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Photography - How to Take a Good Photograph of Your Dog

Updated on April 22, 2012

Memories of Your Dog

Most of us dog owners like to have photographs and pictures of our beloved dogs, partly so that we can show them to interested (or not so interested!) people, but mostly because we know that our dogs are unlikely to outlive us and therefore we want to capture them for posterity and reassure ourselves that they will always be with us in some way.

Because of this I think it is worth paying extra attention to get as good a photographic portrait of your dog as you can. Your effort will be repaid by the extra pleasure you get from having a beautiful keepsake of your dog. In addition it can be really enjoyable taking pictures of dogs, it's a fun activity to involve your pet in and can provide amusing mementos if things don't go quite according to plan!


Moby - a treasured portrait of a dog who has died
Moby - a treasured portrait of a dog who has died | Source

Preparation

Practice with your dog without the camera first. Photographing your pet lying down or sitting is simplest. Make sure your dog will sit and stay or lie down and stay for at least 1 minute at a short distance from you. This will give you enough time to step back and take a few photographs.

  1. Starting in the house, ask your dog to sit, step away a couple of feet, return to your dog and reward him.
  2. Extend the distance and time gradually.
  3. Practice the stay with you stepping away and going into a 'photographer's crouch'. It is crucial to practice this, because to start with when you crouch, the dog will likely think this in an invitation to it and will come over for a cuddle.
  4. Now practice this while holding the camera - again your dog will probably be distracted and come over to you - after all the camera could be a box of treats!
  5. If the dog looks away from you make an enticing noise - a squeak or whee sound often works and reward the go if he looks at you without getting up to see what you're doing.
  6. Now go back to step one but this time outside somewhere quiet and safe. Go through all the steps until your dog is comfortable with them and you are confident of a good response.

Practice

In an outdoor location you may want to practice the sit stay with your dogs on a long lead first.
In an outdoor location you may want to practice the sit stay with your dogs on a long lead first. | Source

What Camera Should You Use

It honestly doesn't matter too much and you certainly don't need an expensive SLR with lots of lenses. If you are still using film cameras then one with a zoom is helpful so that your dog will fill more of the photograph without you being too close to it that the camera can't focus. Select a 100 or 200 ASA film because you will be photographing in good light.

If you have a digital camera you will get better quality photos from one with a high megapixel count. These days most take pictures of more then 8 megapixels and this is plenty good enough. For my pictures here I have used a Samsung ST60 which is 12 megapixels and is just a small automatic digital camera.

Grooming and Appearance

Before a photography session with your dog you may want to groom him so that he looks his best. Pay particular attention to his eyes wiping away any sleep gloop from them.

You may want to get a new collar or clean the existing one. I find the ends of older leather collars often curve out and can look a bit unsightly in a portrait. You can solve this by undoing the collar and wrapping a black (or other colour to match your dog's collar) elastic hair tie around it a couple of times, then when you put the collar back on you can tuck the end into the tie.

Take the photograph when the dog is feeling rested but not over excited. If you take the picture after a long walk or a game of Frisbee you might find the picture is all tongue as the dog is panting and it may be too tired to bother with your instructions.

A Photograph with Several Faults

In this photo Orangina is on the lead, which isn't ideal, has a scruffy collar on which detracts from the picture, and the photograph was taken with me standing rather then crouching, so the camera angle isn't great either.
In this photo Orangina is on the lead, which isn't ideal, has a scruffy collar on which detracts from the picture, and the photograph was taken with me standing rather then crouching, so the camera angle isn't great either. | Source

Location

For the amateur photographer taking a portrait outside in natural light is easiest. Choose a sunny or fairly bright day. Your location should be safe, quiet and uncluttered. You don't want lots of things to distract your dog when you are taking the picture and you don't want them cluttering up your picture either. It must be safe, because you will get a more attractive result if you photograph your dog off the lead.

I live near some moors where the grasses are very attractive shades of brown and I often use this as a back drop to my dog portraits. If you have a garden you may find that is the safest and easiest place to start with.

The Finishing Touches

  1. Don't just take one photograph, take 5 - then you can select the best one. You don't have to show anybody the ones which went wrong!
  2. If you're not happy with your first results, or your dog won't do what you want it to, practice a bit more and go back out another day. You will get the best results if this is a relaxed process which is fun for you and your dog.
  3. When you get home crop the photos. This just means selecting the area you want and is easily done in Microsoft paint or even by just printing out the photo and guillotining around the edges.
  4. Print out the photo on good quality photographic paper - you may want to save it on disc and take it to a photography shop for this
  5. Select a frame and display your photo so that you can enjoy it every day.

