How to Take the Perfect Pooch Portrait

Have you got the cutest dog in the world? 
Yea me too! No seriously, mine’s AH-MAZING.  You can tell how amazing by how many photographs I take of her.

You don’t need a super DSLR to take great pooch portraits, my top tips are for Smart Phones, Point and Shoot and DSLR’s alike.  Just take a read through this post and send me some of your photos when you are done.

Have Some Patience.

Most of the comments, along with the questions, that I get are .. ‘my dog moves too fast’, ‘she won’t sit still long enough’ – well that’s not true.  YOU move too fast and YOU don’t sit still long enough.  The number one tip for taking Pooch Portraits (in fact any Pet Portraits) is PATIENCE!

Have your camera at the ready especially if you know you are going to be in a location that looks great or you are going to be doing something that always gives you good photo material.  Put yourself in a position where you can capture what is about to happen and if you can use burst mode or continuous shooting mode.  Then you can select your favourite from that group later.  The more photographs you take, the better chance you have of photographing something great.Django Lix - Rescue Me - by Tara Sutherland

Getting animals to repeat an action is tough – it can be done if you reward them for it – however if you are photographing your dog being itself, chances are they will do it again – just maybe tomorrow.  To see how tough it is for the pets, try teaching someone to put their finger in their ear using only two words – Yes and No.

Pay Your Model.

You wouldn’t expect Kate Moss to pull out the perfect pout for nothing and you shouldn’t expect it of your dog either. Get some treats!
Treats are most often food, the fact that dogs love food is very very very handy for us photographers but it might be a toy or even a game they love to play.  Same as when you are training, if you ask your dog to pose, give them a reward so they know it was right.  Seriously, my models know that once they hear the click of my camera, they get a treat – so they sit and wait for that noise.  (I just fake it when I am using my iPhone).

Dangle those treats if you have to and if you are dangling them, pop them next to the lens so they are looking straight into the camera.

Get Down.

A photograph from your dog’s perspective adds more context – and is most often more balanced.
As our pets are generally smaller than us humans, they can get a little lost in some of the photos – get down and get close, have them fill the frame if possible.  Yes, you can always crop later.
The exception to this Down Low is the ‘Rescue Face’ – the face that you give to the seriously cute, the animals that need adopting or when you are wanting to not just tug, but swing, on those heart strings.

Nixie Lix - Bed HEad by Tara Sutherland

Lying on the ground can help with their anxiety too, they get used to the camera or learn to ignore it and you get some really great natural images. If you are not sure how your dog is feeling, have a look at their ears. Forward and loose is relaxed, pinned back, not so relaxed.

The Background.

Whilst you are down there, pay attention to the background!  An unmade bed looks okay – especially if you are shooting with a wide aperture (blurry background) but we don’t want to see your dirty laundry pile.

When you are outside, check for distracting items.  Moving a step to the left or the right can make a difference – that rubbish bin in the park … just looks rubbish.

Let Them Be Themselves.

The best photographs you will get are when you pets are doing their stuff.
My girl Nixie Lix loves to lie around (she’s also a champion frisbee catcher) but the best photographs I have of her are when she’s being lazy.  She is pretty tolerant at these times too so I can take my time.

If all else fails, call me. 
Crawling around on my belly, following your pet with my lens is one of my favourite things to do.  If I’m not doing it for you, I’m doing it for me!

I often update my own site with Pet Photography Tips for Pet Owners – check in and see if there are more tips you can use.

At the end of the day, your dog loves you no matter how good your photographs are!

Meet the Cake Oven Canines:

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