In this article, I’ll tell about how to photograph dogs. Before practical mastering of any kind of shooting, 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… business, worries and other fuss, as a result, there is no theoretical preparation before photography, photos of such photo sessions have not been viewed by professionals either… in general, we 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 own mind, whatever they want, they do.
In this article I will talk about what is better to learn first in theory, and then apply in practice. In my case, it turned out that the answer to the question “how to photograph dogs” – I did not know and acted during photography, relying on intuition and previously acquired knowledge.
Filming began in the morning at about 8:30 am in the Park (My Neighbourhood). By the time the shooting began, the clouds in the sky scattered and the sky became completely clear. It is important to focus here on such an important point as lighting.
It is better to take pictures in the morning or in the evening.
At this time, the lighting is most favorable for shooting, in addition, it is not so hot during the summer. You can also take pictures during the day, but here the sun rises so high that harsh shadows and overexposed skies can leave photographs in marriage. 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: not only people, but also 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 it falling into the frame.
It is quite difficult to control the light on the street. Here an external flash or reflectors will come to our rescue. They are needed in order to highlight shadows (for example, in backlighting), to make them less contrasting, softer. The reflector is a little more complicated – you need an assistant to hold it.
Making a decision on the use of additional lighting is individual in each case.
The lighting situation, I think, is now clear to you. Let’s return to the question “how to photograph dogs?”
An important point in resolving this issue is the choice of a shooting location.
The ideal option, of course, is a studio, where we completely 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, the use of additional equipment, which not everyone has.
Our choice fell on the park, next to the house. Quiet place, in the morning it is quite deserted, and this is a very important moment, since the dog will be constantly distracted by others.
In addition, when choosing a place, you need to take into account the safety factor, preferably distance from the roadways.
Let’s digress a little from theory and move on to practice, more precisely to the mistakes that I made while shooting the pug.
The first mistake. The work took place in the form of photographing Yana, while at times attention was switched to her pug.
That is, on the face of the pursuit of two “hares” at once. I think it’s not very good, but on the other hand, while I was photographing Yana, the dog managed to get used to the photographer, the camera, the sound of the shutter and endless flashes.
The second mistake. The dog was given to us by Yana’s parents, who then walked in the park for some time, as a result the dog was distracted by them all the time.
Error three. In the morning, quite a few other pet lovers walk in the park, naturally with their pets. As a result, the pug was constantly distracted by his fellows and ran away to them all the time.
The fourth mistake. Since the walk lasted for more than 3 hours, the dog was tired during this time, moreover, if it was cool and comfortable in the morning, then it became very hot by lunchtime…. And pugs, as it turned out, tolerate the heat with great difficulty. That is, before shooting, it is advisable to find out the specifics of the animal with which you have to work.
For now, let’s finish the conversation on these mistakes (I hope you will not repeat them and draw the appropriate conclusions).
Let’s return to the solution of the question “how to photograph dogs?” Let me remind you that we stopped at the choice of location.
The Choice of Background Smoothly Follows from the Place
The background should be neutral, it should not draw attention to itself from the main subject (in particular from the dog). It is desirable that there are no unnecessary details in the background. This can be trivial garbage, people who accidentally got into the frame, or unnecessary interior elements if the shooting was carried out indoors. Let me remind you 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. The lens, like a gazing eye, can cause aggression, fear or excessive shyness in animals. The situation can be aggravated by a bright flash and the sound of the shutter, and 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 give the animal the opportunity to get used to the photographer and his technique, to show that no danger comes from the camera and flash. What can be done for 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, then you need to treat it with a treat (photographed – treated, photographed – treated). 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, then there is only one way out – raise the ISO. This, 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, then 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… although it all depends on the author’s idea and the size of the dog.
A few words about the compositional component, more precisely about the angle (point of view).
It is extremely 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 very small, then 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.
A few words about the distance from which dogs are photographed. It is about 2-4 meters.
Photographing dogs is difficult and interesting, since the photographer must know and apply the rules of portrait, reportage, sports and staged photography, in addition, it is simply more difficult to work with animals, since they do not know how to talk and do not always understand what they want from them. These difficulties can be overcome.
To attract the attention of the animal, 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. We 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 object 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, I would like to pay attention to technical issues. For shooting, it is advisable to use a long-focus lens (if possible, this can be, for example, Nikon 80-200mm f/2.8D ED AF Zoom-Nikkor, or Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8G ED-IF AF-S VR Zoom-Nikkor, so as these miracles I do not have, I photographed with Nikon 24-85mm f/2.8-4D IF AF Zoom-Nikkor). A longer lens will blur the background more.