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.

Kilmacurragh 185

Dog jumper No. 1

Dog Jumpers 041I finished two dog jumpers* in the last few months, but because the weather has been seasonably warm (i.e. hot in Summer, which is surprisingly rare in Ireland) I haven’t had the chance to photograph them yet. It really didn’t seem fair to put the dogs in wool jumpers during a heat wave**. The temperature has dropped in the last week or so which meant that I could finally photograph these two jumpers without feeling guilty.

Dog Jumpers 036Mia models the Dog Sweater by Red Heart Design Team knitted in Cascade Yarns 220 on 5 and 5.5mm needles. I loved this top down pattern. It was a really quick, straightforward knit and a great base for experimentation. You just have to look through the finished projects on Ravelry to see what other have done with this pattern. It’s also very easy to measure and tailor the pattern to your dog as you go along. I would definitely knit this one again.

Dog Jumpers 005Now, I know what you’re going to say. She has finally lost her mind knitting jumpers for her dogs. And you may well be right. But I have my reasons.  Both dogs are long haired dogs and as such need to be groomed every 3 months or so. When we get their hair cut they tend to feel the cold and need a bit more warmth for about a week until they aclimatise to their new haircut. Image getting your hair cut very short, you might find that you need a hat. Well, that’s my excuse anyway and I’m sticking to it!

And, here is Ollie modelling his jumper.

* To any US readers, in Ireland we call sweaters jumpers.

** To any non-Irish readers, the temperature reached the mid to late-20s (celsius), which to us is pretty hot.

Happy Christmas from CraftyTails!

Are you ready for this? The cuteness that is my gorgeous girl Mia in her new Christmas jumper (even if I do say so myself) ? Christmas jumper are *everywhere* this year so it’s only right that Mia has one of her very own. I intend on knitting one for Ollie too but he hates wearing clothes, absolutely hates it. Mia is such a little girl though, she loves dressing up.Santa Coat 009The pattern is from Debbie Bliss Fall/Winter 2013 magazine. The instant I saw the pattern I knew I was destined to make at least one of them. The yarn is Garnstudio DROPS Nepal that I bought at the Knitting and Stitching show from Winnie’s Wool Wagon. It was on sale and cost less than €2 per ball from memory. In the end I bought enough for about 4 coats I’d say, I ended up needing far less yarn that the pattern suggested, less than one ball of each colour for Mia’s coat (she’s a Yorkie/Chihuahua cross, so pretty small).

Santa Coat 020This pattern is great as it’s very easy to tailor to your own dog, I just had to keep measuring it against Mia as I was knitting. The cables felt like they were taking FOREVER, but in the end they add great stability around the neck, and also on the belt. You can barley see the cabling on the belt because it’s black but it’s a lot more structured than garter stitch would be. I love it, and Mia loves it. She gets so much attention when she’s wearing it and she loves that too.

Happy Christmas everyone!!

Scruff monsters

My scruff monsters Ollie and Mia are heading to the groomer tomorrow so here are some ‘before’ shots.

Pre Grooming 012They haven’t been groomed since last November so their hair has gotten really long. Of course this is better for the winter, it keeps them nice and warm but their hair matts very easily so it’s a constant battle to get rid of matts as they appear.

Pre Grooming 011So tomorrow they are getting their hair cut very short. They are usually quite cold for a few days after being groomed but I have a few doggie jumpers I can pop on them. So bye bye scruff buckets, I can’t wait to see them with their new haircuts tomorrow.

UPDATED:

Colour Affection 004So here they are post groom. Totally different dogs but I’m sure much more comfortable.

Ollie and Mia

Ashby 078

This post is really just an excuse for me to share some photos of my Ollie and Mia. These photos were taken on the beach while I was taking photos of my Ashby shawl. We get stopped all the time when we’re going for walks so people can say hello and ask questions. I’m always quick to say that they’re rescue dogs to help dispel the myth that rescue dogs are are ugly mutts with behavioural problems. And Ollie and Mia love the attention.

