vaccinations on Thursday will be ready to find his  forever home a few weeks after that. He’s been no trouble at all – he’s so tiny, and although not house trained, when he does go to the toilet it’s pretty tiny too. He’s got the softest coat and has quite long hair, not like most Jack Russells I know so he might be crossed with something else.

Ok, enough puppy talk from me and back to work…

What a year

The last few weeks have made me realised the power that the media and the general feeling of doom and gloom in the air can have on us (recession-this and cuts-that etc.). It would be very easy for me to look back on the last year and forget all the wonderful things that happened to me. In fact, until I really started to think about it I would have said the last year was pretty bad, because that’s what I keep hearing over and over again.

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Image Credit: Halfadreamaway.com

But 2012 has been an amazing year for me. First of all I married the love of my life last April. Married life so far has been pretty good, it feels very much the same as before, but also quite different too. It feels like we’re more of a team now, more secure – like being wrapped in a warm blanket, it’s us against the world. But day to day little changes.

Week 5 428The summer wasn’t so good, the weather was a bit crap and I had some crap going on with my job. But the extra time off meant I was able to foster some puppies which I blogged about. I fell hook, line and sinker for these two beauties, and while it took some time to find them the perfect forever homes, I was delighted that they had both found really great homes in time for Christmas. We’ve even fostered other puppies since but I’ve managed to guard my heart a bit better with those puppies.

Books 013And all the shit over the summer lead me to reassess my career and career options and in September I found myself back in a University lecture theatre. I’m currently studying for a Masters in Library and Information Studies and loving every minute of it. I feel like I’ve found myself all over again, and while I’ve been busier and more stressed than I had been for a long time I can also say that I’m the happiest I can remember.

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Image Credit: Halfadreamaway.com

So 2012, you were pretty epic. I have the most amazing family in my husband and our two furbabies, as well as my wider family and friends. I’ve got back into photography, have continues to improve my knitting and still enjoy volunteering with the DSPCA. It’s been a great year and now I’m excited to see what 2013 brings.

Lil Alvin

Alvin came to the DSPCA as a cruelty case when he was just a tiny puppy. When the inspectors picked him up he has a fractured skull and was immediately treated by the vets at the shelter.

One of his front paws was also deformed because of an old break that didn’t heal properly and it needed to be amputated, although they needed to wait until Alvin was strong enough for the operation. Alvin has been in foster care with one of the members of staff from the shelter. You can see more photos of Alvin on the DSPCA Facebook page.

Alvin had surgery a few weeks ago and is now doing great running around on three legs. However even at seven months he’s only a teeny tot and had been really feeling the cold since his operation. His foster mom couldn’t find a dog coat small enough so I knit him a special little jumper with leftovers from my hot water bottle cover as part of the Pawsitive Knits project. Despite everything Alvin has been through he’s a happy little puppy and a total cutie and is rocking his new jumper.

Heartbroken

“I would find it too difficult to give them back.”

Katie and Taylor at 4 weeks old

Katie and Taylor at 4 weeks old

This is the most common reaction when I say I’m fostering puppies. And the most common reason people have for not doing it.

And yes, it is hard to give them back. I’m heartbroken. We even spent the weekend after giving them back agonising about adopting Taylor, before deciding that three dogs was too much, especially as she will be so much bigger than Ollie and Mia.

Katie and Taylor at 10 weeks old

Katie and Taylor at 10 weeks old

I worry about them because of their breed more than any other puppy we have fostered. I wonder what kind of life they will have and hope with all my heart that they find a wonderful forever home who will love them as a member of the family.

It’s hard to give them back, but it’s worth it. And it gets easier each time and also with time. It’s so rewarding knowing you’ve given them a good start in life. And surely the pain of giving them back is worth it for all the joy they gave us while they were here. And the pain is worth it knowing that you gave two homeless puppies the chance at a better life.

So do it, if the only thing holding you back from fostering is the thoughts of giving them back, just do it.  As Garth Brooks once sang: “I could have missed the pain. But I’d of had to miss the dance”.

Week 5: Heart Breakers

My girls are going back to the shelter in the morning. Oh crap, here come the tears already. And they really are heart breakers. Look at their little faces, so full of love and fun. They are going to make amazing pets for the right family.

And I am going to miss them like crazy.

This is a short post because it’s just too hard. But they needed someone to look after them and we stepped up to the plate. We’ve watched them grow from weak four week old babies into boisterous, strong, fun and beautiful nine week old puppies. They’ve spent more than half their lives with us. The transformation has been really amazing, these girls are such a joy to have around. Even if I’m the only one in the house who thinks so. Mia has been very stressed at having them here, so I hope she won’t gloat too much tomorrow.

