Dog photography hacks - Part 1

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People often ask me how I take my shots or how I create certain effects in my pictures. That’s why I decided to share my knowledge with you in this little Blog series. 

To get better photos of your dog you don’t even need expensive camera equipment or special technical background knowledge. Sometimes a few easy tricks are enough to take better pictures of your dog – even with your cell phone.


1. Get down to the ground

OK, maybe that sounds a bit like military's drill. ;-) But what I wanna say is that you need to get down to your dog’s eye level. When your dog is on all fours or even sitting or lying down, he usually is smaller than you when you are standing. If not I wanna know what kind of dog you have! ;-) If you photograph your dog from a standing position it creates a strange distorted perspective. When I take pictures of my Bernese Mountain Dog Bärbel it’s enough to sit or kneel down to get to her eye level – so I’m lucky there. ;-) But if she lies down or if I take pictures of smaller dogs I get down on my belly. Yes, flat on my belly. And yes, wearing the right clothing and a good washing machine help a lot. ;-) I also know dog photographers who bring a blanket or a thin camping mat to lie on but I personally don’t like to carry too much stuff around – my camera equipment alone is heavy enough. But this is surely a matter of taste and maybe a good solution for some of you.


Always at eye level. For pictures like that I get down to the ground.


But, as it is often the case, exception proves the rule. Sometimes it can look very interesting if you photograph your dog from above - if it is a conscious decision. But your dog should look directly up into the camera. You’ll get the best look if you hold your camera at right angle above your dog.


Exception proves the rule. It can look great to take a picture purposefully from above.


2. Get your dog to look into the camera

People often tell me: “When I try to take pictures of my dog he never looks into the camera or even seems to be looking away on purpose.” One reason for that could be that dogs hardly ever appreciate direct eye contact, neither with you nor with their fellow dog friends. Some dogs feel like being stared at by the camera and being stared at is never friendly in dog language and can be a sign of hostile intentions. Consequently, many dogs avert their gaze to show that they pose no threat. Looking away is actually part of the calming signals in the dog language repertoire. So for most dogs it is easier if you guide their gaze just a little above or to the side of the camera. You can do this by holding a treat or a favorite toy directly above or next to the camera (or ask someone to help you if it is too much to hold the camera and the toy simultaneously). 


But sometimes your dog might just be distracted by everything going on around him that is more interesting than you and your camera. You can use toys or treats here, too, but what works best in this case in my experience is to make sounds. You can bring squeaky toys or whistles for this but I again prefer to work with what I have with me anyway – my voice. You wouldn’t believe what kind of funny sounds can come out of my mouth, some I’ve only just discovered myself over the process. ;-)



Of course, your dog doesn’t have to look into the camera all the time. Sometimes it can look better if your dog gazes dreamily off into space. 


Just a few squeaking sounds and you get that cute head tilt.


3. The line of sight

Sometimes you contemplate a picture and it is in itself a beautiful picture but something feels just… wrong. Sounds familiar? Very often this has something to do with the composition of the picture. The composition is very important and should be in harmony. Easier said than done. So what does that mean? Of course, there a lot of things that help create a harmonious overall image. But one that is really important when photographing your furry friend is the line of sight of your dog. The observer's look follows the look of the dog automatically (this is also true for other animals and humans, by the way). So, if you follow the dogs gaze and the picture ends right there in the direction the dog is looking, your gaze kind off bounces off the picture’s edge and this is something we find disturbing. That’s why it is important that there is always more space in the picture on the side in which the dog is looking.


If the dog looks directly into the camera and therefore directly to the observer you can also place it right in the middle of the picture. It won’t ne disturbing the line of sight but be careful, it can look a bit boring for the overall composition.


Somehow the picture doesn’t look right? Why? 

This is better. There should always be more space in the direction in which the dog is looking. In this case, in the right picture's edge. 

Learn more about light, composition and depth of field in Part 2! 

Pfotenspuren Fotografie  -  linda@pfotenspuren-fotografie.de

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