Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Tips on photographing your dog, part one

"Enough with the camera, already!"

I've had a few comments asking how I get Cloud to sit so nicely for his pictures, so I thought I'd make a series of posts about it. I'm in no way an expert, this is just what I've picked up over the years of photographing Cloud and what seems to work for me.

First and probably the most important thing, is to get your dog used to the camera. If your pet starts running around when he sees the camera, or stops doing the "cute" thing you wanted to photograph, or is afraid of the camera, then you need to go slow and get him used to it. Make him think the camera is just part of the scenery. (Cloud thinks the camera is an extension of my arm, lol.) Just take a few photos throughout the day, whenever you think about it, and act like it's no big deal. They don't have to be anything spectacular, (you can always delete them.)

If your pet is extremely camera shy, take pictures of something in the same room until they get used to any noise the camera makes. In fact, if you pointedly ignore them, they might feel left out and decide your attention with the camera is a good thing! You can also try to put your camera up to your eye and give your dog a treat. Soon they will start looking forward to the camera. Of course if you plan to photograph your dog often, you might want to try to get him comfortable with the camera without needing treats, lol. Remember - always be patient, keep your sessions short, and don't get discouraged... your dog will pick up on that and dislike the camera even more.

I always act very nonchalant when I pick up the camera. No, "Oh boy, lets take some pictures boy!!!" You don't want to get them all revved up. Oh, and if your dog is clearly not in the mood to sit still, then let him play or run it off and try again later.

So now that you've got your dog used to the camera and not acting like a dork when he sees you with it, there are several things important for a good portrait shot: a calm dog, good lighting (NO flash!), the right perspective, a little patience and LOTS of photos.

1. Calm dog - Clouds best photos are when he's relaxed yet alert, lounging in his favorite chair or hanging out in the yard. I'm always aware enough of him that I can tell when there's a good opportunity for some photos.

Here is Cloud lounging, focused on me. Pretty much waiting to see if I'm going to do something important like leave the room, lol. Not a great photo, but a good example of 'calm but alert.'

I got some great shots of him in the chair that session. In this one, I'm sitting on the floor so that I'm at his eye level, and moving my hand on the floor to get this lovely shot of him looking down. Oh, those ears!

You can get wonderful shots when your dog is distracted by something in the background. They don't always have to be looking at you.

Profile shots are beautiful too, I love them! Here is the photo I used for the painting that's my blog header. To this day, one of my favorite paintings! Looking at this older photo, you can really see how my baby is starting to go gray around the muzzle.

Stay tuned for part two - Lighting, and why you shouldn't use flash!


Nikki said...

I love your tips. Maybe you can offer up some suggestions for Bella. Since she is black, it's really hard to catch a good shot of her. Tucker is extremely photogenic but Bella's pictures never seem to capture the "true" Bella. Which by the way is much cuter in person. :-)

Kathleen Coy said...

Hi Nikki! Black dogs can be a challenge to photograph, that's for sure. Cloud has enough black on him that I know just what you mean. The best trick I've found is in the lighting, which I'll cover in the next post. But to sum it up - no harsh lighting (direct sunlight) and try not to photograph her against a white background.

gtyyup said...

That's great info. Cindy Sue is shy...always turning her face away from the camera. I think it was my doing, because I'd used a flash and it scared her...dumb mom :( Look forward to Part 2!

Gail H. Ragsdale said...

Your dog photos are always so great! Your tips work for cats too. Mine have a tendency when they see the camera to close their eyes. And black is soooo hard to photograph! I've had a number of black cats and black horses and it's tough to find a good photo!!

Stop by and pick-up your Splash Award~ :-)

lucky kachina dancer said...

Very helpful! Can't wait to see your tips on lighting (my most photogenic dog is mostly black).

Caroline said...

I love your dog!!! And my cat would hate to hear me say that, but it's true!

Mona said...

Great tips Kathleen! I miss having a dog right now, but hope to again one day.

L.Holm said...

All so wonderful! You have a real gift for bringing out the best in your handsome boy! thanks for sharing these excellent tips.

Bijou said...

Hi Kathleen,

Cloud is such a handsome Rattie. My mom says I am very photogenic but Banjo dislikes the camera so it is difficult to get good pictures of him.

She is interested in reading your lighting tips cause she relies on the flash too often then I look like a devil dog. BOL

Wags & wiggles,

sam said...

Excellent tips Kathleen, Cloud is very photogenic!

Dean Grey said...

Cloud is such a gorgeous dog, Kathleen!

I love the profile photo too! It made a wonderful header (painting) indeed!