As a dog owner, you probably have a phone gallery full of pictures of your pup. Most of us cannot resist snapping away pics of our best buddy at the dog park, on walks, at Halloween, or just laying around the house being absolutely adorable.
Forbes.com reports that nearly 70% of U.S. households have a pet with the majority of those being dogs. There are now actually more people that have pets than have children!
With the increase of pet owning households comes an increase in money spent on and time invested in our pets. This can (and often does) equate to A LOT of documentation of their lives with us.
A study by Rover.com found that 65% of people admitted that they took more pictures of their dog than their spouse. These pictures can also be big business as pet influencers are now often outperforming accounts of humans on Instagram as well!
So the bottom line is that we are taking a lot of pictures of our dogs. Sometimes we are looking to catch something that they are doing in the moment and other times we want to capture the perfect shot for a specific purpose-social media, a family photo, or a special event.
Portrait photographer, Andrea Blakesberg provides some quick tips to help you take better pictures of your canine family member-whether you are maintaining a huge social media following or you just want to take some great photos of your dog.
1. Create a fun and relaxed environment
Every dog has his day and certainly his best time of day. Is your puppy more playful in the morning? Or is late afternoon the time of day that she’s got that spurt of energy? Put your session off to a time that best for your pet, when they are feeling more playful. And know, that if you start taking pictures of your pet, and they just are not feeling it… table the session until they are.
Unfortunately, dogs do not pose on command and being mindful of their state of mind is important if you want to get a great pic. If you have a young or energetic dog, you may have to tire him/her out a bit before they can settle enough to not be in constant motion.
This is particularly true if you have them in a new or over stimulating environment. Most dogs will be more interested in inspecting their new surroundings to grab some great new smells than sitting still to have their picture taken. If this is the case, you will spend more time erasing blurry photos of your pup than getting that great shot.
Letting them explore, taking them for a walk, or playing catch before you want to grab some photos can help them burn some of that boundless energy and give you that extra minute to capture the perfect shot.
On the flip side, an older dog may only have so much energy to spare, so you may want to consider doing your picture taking early in the day or after a good nap, especially if you want to capture some action shots.
2. Notice the background
If you’re capturing your favorite fur baby outdoors, take a peek at what is happening behind them too. Is there a garbage can? Light Pole? Other dogs? Or people? Try and create a “clean” backdrop for your pet to shine in.
How often do you get the “perfect shot” only to find that someone’s leg is in your picture? Or there was a shadow that you did not notice that is casting right over your dog’s face ruining your holiday card moment?
Certainly open space rather than a living area gives you a better chance for less interference of objects or other people in your photos. Also, the camera can make a seemingly open room appear more cluttered in the final shot.
This takes the focus away from your subject and muddles the picture, bouncing the viewer’s eye all over the picture. This definitely takes the “WOW” factor away from your pup and your photo.
As Andrea suggests, the cleaner the better. This allows your dog to be the focus and draw all the “oohs and aahs” they deserve!
3. Be sure to offer regular rewards
A great way to capture their attention is with a squeaky toy, some kibble or even some hand clapping. But don’t overdo it, instead use as their attention begins to wane. A treat held under the dog’s nose and then pulled upward is a great way for them to look directly at you.
As dog owners, we know that in modifying our pup’s behaviors reward is king. This is definitely true in taking pictures. During a photo session with my own pups we had to go to the magic bullet-peanut butter.
Rewards are particularly helpful if you want them to be still. Using a special treat will keep them occupied so that you can capture “the shot”. This is especially helpful with puppies or high energy dogs that are always on the move. Strategically moving the position of the treat can help you achieve the angle you want for your picture.
In addition, offering the treat at irregular intervals can keep your dog interested. If they do not know when the treat may be coming, they will be more likely to pay attention to what you are asking them to do, rather than get involved in other things as they get bored.
At the end of the day, the dogs are calling the shots (no pun intended). Getting your pup to sit or maintain a certain position by force, never works out. Not only is this not fun for your dog and they will begin to avoid you like the plague when they see the phone or camera come out, but this will be conveyed in your pictures. You want to grab the look of joy in your dog’s eye, not the look of being punished.
If you are having one of those days where your pup is not cooperating with his/her photo session, then go for more candid, au-naturel shots. Follow them and observe them doing their crazy dog things. Sometimes just a simple change of activity or environment can do the trick.
That may not be the day that you catch that perfect holiday card photo, but you will almost certainly capture their individual crazy, loving, funny, and silly side and THAT is a picture worth a thousand words.