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You Ought To Be In Pictures
Tips for American Humane Association photo contest.
Capturing that perfect shot can be challenging

The American Humane Association is sponsoring a photo contest with prize money up for grabs. There are four categories to choose from: Pets, People & Pets, Down on the Farm and Shelter Life. If you plan to submit a photo of your dog, consider these photographic tips.

A lot of dogs are terrified of cameras, which look like giant eyes pointed directly at them. In the dog world, staring is both rude and threatening. Dogs are usually less frightened by a larger lens far away than by a smaller lens close up, so a portrait lens is a good investment. Concerning the eyes of the dog, they are the most important feature. A photo can survive blurry parts, especially the fur and tail when in motion, but eyes must be sharp!

Many dogs are riveted by motion, so wiggling a finger, waving an arm or shaking a toy will keep many dogs occupied and looking in the right direction. If a dog has a tendency to consider stay optional, a slight lean forward by the photographer is often enough to keep a dog in place.

Most dogs look especially adorable when cocking their heads. The easiest way to get a dog to do so is to make an unfamiliar sound. Try a click, a smooch, a squeak, a woop woop, sing a few bars, imitate a bird or any other sound that’s new to the dog but unlikely to scare him.

Proper perspective can make or break a picture. Getting down to the dog’s level rather than shooting from above will help avoid unflattering photos which show off and enlarge his nose.

To convey the essence of a dog requires incorporating the dog’s personality into the photo. Does the dog love to fetch more than life itself? Put a tennis ball or two in the frame. Is there another toy that is a constant companion? Use it as part of the foreground. Does she often have one ear up and one ear down, her tongue hanging way out, or one paw raised? All photographic and behavioral techniques aside, it’s that sense of having captured what makes a dog unique, not just beautiful, that leads to a picture a photographer can be proud of taking and compelled to share.

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Karen B. London, PhD, is a Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist and Certified Professional Dog Trainer who specializes in working with dogs with serious behavioral problems, including aggression. She is the author of five books on canine training and behavior.

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