These heart breakers will be available for adoption through the DSPCA, subject to a suitability assessment, home check and adoption fee.

Week 4: Actual Dogs

I’m pretty sure there is nobody out there waiting for my next blog post. But in case you were wondering why my weekly update on the foster puppies is late, I had a nasty bug. So, although the update is late, the photos were taken at the weekend, heading into Week 4. I’m feeling much better now thanks, but there were a few days there where I could hardly move from my bed.

The title of the post really says it all. My brother commented “They’re actual dogs now.” It’s the exact same phrase that had been going around my head. They’re 7 weeks old in these photos and all of a sudden they have developed personalities and are into everything. They’re not just pooing machines anymore. It has been an amazing transition, from baby puppy (sleep, eat, poo, maybe some play) to proper puppy running around the place, into everything. They recognise us now and recognise the sound of the food bowl, more importantly.

Katie  (above, the brown one) is the crazy one and will fling herself around the place without a care in the world. And she is so moany. They’re both very vocal, but if Katie is not happy about something she will let you know. She’s hilarious but totally nuts. Taylor (below, the white one) is much more laid back and calm. She’s still puppy crazy but is a bit more cautious. She loves to give kisses and loves to climb into your lap for a snooze. I can actually imagine her trying to climb into your lap as a full grown pit bull.

And they are growing so much. Every time I look at them they’re bigger. Taylor, the bigger of the two, isn’t much smaller than Mia now. The puppy barrier needs to be reinforced daily but is really helpful at keeping the carpet clean and keeping peace in the house.

They got their first vaccination this morning. And then we only have them for another week. I’m already dreading it. I wouldn’t say we have completely bonded; they are more interested in each other most of the time, they didn’t have personalities for most of the time they were with us, they’re kept in the kitchen even when we’re in other parts of the house, I always knew they’d be leaving so only gave them part of my heart. But that part of my heart is going to be devastated when they leave.

Week 3: Puppy Prison

I can’t get over how quickly these puppies are growing, every time I look at them I think they’ve gotten bigger. They’ve been here for two full weeks now, although it feels so much longer. In a good way. There is quite a lot of cleaning with two puppies and my husband in particular was getting fed up with constantly scrubbing the carpet.

6 week old pit bull puppies at puppy gateWe have a carpeted area in our kitchen, as well as tiles, which make keeping them off the carpet even more difficult. So on Friday morning I fashioned a very large puppy gate using kitchen chairs, trellis and boxes. We’ve had to reinforce it a few times and is a bit unsightly but it’s working a treat. They are kept on the very large tiled area, we can climb over it and Ollie and Mia can jump up onto the chair and down the other side.

6 week old pit bull puppiesLook at those faces. It’s hard to stay mad for long. We still bring their bed and water into the sitting room with us but only when supervised. And they get toilet breaks every time they wake up. Accidents on the tile are so much easier to clean up.

6 week old pit bull puppiesOllie and Mia still aren’t very bothered with them. I think they feel ganged up on with two of them. And the girls are inseparable. Katie and Taylor are really looking forward to seeing their namesake performing in the Olympics tomorrow too.

Mia Yorkshire Terrier Yorkie X ChihuahuaHere’s a picture of Mia, because she’s been feeling a bit left out and looks so great after her grooming.

Week 2: Pooing machines

Katie and Taylor have been with us for a whole week now and we’re heading into week 2. The changes in them are amazing, they are so much more sturdier, there are no more worms and they have grown so much.

Pit bull X puppyThey’re eating really well and they’re full of energy. All this good quality food has turned them into pooing machines, hence the blog post title. However, because they’re being fed the good quality food their poos (and excuse me here, I’ll try not to get too graphic) are less frequent, more predictable, more solid and less smelly. All reason enough to invest in good quality food for your pooches in my opinion!!

We’re keeping accidents to a minimum by taking them out the back straight after eating, and as soon as they wake up, when they are guaranteed to need to go to the toilet. I wouldn’t say this is house training, they’re a bit too young yet. But it saves us the constant cleaning and it is hopefully setting up good habits.

Pit bull X puppyThey pretty much sleep, eat and poo. But the gaps between sleeping are getting longer and longer and it’s so funny to watch them tumbling and wrestling with each other. They’re also getting more interested in toys in the last day or so. We have plenty of puppy toys left over from Ollie and Mia, which is great because puppies need soft toys that won’t damage their teeth. There are no real discernible personalities yet but they’re beginning to emerge.

Pit bull X puppyOllie is still pretty much ignoring their existence, but Mia is becoming more and more curious. She still isn’t playing with them and growls if they get too close but every so often I find her inching closer and closer to them to have a sniff. With each of our other foster pups it has taken about a week for her to really start playing so there may be hope yet.

Pit bull X puppy