Dog photography 101
For the past 15+ years, I’ve been working as a professional dog photographer and I’ve been sharing dog stories, photographs, and shoots for many years on the Dutch version of this website and blog. After organizing a series of workshops I discovered the joy of sharing my experiences, tips, and tricks to help others to understand photography better and develop their own style.
There is a lot to talk about. Going from technical skills to creative inspiration, working with dogs, or finding the right light. I will need some time to translate the Dutch articles but this list will be the cozy campfire where all the tricks will gather and links will be added to the short tips below.
While writing, translating and photographing I am of course still available for questions big and small. Feel free to let me know YOUR struggles with dog photography and your question might be answered in this blog series.
1. Get to know your camera. It doesn’t matter what type of equipment you have as long as you know how it works, where you can find the menu, and how you can adjust the settings.
2. Understand the relationship between ISO, shutter speed, and aperture. These three have the most influence on what your image will look like.
3. Learn to recognize different types of light and what they look like once photographed. The type of light influences the atmosphere of your image. Harsh sunlight will give you a different feeling than very soft light on a cloudy day. One isn’t better than the other, it’s a matter of taste.
4. When you make a portrait, focus on the eyes. If you like to have both the eyes and the nose sharp then you have to use a smaller aperture.
5. Try to look for an interesting composition. The rule of thirds is the most used, but there is much more possible.
6. For a neutral and flattering portrait, get down to their level.
7. Give your subject some space in the image and if they look a bit to the left or the right leave a little more space in the direction where they look at.
8. Adjust your white balance. I personally prefer to shoot the colors as neutral as possible, especially when dogs have a lot of red in their fur. If you end up with too much red, it’s very difficult to adjust afterward.
9. Every camera has its own possibilities and qualities and which one you use or prefer is a very personal choice. When it comes to dog photography (and action) I would suggest a DSLR for its speed and quality but these are rather heavy.
10. Every lens has its own qualities and effects on your photograph. My most used lens is a 50mm 1.8 but it has strong competition from a 20mm 1.8. I love working with primes lenses because of their sharpness and speed but if you’re used to zoom lenses it’s something to get used to.
11. You always have the right stuff. Don’t wait for the perfect gear, don’t waste your time thinking you can’t do it. Just go out and shoot.
12. Especially with dark or black dogs but also for creative solutions, a reflector is very useful. If you want to test the possibilities you can easily make one yourself out of cardboard and white paint or foil wrapping.
Working with dogs:
13. Teach your dog to pose. (A little film with 5 tips)
14. Or learn to manipulate. (new link will follow)
15. Focus on your dog’s typical habits, expressions, or goofy moments. All the things that make your dog just who he is. Favorite toys, the seat by the window, the place where he sleeps,… And don’t throw away the bloopers with silly faces. Sometimes these are the most fun to look at afterward 🙂
16. Be fast. Get your timing right.
17. Take a good look at your location to find the best spots. A location doesn’t have to be extra special to be perfect for a shoot. The most important things are safety and finding the right spot.
18. Adjust your expectations when working with dogs you don’t know, older dogs, puppies, or sick dogs.
19. Pay attention to the beautiful details of the fur, the nose, and paws,…
20. Indoor photography, don’t be afraid of the challenge.
21. Experiment and really look for fresh inspiration even color can be an inspiration.
22. Boost your photography with photo challenges. Participate in technical or creative challenges or make up one for yourself like my ongoing #TongueOutTuesday series.
23. Look for variety in your images; change composition, distance, and light,…
24. Correct the colors if your dog suddenly looks blue.
25. Or if your image from the woods is VERY green.
26. Clean up the eyes for a fresh look.
27. Experiment with editing to find your own voice.
28. If you edit with photoshop, always adjust with layers so you can always return to your original image.
This series might be forever a work in process, I’m still working on adjusting links and writing new articles but if you have any questions or remarks, let me know!
PS: you can also find me on Instagram: @dogvision