How to take great dog pictures

We take many, many pictures of dogs. Our own dogs, our customers’ dogs, our students’ dogs. It took a while to develop a technique to take great dog pictures, but anyone can do it. We’re sharing our best tips so your holiday pictures – of your entire family – come out great!

These tips work for people as well as dogs. The advantage is that people will actually understand, and hopefully listen, when you say “3, 2, 1, Smile!” Unless you have a passel of little kids running around who aren’t going to listen any better than dogs. Then take these tips to heart!

Tip #1

Keep hitting that shutter button! For those of us old enough to remember taking pictures on film – times have changed! It doesn’t cost anything to take lots more pictures than you have any use for. The only bad part is spending the time to go through them and delete the ones you really don’t want. There’s no excuse, with digital photography, for not taking a ton of pictures. The best ones often turn out to be the chaotic candids as you’re either preparing to shoot, or think you’re done!

Tip #2

Set up your picture before you get your dog. If your dog doesn’t have a rock-solid “Stay!” command, he’s going to get bored and wander off before you’re ready to shoot. And while the picture of your dog yawning is adorable to you, it may not be the adorable portrait you want to frame or post on social media. Check the lighting and figure out exactly where you want your dog to pose. Use a stand-in for your dog while you’re setting up – even a bowl or a cushion can work as a substitute for your dog until you’re ready.

Tip #3

Pay attention to everything around the main subject of the picture. Are there lamps that will look like they’re coming out of your dog’s head? Or is that couch in the background the same color as your dog so you won’t even see him/her? You can use a blanket or throw in a contrasting color to make sure your dog looks great. If you have a dark-colored dog like Hope’s Torque, you know how difficult it is to get good portraits of your dog’s cute little face. Make it easier by posing your dog on a light-colored material and flooding the area with light. Indirect light is best for avoiding shadows. The best days to take pictures outside are cloudy. We may all love bright sunshine, but the shadows can ruin your pictures.

Tip #4

Get down! Take pictures at your dog’s face level. Think about all your favorite pictures of your dog. We always ask to see pictures of our customers’ dogs and, invariably, their favorites, the ones they have as their home pictures on their phones, are of their dogs full face, straight on. Or with that darling head tilt that dogs do. So get down there! And look at the area again from that perspective. Check again for random objects. 

example of dog sitting for a great picture

A note for people with male dogs: Taking pictures from your dog’s level, especially if he’s sitting, puts his “boy bits” not-quite-front, but definitely center of the action. No one wants to see that. The simple fix is to move the camera at a slight angle – use your dog’s front legs to hide his “junk.” Much better!

Tip #5

Have a helper. When you’re all set up and ready to go, it’s much easier if you have someone else around to help get your dog’s attention where you want it (squeaky toy!) and reward them with treats while you’re still shooting. You’ll probably get some pictures of your helper’s butt, or hand, but those are easily discarded. If no one else is available, you can do it yourself. Put on your dog’s collar and leash and hide the leash behind the dog (so it’s not in the picture). You can weigh it down with something heavy, or put the handle around a chair or table leg. It’ll take a little longer, and you’ll have to stop and reward your dog more often, but it will work.

Tip #6

Be patient. They’re dogs. Some pose for the camera. Others run the other way. Keep your sessions with the dog short and be willing to give it up if it’s not working. You can try again another time. Your dog will be just as cute then!

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