We the Dogs
4 Tips For Taking Great Photos of Your Dog
We admit it: we take far too many photos of our pets! But we could all use a few pointers on getting that picture perfect image! We reached out to one of our favorite professional dog photographers, Hannele Lahti, and she gave us a few tips that will help you get better pictures of your pet no matter what camera you have. Follow these guidelines, dip into your creative reserves and most importantly, have some fun!
Dogs lives are short; too short if you ask me. So I use photography to hold onto the memories that matter. After I lost both of my dogs in 2018, the pictures I made of them have become a treasured part of my archive and a visual reminder of the love we shared.
I want to be clear right up front, this is not a guide with specific exposure settings and hard-fast rules you must obey to make better photographs of your pet. Instead, let’s work on techniques to improve your photography today, no matter what camera you use. As you read, you’ll see a recurring theme–be purposeful about making pictures. Thinking about what you want to capture, why you want to capture it, and how to go about it is the key to great photography.
It’s all about the light.
Ever notice how warm the light is at sunset or how intense the light is at high noon on a sunny day? What about the light streaming through your window in the morning? Or the soft shadows created on a cloudy day? The best way to improve your photography is by understanding and observing light in your daily life.
The good news is your dog already does this. They gravitate to the sun-filled spots for their afternoon snooze and take advantage of a shady trees on a hot summer days. Follow their lead. Begin to understand and describe the light around you. How does it shape your dog’s face or highlight their fur? Build a mental library of these lighting observations to use next time you shoot.
Are you trying to photograph a black dog? The reason why they always look so dark in your photos is because the light is not working in your favor. Sunlight is your friend here, especially in the morning or afternoon when the sun is low and directional.
Capture their character.
Move beyond the cute portrait. Yes, your dog is ADORABLE but what is it about them that makes your heart explode? Name it, then work on capturing that. This means putting the treats and training away for a minute and preparing for those spontaneous moments, i.e. play with your dog.
For example, if you want to capture your pet’s playful side, be camera ready when they get the “zoomies.” Get low, position yourself where there is some bright, even light and let the action come to you.
Change your point of view.
Where are you when you make your pictures: On the ground looking up? Standing over them? At eye level? Point of View can add character and meaning to your subject. For example, if you shoot low, the dog will appear more powerful and larger than life whereas if you look down on them they will look smaller, more meek. Be purposeful about your positioning.
Try shooting as though you are a dog–see the world through their eyes. Note: your dog is going to love this, be ready for sneak attacks and lots of kisses.
Pay attention to the background.
Ask yourself—is the background adding to your image or distracting the viewer? Simplifying your background, such as using a brightly painted wall or foliage, will help keep the attention on your subject.
The background can also be used to help tell your story. The images here with Sadie were shot in the same spot but offer two different narratives—one is a portrait of a happy dog and the other gives a wider sense of place.
Watch out for distracting background elements–think telephone poles, tree branches, messy bedrooms, speckled sunlight or anything that takes your attention away from your subject. Sometimes all you have to do is move a little bit and the distraction disappears. Yes, Photoshop can work wonders but it’s a lot easier to simply notice the distraction and adjust.
The most important thing you can take away right now is to simply be purposeful about your pictures. Go out there, have some serious fun with your pets and capture those memories that matter. I can’t wait to see your results!
About the author: Hannele Lahti is equally obsessed with dogs, nature and photography. After graduating from the top photography school in the country, she has gone on to build a long career photographing dogs and the natural world for clients such as National Geographic, the Smithsonian Institution and pet lovers like you. Follow her @adogphotographer | www.adogphotographer.com