A picture is worth 1000 words, they say. But perfect photos of your dog balancing a biscuit on her nose? Priceless.
Of course, nailing that perfect shot is easier said than done. More often than not, we end up with a series of dull, blurry photos that fail to capture our pup’s true spirit and charm.
How do pet photographers do it? What makes for a truly sensational puppy photo sesh—one that’s worth sharing across social media? How do you get that one show-stopping picture that makes you gasp and say, “Now, that’s a framer.”
Getting the perfect dog photo is harder than it looks. But if you hone these tricks of the trade, your canine fashionista may be on her way to becoming Insta-famous.
1. Stay cool, calm, and collected
A relaxed environment will encourage your darling model-in-training to give her best performance. Avoid high traffic areas where noise and distractions can get in the way of clinching the perfect shot. This is especially important to consider if you’re photographing a dog who’s particularly nervous or high strung.
Equally important here is making sure your pup is comfortable with the camera. If you’re using a new device that your dog has never seen before, she could be startled by the flash or she may just dislike having a camera (or phone) shoved in her face.
Your best option is to start slowly. Before you start clicking, allow your dog to sniff the camera so she can see it’s not a threat. It’s also a good idea to turn off your flash so it doesn’t distract her while you’re shooting.
2. Prepare with some primping
No, we’re not talking about giving your dog a new hairdo. Simply give Fido a quick once over: wipe out any gunk in his eyes and brush out his coat to remove any unsightly particles that you don’t want showing up in your photos.
3. Choose your background wisely
While your dog is obviously the star of the show, don’t underestimate the effect that a good background can have. Or, on the other side of the coin, don’t forget how ugly (not to mention, distracting) a pile of laundry can become in an otherwise perfect photo.
Take into account your dog’s coat color, too: a white dog may look washed-out against a completely white wall. Make sure to take note of any objects that might interfere with a successful photo shoot. Trust me, you’re not going to be pleased with a bunch of photos where your dog looks like he has a tree branch sprouting out of his head.
Seasoned pros will also take advantage of their camera’s blur effect to make the background less intrusive, making their dogs the main focus.
4. Make lighting work to your advantage
Most of us know that lighting plays a major role in good photography. But since most of us aren’t professional photographers, we might not know exactly how light affects our photos. Here are a few pointers to get the lighting just right.
First, shooting in natural light is your best bet. For candids indoor shots, opt for a room with adequate natural light. It will probably take a bit of experimentation for you to nail down the best time of day for indoor dog photos, so be patient.
If you’re taking things outdoors, it’s important to avoid direct sunlight if you can. Aim, instead, for what photographers refer to as the “golden hour”—shortly after sunrise or just before sunset. Since bright sunlight can create harsh photos, cloudy days are your best friends when it comes to outdoor photo shoots. If you’re shooting in relentless sun, try to find a bit of shade for better results.
Whatever you do, turn off the flash. There’s nothing cute about a dog with red eye.
5. Work those angles
In the age of selfies, most of us have learned how to make front-facing camera angles work to our advantage. Now put those skills to work for your canine companion! Play with different camera positions to capture that one-of-a-kind shot. Photograph your dog from above, from behind, and from the floor looking up at him. You never know what may yield the most unique,interesting shot.
6. Get low, get low
Crouching down to your dog’s level gives your photos an up-close and intimate effect. Instead of viewing him through your own lens, getting low allows you to see things through Fido’s perspective. Which is pretty handy when you’re cruising for Instagram likes.
7. Make it worth your dog’s while
The average dog will need a little coaxing to look directly at a camera, so try motivating your pooch with his favorite treats. Carrots are a good choice if you’re watching your dog’s calorie-intake. And if you’re looking for a playful shot of your dog with his tongue out, give him a scoop of peanut butter and snap away!
If your dog isn’t particularly food-driven, his favorite squeaky toy is a good alternative to hold his attention until you get that perfect shot.
8. Go natural
Sure, a well-staged pose can create a funny and memorable photo. But don’t forget to capture some candid images of your dog just being a dog. Spontaneity can work in your favor here. Anytime you explore a different environment together or your dog experiences something new for the first time (like snow or the beach)—this is a great opportunity to capture his unique personality “in-the-moment.”
9. Bring in some props
Let your dog photos tell a story with some curated additions. Consider photographing your dog with blankets, toys, or even a hat or bow tie to make your pictures more engaging. (Just make sure your dog is a willing participant if you’re going to dress him up.) You can also use props to add a pop of brilliant color to your photos.
10. Get your dog to smile!
You know the face: the one where your dog’s lolling tongue makes him look like a grinning goofball. You just can’t beat it. But how do you get your dog to “smile?”
Simple—just head outside for a vigorous play session. Once your dog is panting, whip out your camera to catch that smile in action.
11. Take a LOT of pictures
Dogs are not unlike squirmy toddlers when you’re trying to take their picture. The odds of getting that perfect shot on the first try are…well, pretty dismal. There’s a reason portrait photographers snap multiple shots of the same thing during a photo shoot. Boost your chances of catching your dog’s expression flawlessly by taking tons of pictures. You can just go through them later and delete any flops.
12. Equipment matters (but not too much!)
We’re not saying you have to drop a heap of money on fancy camera equipment to get some meme-worthy photos of your dog. But it doesn’t hurt if you happen to have some extra cash tucked away.
One piece of equipment that is definitely worth considering is a tripod. This will free up your hands and ensure a steady photo. Plus, you’ll be able to set a timer and pose next to your pup! Can you say “perfect holiday card?”
13. Don’t forget to edit
Good photography is in the details. So if you want your Instagram account to really shine, brush up on some basic editing skills. There are plenty of editing programs for you to choose from, so go with something that matches your own level of experience. A few choices include PicMonkey, Snapseed, Lightroom, and of course, Adobe Photoshop. A few simple adjustments of your photo’s lighting or color saturation can make a world of difference.
14. Discover your muses
Do you follow any Instagram accounts that really capture the aesthetic you’re shooting for with your dog? Take a closer look at your favorite pet accounts: what is it that you find so appealing in these photos? Is it the photographer’s use of props or his unique settings? Be inspired by their techniques, and try to mimic some of them. You may just surprise yourself.
15. Be Patient
You can’t exactly explain to your fidgety dog why you want him to sit still while you repeatedly shove your phone in his face. During your efforts to get the best photos of him, don’t lose sight of that fact. And if you find yourself becoming frustrated that your dog would rather play ball than pose for you, take that as your cue to call it a day.
16. Have fun with it!
Look—this isn’t meant to be a laborious chore. Photographing your furry friend should be a fun and bonding experience. If you’re not enjoying the process, it’s probably time to take a break.
If you’re looking for new activities to share with your dog, why not up your photography game and make your little starlet shine? All it takes is practice, patience, and a little bit of luck to achieve Insta-worthy dog photos you’ll treasure forever.