By Amiee Stubbs, Nations Photo Lab featured photographer
Whether you’re photographing a Border collie, a Pembroke Welsh Corgi, or an Irish Water Spaniel, taking snaps of a pooch can be a challenge. They’re all easily distracted and have difficulties sitting still for long. Here are five tips for capturing the very best shot of your dog without making them (or you) miserable in the process:
1. Focus on Safety
The majority of professional pet photographers would tell you they take pictures while the dog is still on a leash. Using the power of Photoshop, it’s simple to erase the leash without disrupting the overall look of the composition.
Why should you still use the leash? It makes it much easier to keep the dog in one place and it’s also a safety concern. There are leash laws in most public places, and you’ll keep your dog away from far away distractions if they are firmly restrained.
2. Adapt your methods to each dog.
Every dog owner knows that each canine has his or her own personality. Some jump up and down in anticipation of a visit to the dog park, while others are much more subdued. Some will tear through a toy to pull out squeakers while others treat the toys gently. When you are doing a photo session, it’s important to have an array of toys and treats that might help capture their attention. And some dogs might need some extra petting to help reassure them if you seem stressed or they’re in a new environment.
3. Use a fast shutter speed.
Dogs are unpredictable. One minute they could be sitting patiently, and the next minute it’s “oh look a squirrel!” It’s hard to know what will capture their attention, and how long that will last, so use a fast shutter speed to photograph fleeting moments. Do not use anything slower than 1/250, otherwise you risk having a shoot filled with blurry wagging tongues and tails. The fast speed also means you can catch some surprising moments in between shoots, perhaps grabbing a dog’s surprise expression or a moment of silliness.
4. Focus on the eyes.
Dogs are very expressive, and you have to capture this through the photography. One way to do this is to focus on the dog’s eyes, not the tip of their nose. This is especially important if you are shooting with a shallow depth of field, so you likely need to get down and dirty on the ground in order to shoot at eye level. Pack a blanket and wear old clothes during the shoot, because shooting the dogs at their own level will result in engaging and fun results.
5. Turn off the flash.
Natural light is best when photographing dogs. Using a flash will often result in odd color reflections in the dog’s eyes (which are your focal point), which means you’ll have to spend too much time editing each shot. Dogs are also sometimes scared or disoriented by flashes, which will impact their expressiveness and willingness to sit through a shoot. An expert tip is to pack several reflectors to help with the lighting in cases where you need extra light but don’t want the adverse look of flashes.
About Amiee Stubbs:
Amiee Stubbs is the Official Photographer for the Nashville Zoo, the Photojournalist for Animal Rescue Corps, and an Artist Member of HeARTs Speak. She was voted Nashville’s Best Photographer in 2014 and 2015.