Tips to help you take better photographs of your dog

If you want to have jewellery, collectibles or giftware reproduced from a photograph of your own dog it is important for me to have a good clear photograph to work from, and you will want one that shows your dogs features and character to the best advantage. Here are a few hints and tips that you may find useful if you are taking your own photographs.

  • Try to take your photographs out doors if possible so that you don't need to use a flash.

  • When using a digital camera use the highest resolution available to you.

  • Choose a slightly overcast day, or early to mid morning or late afternoon when the sun is low. This will reduce shadows and give better detail. Bright sunlight gives harsh results and too much shadow. Don't have the sun directly behind you, coming from the side will give your photos more substance.

  • Use a tripod set to a height so that the camera is on eye level with your dog, and a shutter release cable to prevent camera shake.

  • don't be afraid to get on your knees! You need to get down to dog level to get good photos, so a piece of foam or old blanket that you can sit on or use as a kneeler is essential equipment. Very small dogs are probably best placed on a small table or bench if you don't want to take the photos lying flat on your face!

  • Get all your equipment set up and ready to shoot before you start to pose your dog.

  • Organise plenty of help. If possible have someone to manage the dog and attend to last minute grooming, and someone else to stand just behind you to attract the dog's attention (squeaky toy at the ready!)

  • Choose your background carefully. Plain as possible is best (no flower borders please) and allow plenty of open space behind the dog .If you don't have a large lawn, the park or a field with short grass might be a better place to try. Look out for trees, or a post that will look as though it is coming out of the dog's head.

  • Try to compose your picture so that you have just enough background to frame the dog. If you are using a zoom lens, have the dog about 12 to 15 feet away from the camera and zoom in until the dog fills most of the frame. The ideal print will have about 1 -1½ inches of background on all sides of the main feature - your dog.

  • I prefer a ¾ view of the head and body for most dogs, but do try other views as well and shots of both sides.

  • Use the smallest aperture settings on your camera suitable for the lighting conditions, f22 down to f11 should keep everything in focus. If you want to try and blur the background try using a shorter depth of field, but do keep everything that you want in focus the same distance from the lens. Remember the smaller the number the shorter the depth of field.

  • If you are using a film camera always use good quality film, 100 or 200ASA if you are using a 35mm camera, and make sure that you have plenty. You will need to shoot lots and lots. The more you take the more chance there is that you will end up with some good ones.

  • Above all you will need to have lots of patience! If you dog gets bored and restless before you have finished, it's no good trying to carry on. Let him have a run around and use up a bit of energy and then when he has calmed down try again later.

  • If you MUST take your photos indoors most of the preceding tips still apply with one or two additions.

  • The two main problems with indoor photography are getting the lighting right and having a suitable background. Red-eye or green-eye spoils many photographs taken indoors with flash. Try and avoid this by turning on all the available room lights (except any that will be directly behind the dog), and if possible put up large sheets of white card that will reflect the light back on to the subject, and NEVER have the flash pointing directly at the dog. If possible use a hand held flash and direct it to bounce the light off a white card held (not too close) above and to the side of the dog, or even off the ceiling works well.

  • Do not position your dog in front of a light source, window or mirror as this will cause your photo to be overexposed.

  • Try to provide a plain background with coloured sheeting, (stretch it out to avoid creases) something darker for light coloured dogs, and paler shades (not white) for black dogs, then position the dog at least 6 feet in front to eliminate harsh shadows.

  • Remember with patience you should get some photos to be proud of, and well worth having reproduced on a piece of jewellery or collectible!

©1999 - 2013 S. M. MURPHY