How to Photograph Your Dog

Christmas is coming up. In fact, there are only 25 days left until the bustling and hustling is over, and you can get back to normal life (which raises the philosophical question, “Is there normal life after Christmas?”). But in the meantime, you’ve got to do Christmas cards, and festive holiday pictures, and you want to include your dog, but you don’t know where to even begin. Well, begin by taking a deep breath, and we’ll help you out.

There are really two types of dogs: dogs that can be categorized and dogs that can’t. Really, that’s why photographing dogs can be difficult; they’re completely unpredictable and would rather be outside rolling in the mud than sitting patiently waiting for another painful photo session to be over with (in fact, if you have sons, they will be thinking the same thing).

So, here’s the challenge. Make your photo sessions short and productive, and yet fun and entertaining.

Dog portraits

If your dog is the “completely-playful-can’t-sit-still” kind, then I feel your frustration, because that’s exactly how my dog is. Whenever I go to snap the shot, Boom, Caspian is looking out the window. I call him to look at me. He does… for half a second. I release the shutter half a second too late. Sound familiar?

Here’s an excellent example of real life where you can train good behavior. If you’ve taught your dog to respond to the clicker, you’re ready to go. Grab your clicker and this time, when he looks at you, click and treat that behavior (and when your children look or smile the way you want, treat them with a “YES! Good job guys!”).

It also helps to have a helper. If you can get someone to help you out, have them click/treat while you snap pictures. If your dog is particularly interested in squeaky toys (like mine is), have your helper squeak it right above your camera, to direct the attention towards you.

dog portraits

Above all, take lots and lots of pictures! I employ the “shotgun approach” when photographing dogs and children. Typically, I take about 200-300 pictures in a session, and I’m happy if I get 1 good one.

Before we leave, I want to give you a great way to light your scene:

Here’s a great way to light your subject that’s very conducive for dogs. Because dogs have such a great coat, we want to accentuate this feature by pulling attention to it with our lighting. One way to do this is to highlight the fur by placing a bright light behind the subject, in addition to your natural or ambient light source. Take a look at the example to the right to see an example of this.

Whew! That was a lot of work, but it was worth it. My Christmas pictures are going to turn out great this year!

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