Is your canine ready for his closeup?
Everyone loves having good photos of their furry friend, but you needn’t turn to professionals — you can learn to take great photos of your dog yourself.
Doing so isn’t terribly difficult, either. You’ll just need to learn how to make the most of your equipment, set up your shoots in interesting ways, and convince your canine to cooperate!
We’ll explain some of the most helpful tips for taking photos of your pooch below so that you can capture your companion with confidence.
Dog Photography Tips: Key Takeaways
- One of the key things you’ll need to do is acquire some supplies and equipment. Don’t worry — we’re not talking about $5,000 cameras. There are several items you can buy to help improve your photos that’ll fit into the tightest budgets.
- Go slow and desensitize your dog to photoshoots. Work slowly and get your dog used to the camera by providing lots of treats during short, low-stress photoshoots while also adjusting his energy level before photo sessions.
31 Dog Photography Tips For Professional Pet Pictures
Without further ado, here are some tips to help you take the perfect pooch portraits.
We’ve tried to share a broad cross section of tips to help different kinds of pet parents. So, you should be able to learn to take super snaps whether your an experienced photographer with a pro-caliber camera or a newbie with nothing more than a smartphone.
1. Familiarize Fido With The Camera
To start, you’ll want to make sure that your canine feels comfortable with your photography equipment. You’ll want to introduce him to your camera, lights, and any other tools you’ll be using.
A little bit of desensitization can go a long way, so follow these guidelines to start off on the right paw:
- Take out your camera (or phone) and place it on the floor. Reward your dog for sniffing and looking at the camera.
- Once Fido is comfortable, hold up your phone or camera in front of your face as if you were going to take a photo. Reward your pup with goodies.
- If Fido seems frightened, try moving the camera from further away from him. As your pooch becomes more accustomed to the camera, you can slowly move closer.
- Finally, lavishly reward your pup with treats and praise whenever he happens to look at the camera. You can try holding a treat above the camera and rewarding your dog for looking up towards it.
Doing these things will help your dog create a positive association with the camera. Keep in mind that this process can take a little bit of time (especially for shy dogs), so you might want to start desensitizing him a few days before your actual photo shoot.
2. Time Photo Sessions Appropriately When Your Dog is Calm
One of the best ways to ensure that you’ll get amazing pooch pics is to schedule photo sessions at sensible times.
Simply put, Fido won’t always feel like taking photos or be in the right mindset. For example, if your dog just woke up and has a lot of pent up energy, it’s probably not the best time to bust out the camera.
Also, pick a time of day that isn’t associated with other regular events, like mealtimes or your daily walks. Otherwise your doggo will only have dinner on his mind!
Ideally, you’ll want photo sessions to be scheduled one to two hours before or after these kinds of events or activities.
3. Scope Out The Shots
Before you start shooting, try to plan out the shots — specifically, you’ll want to decide on a good background.
It can be overwhelming to try and keep your dog’s attention, man the camera, and set the scene all at once, so make your job easier ahead of time.
The background needn’t be anything particularly fancy — a brick wall, tree line, or row of flowers would all make for fine backdrops, and you should be able to find these things just about anywhere.
If you don’t know where to take the picture, you can always hang up a sheet or even use your shower curtain as a plain but clean background. You could also opt for a fun photo backdrop, which is specifically designed for such purposes.
4. Practice Makes Perfect
Don’t expect to be snapping award-winning photos on day one. This is a learning process, and you’ll get better over time — as long as you commit to practicing your craft.
Approach photo sessions as you would training sessions. Your dog might be a bit confused or uncomfortable the first couple of times, and you may not be able to get the results you’d like.
But, with repeated practice, you’re bound to get better at taking photos of your pupper.
Keep photo sessions short (just a few minutes each, initially) to prevent your dog from getting too frustrated.
Always provide plenty of treats and fun during a photo session so that your dog learns the camera is a good thing, not a scary or annoying thing!
5. Nix the Noise
Cameras and smart phones often make an assortment of clicks, beeps, and bings. And because these may distract or worry your doggo, it’s a good idea to turn off your camera or phone’s sounds to keep Fido focused — this is especially true for nervous dogs.
Of course, on the other hand, you may be able to catch some adorable, quizzical expressions like the classic head tilt if your dog finds these noises intriguing. You’ll just have to use your judgement based on your dog’s personality.