Ashby 045I’ve written about Ollie and Mia before. The first photo is Ollie, he’s a Shih Tzu Terrier X and will be four this April. The photo just above is Mia, she’s a Chihuahua Yorkie X. She’s about two and a half now. They bring such fun and happiness into our lives. Don’t get me wrong, they’re hard work. Mia can be an absolute demon, but they are my babies and they are such a huge part of our lives. I hope you like the photos.

The nights were dark

Ok, so you know I’m the crazy dog lady. And you may think I’ve finally lost my mind with this little trick. But believe me it works for me.

Jogger's arm bands for walking dogs in the darkThe evenings have gotten dark but the dogs still need to be walked. And Ollie in particular loves to go for a run in our local park off leash. The problem is that I can’t see him in the dark and cyclists, joggers, walkers and potentially drivers can’t see him either.

We tried getting him a little high viz jacket to wear, but unless there is light shining on it you couldn’t see him. We tried getting a small light to attach to his collar but it wasn’t bright enough.

Jogger's arm bands for walking dogs in the darkMy husband was in Lidl on day, where they were selling arm bands for joggers with flashing lights and a high viz background. Perfect! Now we put them around the dog’s necks over their collars and we (and everyone else) can see them when we got for a walk in the dark.

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.

A Knitted Wedding

I don’t really know where to start. I married my best friend and the love of my life in April and we had a magical day. It was everything we could have asked for and more. We got married in Ballybeg House in Wicklow, which is a private venue with a beautifully decorated house and a permanent marquee.

Bride in tea length Justin Alexander dress with knitted shawl.There were several factors that informed our choice of venue. (1) We didn’t want a hotel. There is nothing wrong with hotels but we wanted to do something a bit more unique with more flexibility. (2) We wanted fantastic food. We are huge foodies and this was so important. We used Molly’s Larder, as recommended by the venue and every single guest complimented the food which made my day. (3) Rossa wanted to include homebrew or craft beer in some shape or form. Ballybeg allowed us to serve his homebrew during our drinks reception and the publican who ran the bar agreed to get a keg of Metalman Pale Ale.

Knitted shawl for wedding

(c) Halfadreamaway.com

I’ve written about my knitted shawl already and shared some photos of the finished product. I was surprised that it acted like a security blanket on the day, something familiar and comforting. I was very calm throughout the whole process and very relaxed on the morning. However, once I got in the car with my dad and brother it all began to feel like a bit of a dream. The shawl was something to wrap around me and made me feel secure.

Knitted lavender boutonnière buttonhole

(c) Halfadreamaway.com

You may also have seen the Lavender that I knitted for the guys buttonholes (boutonnière). These were also a big hit with our guests and the guys themselves. Plus they don’t wilt and die so we’ll always have them as a momento.

knitted cake topper for wedding cake

(c) Halfadreamaway.com

The final piece of knitting for the wedding was the cake topper. I knitted a bride and groom from Teeny-Tiny Mochimochi and fudged two dogs from the lion pattern from the same book. I added some extra details to the bride and groom such as glasses for Rossa and a fascinator for me. I couldn’t have Ollie and Mia there on the day so we had to have them on the cake. I think they look pretty cute.

For other brides and grooms considering including DIY in their weddings my advice would be: Be realistic about your skills and more importantly be realistic about your time frame. And ask for help, your friends and family are probably dying to get involved in your big day so let them. Take the pressure off. And finally if whatever you are creating isn’t perfect you are the only person who is likely to notice so don’t worry about it.

Lovely lavender

I just realised that if I keep sharing everything I make for the wedding on my blog then there will be no surprises on the day. But I am so proud of how my knitted lavenders are looking I can’t resist. According to Wikipedia a boutonnière is a floral decoration worn by men, typically a single flower or bud. The word comes from the French word for buttonhole, which is the British term.