The Benefit of Cropping your Dog's Photo

I left too much space around the edges of this photo of my neighbour's dog Mitzi
I left too much space around the edges of this photo of my neighbour's dog Mitzi | Source
A little judicious cropping produces a better result
A little judicious cropping produces a better result | Source

Black Labrador Photo - A Pleasing Result

I was pleased with this photograph I took of Bruno at Windy Ridge near Burnley
I was pleased with this photograph I took of Bruno at Windy Ridge near Burnley | Source
If you take several photos you can discard the ones where your dog or dogs are looking the wrong way
If you take several photos you can discard the ones where your dog or dogs are looking the wrong way | Source
My dog family in March 2012. It took several attempts to get all 3 looking towards the camera and I can't help being slightly irritated that Nettle's collar end pokes out on the left.
My dog family in March 2012. It took several attempts to get all 3 looking towards the camera and I can't help being slightly irritated that Nettle's collar end pokes out on the left. | Source
How To Photograph Dogs: A Comprehensive Guide
How To Photograph Dogs: A Comprehensive Guide

A popular book which covers the subject well

 
Street Dogs
Street Dogs

Some great examples here if you like to look at pictures of dogs!

 
Dogs 24/7: Extraordinary Photographs of Wonderful Dogs
Dogs 24/7: Extraordinary Photographs of Wonderful Dogs

More really fun examples of dog photography

 
Old Dogs: Are the Best Dogs
Old Dogs: Are the Best Dogs

This one is heart warming for all those of us who have loved our dogs into old age.

 

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    • peanutroaster profile image

      peanutroaster 3 years ago from New England

      Lots of good advice for dog photographers!

    • Nettlemere profile image
      Author

      Nettlemere 5 years ago from Burnley, Lancashire, UK

      Thank you Jaye, I'm glad your persistence and patience has rewarded you with some photos you are pleased with. It must have been really cute to watch her watching snow.

    • JayeWisdom profile image

      Jaye Denman 5 years ago from Deep South, USA

      Love the photos of your gorgeous dogs! I've taken hundreds of pictures of my dog, but she rarely looks directly at the camera. Just as I begin to depress the shutter, she looks away. This happens more often than not, but I still keep trying. (If I discarded those, I'd have very few left!) The best photos I have of her are when she's doing something--candid shots. One of my favorites was taken when it snowed here (a rarity). She was about five years old and had never seen snow. She sat at the window for hours staring at the snowflakes falling, and I got a beautiful photo of her doing that, which I treasure. Once she got to go outside and actually step in that white stuff, she didn't like it nearly as much!

    • Nettlemere profile image
      Author

      Nettlemere 5 years ago from Burnley, Lancashire, UK

      Thank you Simone and Margie - the dogs and I are blushing with the praise!

    • Mmargie1966 profile image

      Mmargie1966 5 years ago from Gainesville, GA

      This is awesome, Nettlemere! You have some beautiful dogs, and beautiful photos too.

      I enjoyed this hub tremendously...voted up and useful!

      Margie

    • Simone Smith profile image

      Simone Haruko Smith 5 years ago from San Francisco

      Brilliant advice, Nettlemere! This Hub makes me want to go out and take photos of pets all afternoon. I love shooting kids, and I bet shooting people's pets would be really fun, too.

    • Nettlemere profile image
      Author

      Nettlemere 5 years ago from Burnley, Lancashire, UK

      Thank you everyone - it's lovely to hear that some of you are going to be out taking portraits of your dogs as a result of it.

    • habee profile image

      Holle Abee 5 years ago from Georgia

      Wonderful tips that I can definitely put to good use! Voted up.

    • army surplus uk profile image

      army surplus uk 5 years ago

      Some great tips here - thanks very much. I am on holiday in a beautiful part of the country with the family (which of course includes our dog) and now I have read your hub I am keen to take the opportunity to get some shots.

    • Easwara Moorthy profile image

      Easwara Moorthy 5 years ago from Tirupur

      loved your article. thanks for your advice. good piece of work.

    • profile image

      molmin 5 years ago

      What a handsome chap that Bruno is - that is a really good photo. Great advice. Thank you.

    • Seeker7 profile image

      Helen Murphy Howell 5 years ago from Fife, Scotland

      What a beautiful hub! I loved the photographs of the dogs - even the ones that you didn't like too much!

      This is a hub full of great advice for us all who want good photos of our dogs. It's very uncanny, but dogs seem to know when you want a good photo. They could be lying for ages quite content but as soon as you bring the camera up to position - they're off! LOL!

      Have bookmared this hub to refer to, the information is excellent. Voted up + awesome!

    • BRIAN SLATER profile image

      Brian Slater 5 years ago from England

      Hi, loved the photo's especially the last one of the three of them. Great advice and I like how you have paid attention to the small details, voted up.