Written by Aurus Sy
Veterinary reviewed by:
Published: 07/15/2022, edited: 07/31/2023
If you’re a dog parent, chances are your camera roll is filled with photos of your furchild. With their adorable expressions and hilarious antics, dogs make grrreat subjects, especially if it’s your own pup. But as cute as they are, they’re not always the easiest models to work with. Getting a dog to sit still or even look at the camera can be a challenge. If you’re a frustrated dog photographer, you may be wondering: How do I make my dog photogenic? How can I take professional pictures of my dog?
The good news is, you don’t have to be resigned to taking a bunch of blurry photos of your pooch just to get that one decent shot. With patience and practice, furbulous dog photography at home is possible. Here are our dog photography tips for taking dog pics like a pro!
Not every pup knows how to pose for photos. If your four-legged friend isn’t a natural in front of the camera, check out these tips to make them more photogenic!
Holding a favorite toy or treat behind the camera is sure to grab any pup’s attention. Position the “lure” above your camera’s lens to make it look like they’re looking into it directly. This is one of my favorite methods—some people think my dog Goji is good with posing, but sometimes she’s really just looking at the treat in my hand!
Is Goji looking at the camera or a treat? You decide!
Your pooch is more likely to cooperate with you when they’re not distracted. Minimize external distractions by having your photo session in a quiet location. Reduce internal distractions by feeding and exercising your model beforehand—this will help them to be more focused and calm throughout the photo session.
If your pup isn’t trained, try this approach. Let them play for a bit, then call their name. As soon as they look at you, press the shutter button.
Patience is part and parcel of being a dog photographer. Sometimes, you just have to wait for the right moment. Natural poses can let your dog’s personality shine through and make for pawsome pictures.
Action shots are cool but difficult to capture. Fortunately, there are ways to take puptastic photos of your dog in motion, whether you’re using a camera or a phone.
Most phone cameras are equipped with a burst mode, as are all digital cameras, which lets you take multiple photos within seconds. This feature is especially useful for capturing subjects in motion—try it while your pooch is having the zoomies or playing at the dog park.
If you’re using an iPhone, you can activate burst mode by either swiping the shutter button to the left or holding it down, depending on your phone’s model. On Android devices, burst mode is usually activated by swiping the shutter button down or enabling it in the camera settings.
Alternatively, with smart phones and many cameras you can take a video of your dog in action and then select stills after you’re done recording. Though the quality of video stills is lower than that of regular photos, it’s still a good trick to have up your sleeve.
When working with cameras, the shutter speed refers to the length of time the camera shutter is open, exposing the camera sensor to light. A fast shutter speed such as 1/600 (which means 1/600th of a second) allows you to “freeze” action and capture your dog in mid-run or mid-leap. Since the shutter is only open for such a brief moment, a fast shutter speed can result in a darker photo, so you’ll want to photograph your pup in a well-lit environment. Natural light is always best if possible. You’ll also likely need to adjust your camera’s aperture and ISO settings to control the brightness of your photo.
If you’re not yet comfortable shooting in full manual mode, selecting shutter priority mode or sports mode will let you take some nice action shots of your pooch until you can figure out the settings that work best for you.
For new dog photographers, quantity is better than quality. Continuous shooting mode on cameras allows you to take a series of photos in rapid succession with a single push of the shutter button. While you don’t want to rely on this feature too much, it’s helpful for improving your photography.
Black dogs are notoriously hard to photograph. If your mutt keeps coming out as a dark blob in photos, follow these tips so you can do your dark-haired beauty justice.
While it’s important for your dog to not be too dark in the photo, you don’t want to place them under full, direct sunlight. As tempting as it is to take pictures of your black dog in bright light, doing so will result in photos that aren’t properly exposed and have too much contrast with very strong shadows and very bright highlights.
Instead, you want soft, even lighting, which is available during the golden hour (shortly after sunrise or before sunset) and on overcast days (the clouds help create even, diffused lighting). Moving your pup to a shaded area on a sunny day works as well, as does using the flash on your camera or phone that will help soften the harsh light around your pup.
Background plays a big role in pictures of dark-colored pups. If what’s behind your pooch is also dark, it might be hard to distinguish them. If it’s too bright, the contrast will make it difficult for your camera to achieve the correct settings for the entire image.
Go for a background that is minimal and has colors that complement black to help your subject stand out. Red, orange, yellow, green, blue, and purple all work well. Try getting down on your dog’s level and shoot upwards to get the sky as your background. Not only does this angle make your photos look more professional, black pops nicely against blue too.
When the only other color your black pup has are their eyes, focusing on them can create a really striking image. Even if their eyes are not a contrasting color or are hard to see (e.g., they’re covered by hair), it’s still important to make sure that their face is getting enough light. Getting enough light on the eyes and face adds texture to the photo, and catchlights in the eyes make your dog look more alert and expressive.
Now that you have a basic understanding of how to take good dog pics, here are the tools you’ll need to capture those share-worthy images!
Smartphone cameras have improved drastically over the past decade. With new features and specifications coming out every year, it’s possible to take furbulous photos of your pooch using just your phone. That said, DSLRs and mirrorless cameras still offer better image quality and more versatility and creative control. Although they’re heavier and bulkier than smartphones, “proper” cameras are worth the investment if you’re serious about dog photography.
Choose backgrounds that won’t clash with your dog’s fur color or make them hard to see. Minimal, uncluttered backgrounds work well with canines of all shades. To take your photos up a notch, go with backdrops that complement your dog’s color and help them stand out. For example, a brown dog will blend right into a background of tree trunks, but they’ll stand out if posing in front of foliage.
Capture your best friend in the best light possible by heading outside or placing them next to a window. The sun won’t startle your pup or cause red eyes like a flash does, but you don’t want to have your pooch standing in harsh, direct sunlight either. Soft, natural light during the golden hour and on overcast days is the ideal lighting setup for taking pictures of your mutt.
However, you can also control the lighting with the built-in flashes on cameras and phones, as well as add-on flashes for either that come in various intensities. You can also invest in stand-up lights that can usually fold down into a bag for easy transport and give you the kind of light you need in any situation.
Most canines don’t mind sporting a bandana or a fun hat, but not every dog is comfortable wearing clothes. If your model looks unhappy or is trying to shake off their costume, it’s better to do without it. If your dog is stressed and not having fun, it will show in the photos. For those furry models out there who love a new look, be sure to choose an outfit that doesn't restrain their movement or their breathing.
As mentioned earlier, toys and treats are useful in getting your pup’s attention and making them look at the camera. You can also use them to “pay” your model after the photo session is over. Try a variety to see what works best for your canine looker, as you'll find that different doggos respond to different rewards. A frisbee run between pics can be just as satisfying as a yummy treat for some pups.
For even more furbulous photography tools, check out 7 Pet Photography Essentials for Beginners!
Ready to start taking photos of your furbaby? Here are some photoshoot ideas you can try with your dog!
Need an expert to catch the best pic of your pup? Download the Wag! app to find pet photography services near you!
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