One of the best parts about being an animal trainer is that my life is full of people who share my obsession with dogs. This also means that my social media is bursting with amazing photos of our best friends. I could always appreciate a great picture of a dog, but I never knew what made the difference until I asked the photographers themselves. Through the years, I have been gifted some handy tips and tricks for getting the most out of our pictures with our pets. Some of these even helped me better my selfie game!
I find that there are five different aspects to bear in mind whenever you’re a dog photographer.
Attitude is everything!
Having a dog that looks happy in a picture makes all the difference! A picture of a dog with a big smile always gets a smile from me! We get that smile by having a relaxed dog that is comfortable in its surroundings and attentive toward their human. A dog that is being photographed mid-play session usually has the doggie grin that we’re looking for.
Note: Dogs aren’t born used to wearing costumes or clothes, but a little bit of work toward positive association can quickly make them enthusiastic participants in dress up! For more see the below section regarding props.
Get down on their level
Have you ever noticed that taking a picture when you’re looking up at the camera gives you bigger eyes and a smaller chin? Well, having your camera at your dogs’ eye height not only lets you get a better connection with the dog through the screen but it also keeps your dog from looking like a borzoi in their photos! Unless you have a borzoi, in which case this may not help.
Consider the background
Have you ever wondered why the DMV makes you take your photo against a white background? Well, it’s because a non-distracting background is crucial to recognizing all the details that make your dog so special. Obviously, we take some of our best photos outdoors, but certain settings on your camera can help keep the focus on your dog.
Minimizing distractions behind your dog will keep your dog the center of attention (as they should be!) Bright sunlight will also be a disservice to your photos as bright sunlight can make one side of your dog look much darker than the other. Overcast weather is *PERFECT* for taking pictures of your dog and bringing out their best colors.
Composition- what goes where?
When we take a photo, we tend to put the most important thing in the dead center of the picture. If instead we move the dog to one side just a bit, it makes for a much more dynamic and interesting photo.
A handy setting on a lot of phones will divide your screen into thirds, and according to professional pet photographer Asa Jakobsson, we want to “put the most interesting thing at the point where two lines meet”. Moving your dog slightly off center is a great way to add an avant garde feel to your Insta!
Props to props!
Having items in the background of your pictures is a great way to get your Christmas card photo, but getting a dog to act naturally around a novel object can be tough! Before your photo op, set your dog up for success by getting them used to the prop.
For example, if you were taking a picture next to a fire hydrant and you wanted your dog to ignore it, you would introduce the hydrant to your dog and allow him to examine it. When he starts to ignore it or explore other things, you can reward that calm behavior by asking for a sit and giving a treat. A few repetitions of this will be enough for the hydrant to be the cue for “sit”.
Similarly, when you’re putting an article of clothing on your dog for the first time, you will start by allowing them to sniff and examine it. A lot of dogs may also need treats for their first few costume changes it is perfectly okay to compensate them for their work.
Anything can be made into a cue for a sit. A clicker savvy dog can be taught very quickly to sit when you point your phone at him. Other dogs are taught that the “shutter” sound of the camera is the same as a click and are eager to have their picture training.
Clicker training is a fantastic tool for communicating with your dog, and we are experts here at MD Pup Scouts!
Keep following for more tips on your canine companion! For more information about clicker training or for specific training inquiries, please reach out to us at Hello@mdpupscouts.com