Ever wonder how some people capture such perfect photos of their pups while yours are a dark, blurry mess? It’s not as hard as you think, and you don’t need a fancy camera to do it. These tips will help you become a professional “photographer” in no time:
#1: Keep Calm
A calm dog is a happy dog, and his relaxed attitude will make for more natural photos that capture his true character. Leave your camera or phone out for him to sniff until he gets used to it (this may take several days). Casually start taking pictures at waist level without looking at him, and gradually raise the camera higher until he’s used to you holding it up to your face. Never use the flash—it’s irritating for your dog and rarely results in good-quality photos.
#2: Know Your Camera
A beautiful photo is a beautiful photo whether it’s taken with an iPhone or a Nikon. It’s about knowing how to use your tools to your advantage.
If you’re working with an iPhone, its brightening function is your best friend. Just touch your dog’s face on your screen, then swipe up to brighten the photo before you snap the picture. This is particularly useful if you’re in a poorly lit room.
Always crop the photos you take with your phone rather than zooming in on your dog. Zooming will result in a lower-resolution, blurrier image. Plus, you’ll have more control over the image’s composition when you crop it afterward.
If you have a professional camera, setting a faster shutter speed will help capture an on-the-move dog. However, this will also take away some light, so natural outdoor lighting is your best option.
#3: Find the Light
The most important part of photography is finding the right light. Your lighting will dictate the brightness, clarity, color, and mood of your photos. Rule number one: Never use a flash; this will wash out your image and result in those dreaded “devil eyes.”
Shoot for natural sunlight in the morning or evening, or when it’s overcast. This light will help you avoid harsh shadows and washed out details. You’ll also be able to get a natural-looking background.
Play around with your blinds or curtains until you get the perfect amount of natural light in the room—this will eliminate the need for using a flash. If natural light isn’t available, turn on a lamp so the light is behind you or off to the side; avoid having the light source directly behind your pup; his image will come out too dark and blurred.
#4: Get the Rig
The biggest mistake dog parents make is standing still when taking photos. Get down to your dog’s level and play around with different angles. Run around with him a bit to get different facial expressions. Being too far from your dog is another common mistake. Your pup should be the obvious focus of your photograph and you want to capture the details that make him unique. Try panning your phone or camera—this means moving your screen as your dog moves in order to capture fun action shots.
#5: Pick a Clean Background
Don’t forget about the background as you click away—it’s an integral part of the composition of your photos. Your goal is to emphasize your dog, so monotone backgrounds, like a sandy beach or green grass, will make him stand out the most. If you want to set up a staged photo shoot, use a bed sheet, fabric, or chalkboard from a craft store to customize the backdrop. Avoid dark backgrounds for dogs with darker coats and white backgrounds for lighter coats.
#6: Distract Your Dog
Entice your dog to look at the camera by squeaking a toy or holding a treat. Be careful that this doesn’t backfire on you, however; some dogs get too hyper when they hear a squeak or see a treat. If this happens, try making funny sounds or calling his name to get some more subtle attention. A better method is to have another person in charge of distracting your dog so you can concentrate on your camera. Be patient and consistent with your pup, and remember to reward him for participating!
#7: Take Tons of Pictures
Any teenager will admit that they take dozens of selfies before choosing the perfect one to post. The same concept applies to photography in general—there’s no such thing as taking too many shots. The more you take, the better your chances are of getting a great shot. This is also a good method for figuring out which angles, poses, and methods you like the best so you know what to aim for in future photo sessions. A Nikon or Canon camera will show you the settings you used for each image so you can make note of what worked best for you.
#8: Edit Your Work
Editing can do wonders for a photo and adds a nice finishing touch. Whether it’s just you and your phone or you love Photoshop, playing around with photo editing features can add something special to your photos even if you think you captured the perfect lighting and background.
On Your Phone
Many smartphones now allow you to edit your photos—just tap “edit” and use the tool bar to make adjustments. Or download a photo editing app, such as Afterlight or SnapSeed. You’ll be able to manually adjust the exposure, contrast, sharpness, different filters, and more.
On Your Computer
Use Photoshop to professionally enhance your photos. You’ll be able to view your photos blown up on a larger screen, which allows for more detailed editing. Search YouTube for step-by-step tutorials, or just play around with the tools on your own until it becomes intuitive—it’s easier than you think.
Don’t keep your work buried in your phone or on your computer—frame some prints and show off your cute canine model!