I’ve been a professional photographer for over 15 years and I’m excited to share my top tips to help you take the most amazing photos of your dog with your DSLR camera! My 5 Tips will be a game-changer to make your photos of your dog stand out. Even if you have little to no experience, you can use these simple tips to capture the best photos of your pets!
My Top Tips! How to Take Amazing Photos of Your Dog
1) Get the Right Gear
As for specific equipment, I use a Nikon D810 or Nikon Z6 with professional-grade Nikkor lenses and a Godox V1-N Flash.
I shoot in manual mode and use TTL metering on the flash. TTL mode is basically an auto mode in that the flash uses your exposure settings to set the flash power.
If I am indoors, I will either place my dogs close to a window and use strictly natural light. But, if it is gloomy outside or if I am in a room in our home that has poor lighting I will use a flash.
Ample natural light or a flash is a must-have if you’re indoors because proper lighting will help you be able to capture your dog’s movement without any blur and enables you to capture the details in the shadowed areas, even if your dog is dark-colored.
If you decide to use a flash, but I advise never pointing your flash directly at your dog unless you have a diffuser on. If you point the flash directly at your dog it can cast unflattering shadows and probably irritate your dog. I like to point my flash up at the ceiling or at the wall beside me and bounce the light evenly.
As for lenses, I prefer prime lenses and I recommend the 50mm for any beginner photographer.
2) Introduce Your Dog to the Camera.
As pet owners, we know that our pets get confused with all of our new technology. If your dog isn’t familiar with your camera, they might even be scared of it.
Make sure your dog knows that you have a camera by showing it to them and using all of its functions in front of them, so they can get accustomed to the strange sounds and flashes they aren’t used to.
3) Beginner Camera Settings for Taking Photos of Dogs
If you are capturing a portrait of your dog when he is sitting still you can use a slower shutter speed and lower aperture. If your dog is in motion you will want to use a very fast shutter speed and higher aperture so that more is in focus.
When your dog is sitting still you can practice taking nice portraits. To take a close-up portrait photo of your dog with a blurred background, set your camera to the widest aperture possible (lowest f-stop number), and then adjust your shutter speed for proper exposure. You will want to stand a few feet away from your dog and place them further away from whatever you want to be blurred in the background. Quick Tip: the further the subject is from the background, the blurrier it will be; the closer they are to the background, the more it’ll be in focus the background will be.
You can play around with your aperture setting and focus points to decide what is in focus and what isn’t. My first shot is always being sure to focus on my dog’s eyes.
When your dog is in motion (walking, running, playing fetch, doing tricks, etc) you will need to have a fast shutter speed and higher aperture so that you have a larger depth of focus to capture the motion. It can be helpful to play with your focus mode – I like to have mine set at a single-shot and continuously hold the shutter button down halfway.
It is easier to capture your dog in motion when you have a lot of bright light. If you are just a beginner shooting midday when there is plenty of sunlight is helpful. If you do not have a lot of natural sunlight you can compensate by raising your ISO.
4) Catch Them in Their Element
Photos of dogs can be difficult to capture. However, if you are photographing them in their own element it can be easy-peezy!
If they are playing, follow them around. If they are sleeping, place some of their favorite toys around them.
If they are simply on a walk with you, take some photos of them enjoying the outside! No matter their activity, you should be able to get a photo of them being their true pet self. Depending on your dogs’ activity you can practice playing with your camera settings to capture the best shot! Vík and Kenzo love playing in the sprinkler and I love snapping photos of them enjoying the weather together!
5) Exhaust Them
Some dogs have so much energy! This can cause a huge problem when trying to get your dog to stay still for a photo.
Before getting your dog photo-ready, take them for a long run or intense game of fetch. If you aren’t up for a run, then let them play for a few hours before your photoshoot. This will help get out some energy that will make it difficult for them to focus and sit for the perfect photo.
On my photography blog I have this same tip for my clients when they book me for a photography session with their dog, “A tired pet is a behaved pet, so make sure to take your pooch for a walk or let him out for a good romp before the session. Lower energy levels during the session will help your pet to be less nervous and easier to work with them in front of the camera. If your pet is on the high energy side, I even recommend a big romp both the day before and the day of to make sure they’re extra relaxed during the shoot!”
6) Treat Time!
Let’s say you are looking for a staged photo of your dog and little Fido does not want to participate. That is okay. Make photo time a special time for your dog by bringing out the treats.
Does your dog have a special treat they like more than others? Bring that one out for this special occasion.
Patience is key when photographing dogs. Your pup may not always obey and may not be in the right mood for a photoshoot. But just like us, with a little time and effort (and snacks) they will come around and be the best model you could have.