Your fireplace mantel and Facebook page are crowded with photos of the family doing cool things. But when you try to get the dog in the frame, she faces the wrong way or wanders off to watch squirrels. Here are some tactics to keep your technique on point and your dog at attention so she can take her rightful place in the family gallery.
Stay in the moment.
Candids are probably the most interesting moments to capture, but you need to be prepared to catch them. Consider what you love about your pup specifically. The way she sprawls out on her back? Her intent observation of dinner preparations? Keep your camera handy so you can record those memorable moments. When taking posed photos, look for complementary backgrounds. If your dog is light-colored, position her in front of dark-colored walls or furniture, or on a colorful rug or bright green grass. For a cozy perspective, get down on her level, or compose the shot slightly offcenter for a funky feel. And remember the zoom; wide angles capture her in her element, while tight detail shots (muddy paws or a cocked ear) convey her personality in a surprisingly artistic way. Be creative.
Choose your location.
The best results tend be achieved in environments that have good natural light and are familiar to your dog. The better she knows the location, the more relaxed she’ll be, so start at home. Indoors, choose rooms awash in natural light — throw open those curtains. Aim for meaningful places, like her bed, or the patch of afternoon sun in which she likes to nap.
If you have a yard, take some toys and head to her favorite spot right after sunrise or just before sunset to capitalize on the beautiful lighting. No yard? Find a quiet park (not a dog park — too many distractions), secluded trail or local landmark. Don’t forget the car, bike, boat or other modes of transportation she enjoys sharing with you. You don’t need much to capture meaningful images.
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Avoid using the flash indoors, which creates that “alien” eye look. Instead, increase your ISO (this measures the sensitivity of the film; the lower the number, the finer the photo grain) and set the mode on your point-and-shoot camera to “portrait.” This automatically widens the aperture, allowing more light to reach the camera’s sensor. Natural light is best, so get outside if you can, but try to avoid midday photo shoots. Light is softer — more even, which means less contrast and shadow — when the sun’s lower in the sky. If you must, opt for an evenly shaded area, especially with allblack or all-white dogs.
If you’re using a camera phone, set it to its highest resolution and use the touch-to-focus feature. Note: not all phones have these capabilities at the moment, but with ever-evolving apps, you can edit photos into images that may top those of your camera-toting pals. (Depending on the type of phone you have, you may need to stick to web viewing, as the resolution is rarely high enough for prints.)
Manage your dog.
Modeling doesn’t come naturally to most dogs, so go easy on her (and yourself). Here are some ways to increase the likelihood of a fun and successful photo session.
• Take your time — and many breaks. Even candids may require several attempts.
• Before you get out the camera, help your dog burn off some energy with an exercise session.
• Since most dogs don’t understand “sit, then look over your shoulder,” improvise with commands she knows, or just wait until she naturally does what you want. Patience is key.
• Use squeaky toys, treats or even an extra person to get her attention.
• Maintain a good attitude and give lots of praise.
• Safety is your highest priority; no photo’s worth risking your or your dog’s well-being.
Taking photos should be a positive, fun experience. Even though it can be a challenge to simultaneously figure out camera settings, set up shots and wrangle your dog, the more you practice, the easier it gets. Keep your camera handy and take an artist’s view of your dog’s life. Once you start looking for pictureperfect moments, you’ll be surprised how many you’ll find.