Knitted lavender boutonnière buttonhole

(c) Halfadreamaway.com

Before Christmas I was searching the Ravelry pattern database for Christmas decoration patterns. I don’t know what I clicked but the next thing I knew I was staring at these knitted lavender and a plan instantly formed in my head. The pattern is from 100 Flowers to Knit and Crochet by Lesley Stanfield.

Knitted lavender boutonniere button hole

I tried using a sport weight yarn but they came out too big for my liking. A sample in laceweight turned out much better. With help from the staff at my LYS This Is Knit I choose Rowan Fine Lace in Vintage and Malabrigo Lace in Olive.  R asked for something a bit extra for his so I added two lavenders in Fyberspates Scrumptious Lace in Oyster that I used for my shawl.

Knitted lavender boutonniere button holeI’m using 2mm dpns to knit the lavenders and for the stems I’m using garden wire wrapped in double sided tape and wrapped with the olive yarn. I’ve used some twine to tie them together. This twine is being used throughout the decorations for the wedding. I love the twine, the texture and the look of it. I know, how sad right?

I’m am spectacularly happy with how these are turning out so far. Here’s the Ravelry project page.

Where did you get that gorgeous puppy?

Well, where DID you get that gorgeous puppy? Don’t get me wrong, there are reputable breeders out there. But unfortunately there are also those who take advantage of consumer demand and the lack of regulation in the puppy breeding sector.

Ollie and Mia cute rescue dogs

Ollie and Mia are rescue dogs

Puppies are always popular Christmas presents (although don’t get me started on the idiocy of getting a living, breathing animal as a present!) but as the saying goes a puppy is not just for Christmas. If you are going to get a dog for Christmas do some research on your preferred breed and ask the right questions to ensure you’re not buying from a puppy farm.

Puppies from these ‘puppy farms’ are predominantly sold through classified ads online and in newspapers, and to some extent through pet shops. If you buy a dog from a puppy farm through a classified ad there is no means of comeback if the dog becomes ill or even dies. These deals are often carried out in a car park, with a disposable mobile phone number as the only means of contacting the seller.

In fact the Dublin SPCA have issues a warning after receiving a series of calls about sick puppies. They said “Every day, we deal with people regarding animal welfare issues and it concerns us greatly when we receive calls from pet owners; especially at Christmas time, who tell us they’ve purchased their pet from the back of someone’s car or boot, only to find the animal has become dangerously ill very quickly, often dying within 24 hours of them getting it home.”

Buyer beware

If you do want to get a dog there are ways you can ensure you are buying your dog from a reputable breeder.

The Dublin SPCA would advice you to first of all consider adoption. There are animal shelters across the country with hundreds of dogs looking for their forever homes at any given time. These include the Dublin SPCA, Dogs Trust, the Irish Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ISPCA) and A Dogs Life, to name a few.

If you are interested in a particular breed, up to a third of dogs available for rehoming with the Dublin SPCA are pedigree dogs.  There are also breed specific rescues that you can contact and adopt through. You can contact the Irish Cavalier Rescue, the Japanese Spitz Rescue or Westie Rescue Ireland, for example.

Ask the right questions

If you really want to buy a puppy, it’s essential to ask the right questions. There are many breeders out there who are in no way connected with puppy farms, and these breeders will be happy to answer your questions. The Irish Kennel Club (IKC) maintains a database of breeders, and these breeders are bound by a code.  Once the new legislation comes into force, breeders will have to display a certificate of registration.

A good breeder will also want to ask you lots of questions. They will want to know where the dog will be sleeping, how much exercise you will give it and may even want to see your home before selling you a puppy. They will also want to ensure that you have thoroughly researched the breed of dog you are buying.

  • You should ask to see the puppies with their mother. Ideally a puppy would be well socialised with a family, but if a breeder is reluctant to let you see the mother this should set off warning bells.
  • You should ask to see the environment the puppy is kept in and NEVER agree to meet someone half way in a car park.
  • Ask about inherited conditions from the animal’s parents/grandparents.
  • You should ask for the vaccination certificate for the puppy and also the name of the vet.
  • Reputable breeders will also microchip puppies.