Top tips to take better pictures of dog(s) by Joanne Thibodeau
In this blog post I will go through a few of my best tips on how to take better photographs of dog(s). It also applies to other pets however, dogs are probably the easier as they are more trainable than other pets.
A quick glance into my background, I have been a professional pet photographer for the past five years and have photographed probably around three hundred dogs so far. I work both indoor and outdoor but this particular article will focus on outdoor photography with dogs. I love working with pets and one thing for sure is that you have to be quick and patient.
There will be a few things that will affect how successful a session can be, one of them is how well trained the dog(s) is. If you want to start with an easy dog, choose one that has been trained for agility and can stand, stay, lie down on command (off the lead outdoors in all different types of environments). This will allow you to concentrate on finding the right locations and on adjusting your camera (if you are still learning the basics) to use the correct settings (ISO, shutter speed and aperture).
#1 Use positive reinforcement From past experience with private clients, the majority of dogs are not very well trained and you can only hope that the dog will sit and stay for a few seconds at a time. Often it's not possible to remove the lead as it's unsafe for the particular dog you are working with so this will have to be done in the retouching phase of the process. Some dogs will not be able to focus if there are too many things going on around them. This means it could be very difficult to get anything out of them, if that is the case, try to give positive reinforcement with their favourite treats or toy.
#2 Get down to their level (see image below) The best angle is always to get down to their level. At a minimum in line with their eyes but lower is good too. It doesn't mean that you might have to lie down flat on the ground so don't wear anything fancy when taking pictures of dogs. Lately I have been bringing a yoga mat with me as it helps to protect my knees and my other joints. You can also find a location where the dog will be higher (a bench or a tree trunk) to help in getting the same effect.
#3 Attract their attention Usually the best images are those with eye contact, that is what most of my clients are selecting when it comes to creating artwork from their images. So to get eye contact use silly noises (cat noises work well along with high pitch noises) but be careful not to over use them as they will stop working at some point. You can also use a treat just on top of the lens but this might only work if you are close enough to the dog, I am usually quite far for outdoor session as I use a 70-200mm lens.
#4 Find the best location and light This will make or break an image and will be the difference between an award winning image or a very bland one. Try to use composition techniques such as the rule of thirds or lead-in lines (see below) to create a nice composition. It's best to have the session in the morning or in the last few hours of light in the evening for the best light. Avoid very bright midday light, cloudy days are my favourites.
#5 Action shots Action shots are fun but are for more experienced photographers. You will need to be quick and have a fast lens to capture a dog running towards the camera with the face in focus. You will need a lot of practice before you can be confident that you can get some of the shots in focus. A high shutter speed is mandatory to freeze the movement of the dog (over 1/2000sec for me)
#6 Post production - creating the magic! Always start from a good image, I always delete any images that are not in focus. If your images are very over exposed (or under exposed) you will miss details on the image that might not be salvageable. I personally use Lightroom to do all my basic edit sometimes that's good enough but to remove leads or doing more in depth editing I will work in Photoshop. It's quite a big learning curve to learn those software, but it's worthwhile once you understand how they work. There are a lot of tutorials on the web and Youtube to learn without having to pay for extra training. Often clients want a portrait with multiple dogs and it's not possible for many reasons (dogs won't sit next to each other) then the option is to do a composite. It means taking pictures of each of the dogs, one by one (keeping the camera at the same angle and place) and merging the dogs using Photoshop (see below)
I hope you have enjoyed this post, you can visit my website at www.joanne-photography.co.uk