Last week I wrote about making sure I photographed my own dogs more often. I've been talking with several of you who got new cameras for Christmas, so what better segue than a crash course in photographing YOUR pets?! Here are five things I try to keep in mind when working, and the thought process behind some of my images. I'll also include camera settings under each image, so you can get an idea where to start. Keep in mind, everything is variable with the amount of light, the scene, and so much more.
1. The first rule of pet photography, is PATIENCE. I have so many wonderful clients get stressed out that Fido and Rover aren't sitting still, and dogs feed off of our energy. It is so important to stay calm and collected, and this is really where my lengthy background in working with and training dogs comes in to play. Besides - some of my favorite shots are the imperfect ones...like photographing three Great Pyrenees, a Chihuahua, and two kids!
Canon 5D mark iii, Canon 70-200 2.8 ii, ISO 160, f/3.5, 1/250
2. My next rule is PERSPECTIVE. Photos of animals are so much more interesting when taken at their eye level, instead of your own. You walk around every day seeing things from 5 feet up - get down on the ground and see what it looks like to your dog! Here's Mickie, the shepherd mix's perspective.
Canon 5D mark iii, Canon 70-200 2.8 ii, ISO 200, f/2.8, 1/125
3. Rule #3? PLAY! Pet photos are so much fun when they're goofy! Unless your dog is more content snuggled on the couch and that's the personality you want to capture, get him outside and play around with some fun angles, lenses, and expressions! Camille the German Shepherd was no shortage of silly.
Canon 5D mark iii, Canon 16-35 2.8 ii, ISO 100, f/2.8, 1/2000
4. I think I'm out of P words. In any case, one of the biggest things I take into consideration when composing the photo is LIGHT. In general, you will want to photograph your dog with the sun behind you. This will give you that beautiful sparkle in his eyes, known as catchlights, that Buddha the black Lab is sporting.
Canon 5D mark iii, Canon 70-200 2.8 ii, ISO 500, f/3.2, 1/640
Once you're comfortable with how the basics of light work, you can delve into shooting into the sun....one of my favorites! This picture of Jake, my Bernese Mountain Dog, was taken just as that golden ball of sun dipped below the horizon, and made for a great sunburst.
Canon 5D mark iii, Canon 16-35 2.8 ii, ISO 100, f/14, 1/200, with flash
The same can be achieved in daytime, too! Here's Nala, the Belgian Malinois, showing off her camouflage skills.
Canon 7D mark ii, Canon 16-35 2.8 ii, ISO 320, f/4, 1/200, no flash
5. Ready to keep moving? Most dogs don't spend their lives in a perfect sit, so why not get in on the action?! For these shots, you will want to make sure you have a fast shutter speed. To balance this, you may need to bump up your ISO a little. It was only 1/500th of a second to snap this fun picture of Nellie, the Goldendoodle, but you may need to go 1/1000 or higher depending how fast your subject is and the direction of his movement.
Canon 5D mark iii, Canon 70-200 2.8 ii, ISO 1000, f/2.8, 1/500
I'd love to see some of your dog photography! Share a picture or two in the comments on Facebook! You can also check out Elaine Tweedy's pet photography thought process at I Got The Shot Photography in Northeastern PA.