Whether you’re a seasoned animal photographer or just someone who loves their pup, you’ll find that photographing your own dog can be a bit more difficult than anticipated. I work as a pet photographer, and have always found photographing someone else’s furry best friends easier than my own little beast!
As such, I’ve devised a little guide here for those of you wanting to snap images of your own dog that are as perfect as those sparkling images on the internet. Your dog’s Instagram account will thank you for it (admit it – you have one!)
The difficulty in photographing your own dog
Sometimes, photographing our own pets is easy. We know our pets inside and out. But maybe that’s also the problem. We know our pets too well, and they know us too well.
It tends to be easier to photograph someone else’s pet because you don’t have the same emotional connection to one another. Sure you’ll be an interesting commodity for a short period of time, but that pup will still gravitate back to its owner and away from you (making for better images). With your own dog, you are the main attention.
For the hyperactive and overly invested, this means a dog too close in your face all the time – especially when you get low to the ground for those really amazing eye-level compositions.
For the shy, this means a dog that will turn away from you the moment they see a lens or go hide somewhere. Doing basic obedience can become a chore as the dog becomes impatient with you as you set up your camera equipment. So many negative variables at hand here!
There is also an emotional component and, oftentimes, more frustration involved with utilizing our own pets as photography models. We know when our pups look best, how they are capable of behaving, and what we want them to do. However, because it’s us, they may push the buttons and not want to particularly cooperate.
There is a lot more leniency involved in photographing someone else’s pet, and we often forget that leniency with our own animals (akin to parents and their own children versus parents watching someone else’s children). We become so set on getting a specific type of shot that we forget the beauty of being a bit more spontaneous!
Tips and tricks for less headaches
Fret not, fellow pet lovers, there are some solutions. Here are our tips and tricks to ease you on making sure your pup’s photographs are all perfectly delightful.
Note: If you are using a DSLR or Mirrorless camera, before even getting into these tips, make sure your camera is set to Continuous Autofocus Mode (AI Servo in Canon, AF-C in Nikon and Sony) which allows your camera to refocus on your pup despite their erratic movements. Set your shutter to High-Speed Continuous/Burst Mode (depending on camera brand) to take advantage of the camera’s frames-per-second and take many fast photos!
Tip 1: There is some training required
Unlike our cameras, dogs aren’t ready straight out of the box! It requires some training to get those epic dog shots.
First and foremost, getting your dog used to the camera is a huge key to success. Show that the camera is not something scary, something to get overly excited about, or something to chew (yikes). I am a big positive reinforcement proponent. Reward your dog for doing good around the camera and make sure that Fido is aware that they are doing a terrific job. Make the camera a good experience for your pup, not something to be afraid of.
Secondly, some basic commands go a very long way. A good ‘sit and stay’ will do wonders for you, allowing the distance you need to capture the right image. A ‘down’ is also helpful, as is a ‘mark’ (in which the dog is trained to put their paws up on something you set as a marker). This is how those canine actors do it too!
Training is a great bonding tool for you and your dog and makes for a good canine citizen. So this doesn’t just have a photographic benefit tied in.
Tip 2: A tired dog is a good dog!
Each old saying has a grain of truth to it, and in this case, significantly more than just a grain. An animal that is tired is less likely to have the energy to misbehave!
A key tip in working with pets is getting them too tired to exert their boisterous behavior or protest having to stay still. Playing, running, and stimulating your dog before taking pictures will keep them mellower when it comes time to take the photographs.
Tip 3: Filters, use them!
Filters are the nifty little panes of glass that screw on to the front element of our lenses. This glass can protect expenses lenses from scratches, dust, and most definitely wet dog noses! The problem I often have with my own beast is that she wants to come right into the glass element of my lens, the filter offers extra protection for those times when she’s faster than I am!
Equally so, the glass absorbs the shock of impacts, such as accidentally getting the camera bumped out of our hands by an overexcited pooch.
Tip 4: Location makes all of the difference
Much like with people, the location you are shooting in makes a world of difference. Is your dog an adventurer? Why not capture shots of your pup doing what they love best – exploring a beautiful hike! You can capture their love for the outdoors while your pet is distracted by something beautiful.
Do you have a lazy bum? Maybe the house is their favorite place to be? Catch a lovely in-home session with your dog playing with a favorite toy or hanging out on the couch!
Some dogs are more difficult to capture in unfamiliar locations as they get either nervous and anxious or over-excited. You know your dog best. Do what you think is best to get them comfortable with their surroundings before taking a photograph.
Remember, your dog’s comfort and happiness is first on the priority list; photographs are second.
Tip 5: Get their attention!
Ears up, ears up! You want to get those ears up and those faces smiling. As such, this requires a bit of attention-grabbing on your end. Whether through high-value treats (foods that your dog finds irresistible) or their favorite toy, you know your pooch best when it concerns getting their ears up.
Tip 6: Patience is a virtue
Patience is a virtue indeed and is even more valuable when capturing our own pets. As stated before, patience seems easier with someone else’s dog than with our own, and that’s a frustration that comes out of something that is yours. Remember to breathe and relax, as your anxiety affects your pup. Be patient and the right moment will come!
Tip 7: Rapid shutter fire!
As mentioned above, when you set your camera to burst mode or high-speed continuous shooting, you take advantage of your camera’s speed. This is especially important for animal photography in which pups move rapidly! Capturing a whole sequence of movements allows you to pick out the best of the best shot.
Tip 8: Bring a friend!
It’s okay to bribe your friends with pizza in order to get them to help pose your dog! Having a second person around always helps. That’s the reason photographing someone else’s dog is much easier too.
A second pair of hands can catch your dog’s attention, help you make sure the pup isn’t running away, and generally help when photographing your own dog.
Photographing your own dog may not always be a simple endeavor, but it is always a worthwhile one! Just remember to have fun and keep it all lighthearted, and you’ll do great.
Do you have any other tips for photographing your own dog? If so share with us in the comments. We’d also love to see the pictures you have taken of your own dog, so feel free to share those with us too!