In this article, I’ll talk about how to photograph dogs. Before practical mastering of any genre of photography, whether it be a portrait, shooting moving objects, or even infrared photography, you need to study the theoretical part of the shooting process (I will not even stutter about the camera hardware, this goes without saying). But this is all ideally.
It happens in life that there is simply no time. As a result, business worries, and other fuss, there is no theoretical preparation before photography. Professionals have not viewed photos of such photo sessions either; we generally have what we have.
The basic principles can, of course, be borrowed from related fields of photography: portrait, sports, reportage, season this cocktail with knowledge of the basics of composition and try to apply them to photographing dogs, but it’s not so simple.
Animals are not people – you cannot ask them to sit here, turn their heads in this direction and look at a certain point. They are on their mind; whatever they want, they do. This article will discuss what is better to learn first in theory and then apply it in practice.
Pay Attention to Lighting
It is important to focus here on such an essential point as lighting. It is better to take pictures in the morning or the evening. At this time, the lighting is most favorable for shooting; it is not so hot during the summer. You can also take pictures during the day, but the sun rises so high that harsh shadows and overexposed skies can leave photographs ugly.
Clouds can change the situation. As soon as the sun hides behind them, so the shadows become softer, overexposures practically disappear.
The bright sun is fraught with another problem: people and animals, including some dogs, squint from it. In cloudy weather, the illumination is uniform, the shadows are soft, while the sky in the frame will look whitish and inexpressive, so it is better to avoid falling into the frame.
It is pretty challenging to control the light on the street. Here an external flash or reflectors will come to our rescue. To make them less contrasting, softer, they are needed to highlight shadows (for example, in backlighting). The reflector is a little more complicated – you need an assistant to hold it.
Deciding on the use of additional lighting is individual in each case.
The lighting situation, I think, is now clear to you. Let’s move to the shooting location for dogs.
Choice of A Shooting Location
An essential point is the choice of a shooting location. The ideal option, of course, is a studio, where we ultimately control the light and the shooting process, but these are additional costs, and not everyone will take them upon themselves.
Photographing in an apartment is difficult because there may be a problem with a lack of space; extra details in the form of interior items will get into the frame (which often spoils the photo), but this is still half the trouble. The main problem is lighting.
Natural lighting in the apartment does not allow taking high-quality pictures as a way out, using additional equipment, which not everyone has. In addition, when choosing a place, you need to consider the safety factor, preferably distance from the roadways.
The Choice of Background
The background should be neutral; it should not draw attention from the main subject (mainly from the dog). There should be no unnecessary details in the background. It could be trivial-garbage, people who accidentally got into the frame, or extreme interior elements if the shooting outdoors.
Let me remind you of one more common truth, the wider the aperture is open, the more the background is blurred; thereby, you transfer the focus to the main subject.
Let’s move on to our model – a pug. Before taking a photo, the dog needs to be put in order: clean the eyes, ears, claws, smooth the coat, wipe the drool. Long-haired dogs are best photographed in calm weather.
A photo session for dogs is stressful. Like a gazing eye, the lens can cause aggression, fear, or excessive shyness in animals. The situation can be aggravated by a bright flash and the sound of the shutter. If we add to this uncomfortable shooting conditions for the dog (heat or, for example, slippery surfaces of a photo studio), then it becomes clear why the dog does not want to pose for us.
The way out of the situation is this: you need to allow the animal to get used to the photographer and his technique; to show that no danger comes from the camera and flash. What can be done about this?
Let the dog sniff the camera (not the lens), click the shutter to idle so that the dog gets used to the sound of the shutter. If the dog is afraid of bright flashes, you need to treat it with a treat. In general, you need to prove to the animal that you are soft and fluffy, and it is pointless to be afraid of you.
If the dog is still afraid of the flash, the only way out is to raise the ISO. It, of course, is fraught with the appearance of digital noise, but there is no other way out. An important detail for any dog is the leash. It is better not to use it. If it is already used, its appearance should be appropriate so as not to spoil the overall composition of the frame.
It is better to place the animal on a flat surface (so that the hump does not appear due to the difference in heights); tall grass can partly spoil the frame, hiding the paws of a short dog. However, it all depends on the author’s idea and the size of the dog.
Compositional Component When Photographing Dogs
A few words about the compositional component, more precisely about the angle (point of view).
It is highly undesirable to shoot the dog from a standing position since a person’s height is much higher than the height of a dog. The frame can turn out to be inexpressive and awkward – you get a short-legged creature with a large head, a small body, and tiny legs, you must agree, it looks very unattractive.
It is better to shoot the dog from its level – for this; you need to sit down or lie down. If the dog is tiny, it can be placed on a table/chair, while you need to make sure that it does not jump from a height and is not injured.
Do you know the best distance from which dogs are photographed? It is about 2-4 meters.
Photographing dogs is complicated and exciting since the photographer must know and apply portrait, reportage, sports, and staged photography rules. In addition, it is simply more challenging to work with animals since they do not know how to talk and do not always understand what you want from them.
How to Get Dog’s Attention?
You can overcome these difficulties easily. To attract the animal’s attention, you can use various toys, squeaks, treats, sounds; you can whistle, snapping your fingers. Attracting attention can be entrusted to the owner of the dog.
If there are no assistants, and you want to take photos, you can use the following tricks.
Option One: Take a long leash, tie the dog to a tree and start photographing it at a sufficient distance from the tree. If people walk around, the dog will react to them, giving us more room to maneuver.
If there are no passers-by, then the dog’s attention can be controlled with the help of objects (stones, cones, sticks, toys). You need to throw the thing in the direction in which the dog should look.
Another Option: You can tie another dog to the tree opposite, and then they will be focused on each other, and you can completely immerse yourself in the photo.
The question “how to photograph dogs” is practically solved; Now you need to pay attention to technical issues.
So as these miracles I do not have, I photographed with Nikon 24-85mm f/2.8 4D. A longer lens will blur the background more.