Photographing Dogs – Part 1 – Getting Started

Photographing dogs :: Having fun - Black Labrador comfortable with the camera

Having fun - Black Labrador comfortable with the camera

Dogs make particularly lovable and animated photo-subjects. If the photo-shoot goes well it will be a memorable occasion for you. Photographing dogs helps you to remember your pet too. You can show it in all its moods and to capture its special little character. It can prove to be a great way to bond with your dog too.

Getting the dog involved
A lot of times you will actually spook the dog if you whip out a camera and start pointing it in its direction. Start by taking pictures of something else. Let your dog hear your camera working and see you doing things with it that might bear investigation or prove fun. The dog will soon start to take an interest. But feign disinterest in the dog so that it demands your attention with the camera. Then you will have captured its attention on its own terms.

Start taking shots with it more relaxed and interested. Dogs, in fact most pets, will photograph better when they are doing their own thing. Try to capture them so they will not appear posed or forced.

Another way to get started is to completely ignore the dog and to go about your photography without it. A few days of deliberately ignoring the dog and obviously taking shots in its presence will relax it. Try to help it be comfortable with the machinery. Then you can start taking a few shots, ‘as and when’. The more you use your camera around the dog the more comfortable it will be. It is not just about the dog being comfortable with the actions you take. It is also what you look like to the dog. They are very sensitive to the profile of their owners. They may get spooked if you are looking through a threatening black box all the time.

Angle of shot
Spend time observing your dog, especially what its mood is on your shoot. Then try to emphasis its mood by taking shots that complement what it is doing. So, if it is chasing a ball get someone to throw it in different ways. Try high up, underarm, slow, fast, over-arm, from below, from a hiding place. Vary your shots and try them all. Think of other shots too. Dogs love to jump too so try and get them animated upwards. Someone can easily hold the ball up high while you snap away. Your dog will look good when animated and enjoying itself. So when photographing dogs get them in the mood for action.

Few animals look good when you take the shot looking down on them from normal eye height. The best shots come when you get into their world. Get down at the same height as their eye. The “taken from standing shot” is the way we ‘normally’ see dogs which reduces impact. At their eye level we can see into their way of life and surroundings. However, that is not to say you can’t take shots from much higher than normal. Photographing dogs from high up gives them a comic look – especially if you can get them looking right up at you on a high level. Try a ladder.

One particularly good angle for photographing dogs is down the side from the front. The form of a dog looks great in a photograph when you can see all the muscles or curves. These seem to best be viewed from the front. Of course individual dogs have their good views. However, as with any animal if you can find a way to light or place emphasis on the shape and form you will get a more pleasing shot. Also, looking down the side of a dog provides a lead into the shot from the eyes and then the length of the dog provides depth for the photo.

Photographing dogs is best done when you can capture their character. Shot angles that catch sticky-up ears are fun. Dogs seem to have especially expressive ears. They can be comic (when they are trying to find out something). Or they can show loving when the ears are laid down as you approach. They can be dynamic when the dog is excited. I am sure the character of your dog is shown through some of its own ear attitudes. So try to catch the ear expressions in their most obvious.

Let your photos show their mood or activity. A great shot is to catch that lovely quizzical look a dog has when trying to understand you. The one where they perk up the ears and put their heads sideways a little. You can often get it to prick up its ears and look at you like that by simply asking it a question. Photographing dogs is very much about bringing out these little expressions of their character.

Photographing Dogs series links…

Photographing Dogs – Part 1 – Getting Started
Next Article: Photographing Dogs – Part 2 – What to focus on.
Photographing Dogs – Part 3 – Getting the shots
Photographing Dogs – Part 4 – Practical Issues

Damon Guy - Netkonnexion

Damon Guy (Netkonnexion)

Damon is a writer-photographer and editor of this site. He has run some major websites, a computing department and a digital image library. He started out as a trained teacher and now runs training for digital photogs.
See also: Editors ‘Bio’.
By Damon Guy see his profile on Google+.

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