Camera noises aside, you’ll generally want to find a quiet, peaceful setting in which to conduct your photo sessions.
A noisy park or packed beach will likely offer far too many distractions for your dog to really focus on you and the camera.
6. Patience is Key
Understand that getting the perfect photo of your dog can take time.
Photo sessions don’t always go as smoothly as you’d like, and you may need to try several different times to get the perfect shot.
For that matter, you might need to spend days desensitizing your dog to your equipment before you can even start taking photos.
While these delays and setbacks can be frustrating, remember to keep a positive attitude. You want your pooch to be comfortable during your photo session — if you stay patient and positive, it’ll help your hound feel at ease.
7. Find the Right Lens
Lens selection is a huge part of pet photography, which can significantly change the feel of your photos. So, think about what type of pup portrait you want to take ahead of time and choose your lens accordingly.
For close up shots, you’ll want to use a macro or telephoto lens. If you’re looking to capture your dog with a sweeping backdrop, pick up a wide-angle lens instead.
Note that we’re not just talking about pet parents using DSLRs or mirrorless cameras, either — many modern smart phones have different lenses you can use too.
And even if you’re phone only has a simple camera, you can pick up a smartphone lens kit to spruce up your pictures. These kits typically come with several different lenses you can attach to your phone to create interesting effects.
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8. Curiosity Captured The Canine
You can certainly take candid shots while your dog is looking off into the distance, but some of the best photos will feature your pooch looking directly into the lens.
So, remember to keep your dog curious and engaged throughout your photo session. It may seem silly, but calling your dog in a high-pitched voice, using a dog whistle, or making funny noises behind the camera can be enough to score a super snap of your dog.
You can also experiment with holding up your dog’s favorite toy from the other side of the camera to capture his attention — just like professional photographers do when taking pictures of babies or toddlers.
9. Nail the Focus
One of the easiest ways to improve your pooch-centered pics is to make sure that your subject is in focus.
You’ll obtain the best results by manually focusing on your pup, but this can take some practice and skill. If you can’t get the hang of manually focusing or it’s hard to be quick enough for photos of your finicky foxhound, see if your camera has an auto-focus or a focus guide display so that you can quickly sharpen your subject.
Strategically making some portions of your photo out of focus or blurry can also yield great results. Many modern cameras will allow you to touch the place you’d like to focus on, while blurring everything else.
Feel free to play around and experiment with focusing on your dog, or perhaps something else in the photo.
10. Lighting Matters
A fundamental part of taking a good photo is determining the best lighting conditions. While you can edit the brightness after taking a photo, you’ll get better results by using high-quality lighting from the start.
As a general rule of thumb, natural lighting (from the sun) works best. Make sure that the light is shining on your pooch and not behind him.
Golden hour photos can be fun, you might actually have the best luck when it’s overcast outside. This is because you’ll still get a plenty of bright light, but the white-ish sky makes it easy for you to produce an even-toned photo and provides you with the largest amount of editing opportunities.
If you’re outside on a sunny day and looking to sneak in a snap, find an even shaded area where you and your pup can easily look around without squinting.
Indoor lighting is trickier, but you’ll generally want as much as you can possibly get.
You can certainly get good photos with the lights in your house, but you may want to invest in an indoor lighting kit if you find yourself really enjoying the pet photography process.
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11. Experiment with Exposure
Light is obviously a crucial component of photos, so be sure to familiarize yourself with different ways to alter the exposure of your pics. Doing so will help you create interesting and dynamic pet photos.
Here is a quick explanation of the three main components of exposure:
- Aperture: This controls how much light passes through the lens of a camera — lower aperture settings allow more light in, while higher aperture settings reduce the amount of light entering the lens. Aside from altering the light levels, aperture allows you to adjust your depth of field.
- Shutter Speed: This is how fast or slow your camera will be exposed to light to take a photo. You can often hear this difference when taking photos. If you have a high shutter speed set, you’ll hear a very rapid “click” when you release the shutter; if you have a slow one, the “click” will be slower. If your pooch moves around a lot, it may make sense to have a faster shutter speed.
