M&E’s Dog Photography Tips

M&E's Dog Photography Tips

I have been asked pretty much since I started M&E to do
a post on my dog photography tips. I am humbled by these requests, and am
finally delivering!

My dog photography style is relaxed and fun. I used to be
one of those people who was guilty of caring more about taking pictures than
about the experience, but a few years back, I thought to myself, “to heck with
it, just enjoy the moment.” This mentality seems to mesh very well with my dog
photography. Dogs live in the moment, so, adopting that approach when
photographing them just makes sense.

Action Shots
My main advice for taking good action shots? Don’t be afraid
of blurry pictures (we are in the age of digital photography – just keep shooting and keep practicing,
plus, blurry pictures aren’t always bad, in fact, they can be great),
and, start carrying your camera around more. And know when to carry your camera
with you. If it is clear and bright out, bring your camera along. My other tip is to bring your camera along, rather than to over-plan the photo. I find
the best dog action shots come when I bring my camera on our adventures. I’ve
never found planned photo shoots to be productive for satisfying action shots
of dogs. The experience should dictate the pictures – not the other way around.

M&E's Dog Photography Tips
M&E's Dog Photography Tips
Posed Shots
People often ask me about how to take good posed shots of
their dogs. I definitely have some specific advice about how to take great posed
shots of dogs, and it might surprise you to know, my advice has little to do with
equipment or technical specifications.
Using positive reinforcement training, develop a
“(sit/stand) stay” routine with your dog. This takes some time and practice, as
many of you know! After you’ve done “stay” training, you can use the following
method to get great posed photos. Pose your dog, ask him “stay,” hold his favorite
treat or toy in one hand, the camera in the other (or on a tripod), and snap a
few shots. Immediately release your dog from the stay, and reward him heartily with his toy
or treat. Repeat a few times, and then move on with your day.
If you are in a place where you are worried your dog might
become distracted and run away, don’t take any risks. Leave your dog on-lead, have
him “stay,” and step on the end of the leash, or have a friend hold the end of
the leash. Training leads (longer leashes) are great for taking along on photo
shoots.
My main advice for great posed shots? If a shot takes too
long, it isn’t worth it. Posed shots are tricky enough, you don’t want a shot
of your dog looking tired, bored, or frustrated. Any posed shots you see of
Miles on this blog are taken very quickly. And I don’t worry about the times that
posed shots don’t work. Not all ideas are meant for fruition. This method has
worked very well for us, because Miles has positive associations with posed photo shoots. He knows that they don’t take long, and he always gets rewarded (paid)
for them. Our posed photo shoots are fast and they are fun for Miles. And why
shouldn’t they be? Miles is the one “making” the pictures! This method
makes for great pictures, because Miles is always alert and eager for posed
shots. The more excited your dog is each time you pose him for a picture, the
more varied the posed shots will be over time. Nothing is more boring than the
same stiff pose over and over.
When choosing the location and content of a posed shot of
your dog, don’t focus first on staging the picture: think first about what
makes your dog happy. There is no point in making your dog uncomfortable when
taking pictures. If your dog doesn’t want to do something, especially if he is
scared, don’t make him do it. Take the classic “Santa” posed photo at Christmas
time. If your dog is frightened, and treats aren’t helping him overcome his fear, skip it.
Instead, set up a little scene at home, or put a few ornaments on a little tree
at your dog’s favorite park, and have him sit next to the tree. Always keep your
dog in mind when taking posed shots.

M&E's Dog Photography Tips
M&E's Dog Photography Tips

Natural Shots
Natural shots are my favorite type of dog photography. In
fact, the majority of the pictures on this blog where Miles is looking at me
are natural shots, not posed shots. As mentioned previously, Miles has positive
associations with cameras because they never hold us back from experiences.
That is my first tip for taking good natural shots of your dog – make sure
having the camera around is a relaxed and positive thing, otherwise, your dog will think
“oh great, there is that block of metal and plastic that always interrupts all of my
fun!”
Now, on to framing a good dog photograph. Start by practicing taking
photographs of your dog when he is napping in the daytime. All dogs are cute
when they are napping, plus, they are holding still, which greatly reduces any
technical challenges. Grab your camera, look through the lens at your sleeping
dog, and start to look at what around them is interesting. Don’t focus on
taking a simple close-up of your dog, no matter how cute his sleeping position
is. Don’t start by making the dog the center of the picture. Look through the lens,
and snap the shot when you really like what you see. Once you’ve done this a
few times, start working for the same feeling in pictures when your dog is awake and active.
Don’t just focus on the dog; look for what is interesting-looking around him.
Keep in mind that you want to capture the moment. Forgoing the surroundings can at times sacrifice a good picture. Your dog plus the “feel” of the space will hold the most memories in the long run when you look back at the picture.

M&E's Dog Photography Tips
M&E's Dog Photography Tips
Portraits

Want a really nice close up of your dog’s face, full of
life, and bursting with his personality? The kind of picture you will frame and
enjoy for years to come? Go outside on a clear day, with your dog on a leash.
If you can get a friend to walk your dog – even better. Now let your dog watch
something that he finds interesting. A squirrel far up in the trees, birds eating berries, people playing soccer… Nothing too crazy, just a scene you know your
dog will find interesting. Quickly zoom in on his face, and snap a few quick
shots. Reward him with a treat, and move along!

M&E's Dog Photography Tips

***  Please share your comments and questions below by clicking the “Click to Comment” link (then go to the bottom of the page that opens, and comment). If there are enough requests, I will write another article to address any of the photography questions, comments, and/or challenges you might have!  ***

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