Pet Photography – 8 Tips For Taking Beautiful Portraits of Your Dog
Have you ever wanted to try pet photography?
Our Click Love Grow Grads shoot everything from portraits to macro, food to landscapes, and our Advanced Photography Course has helped many budding photographers find their niche.
For Advanced Grad Corina Clarke, that niche is pet photography… specifically, dogs. We adore seeing all the stunning pet portraits she shares in our Graduates group. In this gorgeous pictorial, she shares her top tips for capturing beautiful portraits of your dog. Oh and these pet photography tips can be applied to photographing most animals.
Capturing Lasting Memories
I think my love for my animals has always been the driving force behind me getting into pet photography. I was the lucky girl who grew up surrounded by a multitude of animals be it horses, guinea pigs, rabbits, goats, sheep, cats, dogs, fish, birds, you name it. Not to mention the list of orphaned or injured wildlife that my parents also cared for.
Given our pets unfortunately have a shorter life span than ourselves, it has become really important to me to document their lives. I want to create long lasting memories, to capture the essence of their personalities and the bond that they share with us. Every pet is unique and has their own story to tell.
Sadly, I lost my little dog just as the Advanced Course was wrapping up. I didn’t use my camera much for a while, but when I did pick it up again a few months later, I discovered that I had taken photos a couple of days before my little dog passed away.
These are now my most precious photos that I have of him. I am SO grateful that Click Love Grow taught me to see light in a different way and to use it to my advantage.
The whole point of pet photography is to capture the pet’s personality. And the best way to do that is to create a fun and stress-free environment for them. So it’s a good idea to plan your shoot in a familiar location for the animal. Allow them to have a play, relax and loosen up before you start shooting.
2. Reward Their Work!
You’ll get a lot more out of the dogs during the shoot if you offer rewards throughout for their work. This could be a treat that the owners approve of or a toy to play with.
3. Get Down to Their Level
To create a really striking portrait, get down to the dog’s level and be in their world, rather than shooting down from your standing height.
4. Angle Your Shots Down
An exception to this would be a portrait where the dog is looking up at you. This works beautifully when you isolate them by framing out any elements in the surroundings and using the earth as backdrop.
5. Grab Their Attention
One of the hardest things you will have to do is to attract the dog’s attention. So use what motivates the dog – be it food rewards, toys, or commands.
It helps to build up a repertoire of weird sounds and squeals (either yourself or using your phone) which work well to capture those cute head tilts.
6. Where to Focus
The old saying that “the eyes are the window to the soul” relates to any living subject. So creating a connection with the dog’s eyes will always make for more engaging photo. Therefore, unless you have a specific artistic vision in mind, focus on the eyes, or the closest eye to the camera.
If I’m photographing dogs in their own yard or environment, then I opt to run the session off leash. However if we are in a busy environment filled with distractions and cars, etc then I always ask for the dog to remain on the leash. That way I can ensure the dog’s safety at all times, and run the session a little easier. Then I’ll remove the leash in editing.
8. Gear & Settings
My favourite lens for pet photography is my Canon 70-300mm, for the compression it offers. I tend to shoot at its widest aperture (f/4) as it gives a beautiful background.
Shutter speeds will vary depending on whether or not they’re moving. Use these to guide you:
Sitting portrait: Minimum 1/200
Playing: Minimum 1/400
Running: Minimum 1/1000
In this image of Billy running towards me, I’m positioned in the ground, using a fast shutter speed, with high speed burst mode and continuous focus drive mode to ensure sharp shots as he moves toward me. He was on a lead with an assistant helping to handle him. Meanwhile the owner is standing behind me and calls the dog. Then I removed the leash in Photoshop.
I hope these tips inspire you to get out and take some portraits you’ll be proud to frame and hang.
Remember the big kahuna of photography which applies regardless of your portrait subject – light.
9. Find The Light
Just like any portrait, the more beautiful your light, the more you can create the kind of scroll-stopping hero shots that we all aspire to.
You’ll find light like this shot below during the golden hour when the skies are relatively clear. The sun needs to be behind your subject to create this effect, and use a wide aperture of at least f/2.8 to get those gorgeous bokeh circles.
Corina Clarke is a Click Love Grow Advanced Graduate and professional pet photographer based in rural Western Australia. You can find more of her gorgeous pet photography at Jack And The Blue Creative.
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