- ISO Speed: This controls your camera’s overall sensitivity to light. If you’re in a darker environment, you may have to bump up your ISO to compensate for the lack of light. Just note that excessively high ISO speeds can cause your photos to appear grainy.
12. Play with Perspective
Don’t forget to try out different angles and perspectives while taking photos of your pooch. This can help distinguish your pet photos from other portraits and showcase some of your dog’s personality through the photo.
As an example, you could try capturing your pooch from the ground with him directly above you to give him a grandiose, powerful look. You could also take the opposite approach, and stand on a desk or bed while shooting him from above.
Changing the perspective can also transform ordinary, run-of-the-mill shots into interesting, eye-catching photos.
Consider, for example, a basic shot in which your dog is walking toward you in a field. That may make for a cute photo, but you’ve surely seen dozens of similar images.
But, if you lay down on the ground and take the same shot with a few blades of grass in the foreground, it’ll offer a different, more interesting perspective that’ll really make the photo “pop” and stick out from the crowd.
13. Minimize Distractions
Try to eliminate all distractions before starting your pup photo shoot. This will help keep your canine focused and prevent him from running around trying to investigate everything.
So, consider any sounds, smells, or noises that might take away your dog’s focus when picking a location and planning your shots. Avoid those you can, or simply pick a different location if you can’t minimize distractions.
It may also be wise to pick an area that your pup knows well. Your pup may be prone to exploring a new area rather than posing for the camera, so it might be a good idea to visit your photo location ahead of time.
Also, be sure to eliminate any internal distractions. This means making sure your dog is well-fed, walked, and exercised before any photo session — you don’t want a rumbling tummy or full bladder standing in the way of a great session.
14. Composition is Crucial
While you can always crop your photos during the editing process, try to think about composition when taking your pictures of your pooch.
Try to frame your dog within a shot to make sure he’s standing out as the clear subject.
One of the best ways to do so is by obeying the “rule of thirds.” Simply put, you’ll want to mentally divide the field into thirds — both horizontally and vertically. This will create two vertical imaginary lines, as well as two imaginary horizontal lines.
Try to center your pup — or, even better, a specific part of your pup, like his eyes — where a horizontal and vertical line meet. This will produce a more visually appealing photo than one with your dog placed dead-center or way off to one side.
15. Use Props With Your Pooch
Dog photo shoot props can be a whole lot of fun and are sure to add interest to your pet portraits.
They’ll not only add more elements to your photos, but they’ll help “bring your photos to life,” as they convey a bit of context and add some depth to the photos.
So, consider giving your pup a fun costume or colorful hair dye job to reflect his one-of-a-kind personality!
Some favorite dog photoshoot accessories include flower wreaths, a lion’s mane, Viking hats, wizarding robes, and collar bow ties.
If your dog is new to dressing up, it’s usually best to stick to simpler outfits at first. Remember, an adorably-patterned dog bandana can be just as cute as a full canine costume!
Make sure to also take some shots of your dog enjoying his favorite chews or toys.
Additionally, props like toys will often help give your pup something to focus on. This will not only keep him occupied, but it may give you the chance to capture great candid shots as he sniffs, plays, or chews on the props.
16. Try Using A Tripod
Trying to get your dog to focus on a camera lens can certainly be a trying task on its own, let alone trying to stabilize your camera simultaneously. So, use a tripod to make sure that your image is level and sturdy.
A tripod will also make it easier to use the self-timer function if you want to jump in the photo with your pup.
And, if you’re forced to use a very slow shutter speed (because the light levels or low or you’re trying to capture a neat “motion-blur” effect), you’ll essentially need to use a tripod to keep the camera rock-steady.
A standard-issue tripod will work well for most owners (this one will work with a cell phone or DSLR camera), but a flexible-leg model will open up all kinds of creative options and work in places where traditional tripods struggle.
17. Craft Photos Around Your Canine’s Character
Pet portraits can be an excellent way to showcase your dog’s character. After all, you’re not trying to take a photo of some random dog — you’re trying to take photos of your specific pooch!
This means you’ll want to think about what makes your dog unique ahead of time and find the right setting, props, or lighting conditions to tell your dog’s story.
Put him in one of his favorite scenes or scenarios, or include some of his favorite toys and treats.
Does your doggo like swimming? Head down to the local pond and let him start splashing!
Does he love playing fetch with his ball? Make sure he has one to play with while you shoot.
