Thursday, October 7, 2010
If you're the average dog lover, you think your pooch could out-pose even those silky Weimaraners in the picture books. But if you're the average amateur dog photographer, your photos never match the athleticism, humor, or outrageous cuteness of the real thing.
We used some suggestions from an article with pet photographer Mark Rogers, as well as some from our own Critter Crew, for tricks for taking high-quality dog pictures--without getting into stuff like f-stops and shutter speed. Here are a few of our favorites:
Time it well. If you're looking for action shots, have your photo shoot before the daily three-mile run. If you want a serene portrait, make it after.
Let your dog get used to the camera. The click and flash of a camera can rattle dogs at first, says Rogers. Let your dog give the camera a good sniff, then start casually shooting the surroundings (if you've got a film camera, you can do this before you load the film). Once your dog's gotten used to the camera and starts doing his own thing, begin taking pictures.
The idea is to keep things natural and relaxed. What not to do: Grab a ton of treats, abruptly shove the camera in your dog's face, and repeat, "Mommy's gonna take your picture!" at high pitch.
Take lots of pictures. This is the first rule of photography, no matter what the subject. The more you take, the better your chances of getting a few amazing shots. Rogers warns, "Always bring an extra battery."
Turn off the flash. Most amateur photographers do best with warm, natural sunlight. To avoid washed-out pictures, shoot in the mornings or evenings, on slightly overcast days, or in the shade on a bright day.
For indoor shots, you'll probably need a flash. You'll get a more natural-looking shot if you use an off-camera flash and swivel it upward so the light's bouncing off the ceiling. Most people do not an this flash, so experiment with your own in-camera one if you believe a flash is needed.
Get down on your dog's level. If you stand over your dog and look down, every shot you take is going to look the same as all the other pictures you see of people's pets. Let your dog get used to you being on their level.
Pay attention to background. Simple backgrounds, like a white sandy beach or green trees, make your dog stand out. If you've got a point-and-shoot camera, have your dog at least a dozen feet in front of the background so he'll be more in focus than whatever is behind him, and of course, watch for the tree branches growing out of his head. Pay attention to color, too: No black backgrounds for black dogs, brown backgrounds for brown dogs, and so on.
Enlist help. A friend with a squeaky toy will come in handy if you want a head-on shot or a regal profile. However, keep your dog's personality in mind with this tip. Most dogs get amped up really fast when their toys are around. As a result, it can have the opposite effect of what you intended.
Get creative and playful. Lots of full-body shots taken from ten feet away can get mighty dull. Get up close so your dog fills the entire frame. Get even closer so you get the full effect of that long, wet nose. Photograph your dog head on, in profile, at 45-degree angles. And don't get hung up on perfection; sometimes that shot with your dog's tail out of the frame is the one you'll have hanging on your wall for years. "With pet photography, serendipity is the name of the game," says Rogers. "The best shots are often the spontaneous ones."
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