Why does watching a dog be a dog fill one with happiness? — Jonathan Safran Foer
Dog photography is one of the most fun yet challenging endeavors one can take part in as a dog lover. While I wouldn’t call myself an expert or a professional, I’ve learned some tips and tricks along the way that may help you in your dog photography endeavors, regardless of whether you’re looking to just take some snapshots with your phone, or you’re trying to learn how to take more professional looking photos with your DSLR camera.
Tip #1: Have Patience
I list this one first because I think it is the most important. You can’t tell a dog to pose or smile, and even if the dog is trained well, their behavior is not always controllable or predictable. Sometimes you just need to set up the shot and wait. And wait. And wait. Sometimes they’ll never do anything photogenic no matter how hard you try or how long you wait and you may have to try again later. Other times they’ll suddenly do something cute, and if you play your cards right, you’ll already be lined up and ready to take the picture.
Tip #2: Take Lots of Photos
This goes along with tip #1. Because their behavior is not predictable, and more often than not they don’t understand the concept of posing, one of the best ways you can increase your odds of getting a great photo is by taking a ton of pictures. At an adoption event 3-4 hours long, I will often take 250-300 photos. My memory card can hold about 830 raw format photos, and at an all day event it’s not unheard of for me to fill it up completely. I typically narrow the ones I like down to about 5% of what I take. Memory and battery power is cheap nowadays. Use that to your advantage.
Tip #3: Use a Fast Shutter Speed
Dogs tend to be wiggle worms, especially young ones. If you want to catch anything other than a blur, you’re going to want to use a fast shutter speed. You can put your DSLR in shutter priority mode if you need to. You may need to find brighter lighting for your photos if you’re having a hard time getting a decent shutter speed.
Tip #4: Use a Fast Lens
I recently invested in the f/1.8 50 mm II lens from Canon and I am regretting not doing this earlier. It is less than $200 and is one of the cheapest DSLR fast lenses you can buy. With this lens I can set my camera to aperture priority as high as f/1.8 and capture great photos with a fast speed even in relatively low lighting. I rarely even use my main lens anymore. Being able to capture shallow depth of field even in sunlight is a ton of fun.
Tip #5: Shoot at Eye Level
While it may feel weird at first, getting at eye level with the dog will produce much better photos. This means you’ll be spending a lot of time sitting or even laying on the ground. Sometimes when I take photos of my basset hound in the backyard, my camera is literally in the grass. You can also experiment with looking up at the dog. Top-down photos can also be great, but I think you’ll find that eye-level photos in general will give you better results.
I hope that these tips help someone out. Go forth and capture some great puppy photos 😉