Or maybe your pooch likes meeting people and exploring the hustle and bustle of the big city.
In this case, stake out a street corner (keep your pooch on a leash), and try to capture candid shots of him as he introduces himself to the two-footers and four-footers he meets!
18. Utilize Video Stills
Be sure that you’re leveraging the technology available to you to work around problems.
For example, one of the best ways to take a great photo of dogs who are constantly moving is to take a video instead.
Then, you can select still images from the video after you’re done recording (alternatively, you can use the “burst” photo function to take a large number of stills over a short period of time).
This makes it easier for you to capture a focused portrait of your pooch especially if he’s a bit squirmy.
While the quality of these types of photos might be slightly inferior to traditional, single shots, you’re much more likely to score a picture where your dog is actually looking at the camera (or wherever you’d like him to look).
This is also a great photography tip for anyone who is trying to capture a dog selfie. You can set your camera or phone up in video mode, pose away, and then pick out your “photos” once the recording is finished.
20. Make Use of Your Commands
An easy way to keep your dog focused throughout a photo session is to use your dog’s basic cues or commands to position him within a photo.
For example, a simple “Sit” and “Stay” will help your dog understand he needs to stay still in order to earn a treat from his pooch portrait. Alternatively, you can have your pup show off some of his neatest tricks — like shaking hands or adopting the “begging” pose.
And let’s be honest: Showing off your pup’s tricks is a sneaky way of showing off your training skills too!
Need some help teaching your pooch basic obedience and other skills? We have two virtual courses that will do exactly that!
- The Puppy Raising Blueprint course is ideal for starting your pooch on the right paw and introducing him to basic obedience.
- 30 Things to Teach Your Dog in 30 Days is great for older dogs, as well as those who’ve already completed the Puppy Blueprint course.
19. Phone A Friend
Everyone could use a little help sometimes, especially when it comes to dog photo shoots.
Ask a friend if he or she would be willing to take pictures of you and your dog or even help focus your pooch while you’re snapping photos.
In exchange, you can return the favor with their furry best friend (and, just because it’s a nice thing to do, mention and tag your friend in the photo credits on your feed).
Just be sure to do this at a different time — trying to corral two canines during a single photo session may be biting off more than you can chew.
21. Use a Selfie Stick with Spot
There’s nothing more fun than a selfie with your dog, so don’t be afraid to break out the selfie stick and start snapping shots with your fur bestie.
A selfie stick will extend your range, which will make it easier to get you both in the frame without twisting yourself into a pretzel in the process.
Also, a good selfie stick will help ensure you don’t drop your camera while trying to capture your canine. There are even specialized pooch selfie sticks that can help you keep your dog focused on your smartphone camera.
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22. Get An Action Shot
You don’t have to settle for just the typical pooch portrait shot; put your pup in motion and get an exciting action shot instead!
You could take your dog’s favorite tug toy and get a picture on the other end of it. Or, you could capture your dog chasing his prized tennis ball for an energetic pooch picture.
This is actually a great time to use the video or “burst” photo setting on your phone or camera, as mentioned earlier. Once you’re done, just scroll through the photos or video and pick out a few of your favorites.
23. Pay Your Model
Posing for photos doesn’t come naturally to your dog — in fact, photo shoots are arguably a type of “work” for him.
He may not mind it very much, but he’d probably rather be doing other things (like chasing squirrels or flirting with that cute Chihuahua strutting around the park).
So, make sure to give lots of praise and treats throughout your photo session. You can also engage in a special activity, like going to the dog park after successfully closing out your photo shoot.
24. Don’t Forget To Edit
Taking some photos of your dog isn’t the end of the process. In fact, as any professional photographer will tell you, it’s just the beginning.
Use the post-production editing process on your phone or computer to help elevate your pics to the next level. Even if you were lucky and snapped several great shots, editing will allow you to make them jump off the screen and highlight your dog’s distinguished personality.
Also, don’t be afraid to experiment with fun filters, different color profiles, and basic edits like cropping your shots or tweaking the brightness or saturation levels.
25. Take Tons of Photos
One of the joys of digital photography is that you have the opportunity to take as many pictures as you’d like (more or less). Long gone are the days of film and a finite number of photographs.
