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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Ollie and Mia

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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.

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.