So, don’t be shy! Start snapping photos and don’t stop until you’re positive that you’ve captured some good ones or your memory card is full.
Taking extra photos increases the likelihood that you will capture a keeper and, in practice, taking lots of shots is essential if your dog doesn’t like to stand still.
26. Filters For Your Pup
Filters are fairly inexpensive photography tools that can help introduce a lot of personality to your pics.
There are a lot of different types of filters to choose from. These filters are perfect for outdoor pooch portrait sessions and will help Spot look his best, but you can also use them indoors too.
For example, polarized filters can effectively reduce glare when you’re taking photos. They may also be helpful when shooting in foggy conditions. You can also purchase colored filters, which will highlight your dog’s colors by filtering out different wavelengths of light.
Filters can also alter the feel of your photos and make them evoke feelings of nostalgia, warmth, spookiness, or any number of other moods.
27. Take Plenty of Breaks
Photo shoots can undoubtedly be exhausting for both you and your dog.
They require your dog to sit still for long periods of time, and require you to focus and concentrate for a while.
To combat this kind of fatigue, break up your photo sessions so that they aren’t more than a few minutes at a time. This can mean all the difference in the world and keep you and your pet smiling during your shoot.
Don’t worry about “scheduling” breaks though — simply give your dog the space and time he needs to relax anytime he shows signs of becoming stressed or fidgety.
Make sure to keep your eye on your dog’s body language to assess when he’s had enough and needs a play break.
28. The Eyes Have It
They say that the eyes are the window to the soul and this is no exception when it comes to our furry friends. In fact, your dog likely uses his peepers to communicate with you in subtle ways.
So, to get a pooch portrait that really grabs your heart and creates a visceral response, focus your attention on your dog’s eyes. Keep the rule of thirds in mind while doing so to help your pup’s eyes draw your eyes when you view the photo.
Just try not to use a flash since this can be startling for your dog and produce the dreaded “red-eye” effect (note that you may want to see if your phone or camera has a “no red-eye” setting).
29. Capture Candid Photos of your Canine
Pooch pics don’t necessarily have to involve complicated canine poses or planning to capture the essence of your canine. In fact, unstaged, “spur-of-the-moment” photos are often the favorites of owners.
So, feel free to take pictures informally to create memories of your dog’s day to day life.
This means you’ll want to keep your phone or camera handy, and you’ll want to get into the habit of grabbing it anytime your pooch starts doing something interesting.
30. A Smartphone Can Be Better Than A Camera
Modern smart phones are truly technological marvels, and many have cameras that are superior to entry-level DSLRs.
This means that in many cases, using your smartphone instead of a traditional camera may be the better option. Smart phones often take a lot of the guesswork out of the process and have fantastic automatic modes, in which they’ll do most of the heavy lifting for you.
Additionally, the “burst” and “live photo” modes on your phone can be great for quickly capturing multiple images of your pooch in action.
Plus, you can take your phone just about anywhere to capture Fido’s finest moments — no need to lug a camera along.
31. Stay Alert
For safety’s sake, you’ll want to stay alert when conducting pooch photo shoots, especially if you’re planning on venturing outdoors. You take photos to make good memories with your pooch, so be sure he stays safe while you’re doing so.
It’s usually wise to bring an extra pair of hands and keep Fido on a long lead to make sure he’s safe throughout the photo shoot (unless you have access to a fenced area).
Also, keep an eye out for hazards like cars and other dogs (once again, having a friend with you will help — he or she can watch for threats, while you focus on taking photos).
Above All Else, Have Fun!
Don’t forget to have fun with your four-footer throughout your photo session. This will help keep you and your canine in a good mood, and help you take setbacks in stride.
Also, taking pictures with your pooch can be a great way to bond with your best buddy. So, try to keep everything light and fun.
With some practice and patience, you and your pooch can go from taking novice snaps to professional pet photography pictures.
Once you have a perfect photo of your pooch, consider having it converted to an original piece of art.
We discuss some of the best pet portrait services here!
Taking photos of your furry best friend can be an amazing way to capture your canine’s life over the years. Hopefully, these tips make it a little bit easier for you to take professional pet photos from the comfort of your home.
Have you used any of these pooch photography tips? How do you prepare your dog for a photo session? We’d love to hear all about it in the comments below!