15 Dog Photography Tips
Dog Photographer Rebecca Goutorbe
Disclosure – This dog photography website contains affiliate links to SmugMug products and services I use & recommend. You won’t pay any more for the products or services. But I will get a small commission Thank you
Hi I am Rebecca an award winning professional photographer based in Matlock Derbyshire specialising in dog photography.
Here are 15 dog photography tips.
You can apply the tips to your own dog photography. When photographing either your own dogs, or clients dogs for private commissions.
Tip 1. Get down low
Get on a level with the dogs eyes. This will probably require you to kneel or lie down. If you are doing outdoor dog photography you will need to dress correctly as you may be lying down in mud!
Tip 2. Focus on the eyes
This tip is so important in dog photography to focus on the dogs eyes. The dogs eyes in your images need to be sharp and in focus.
Set your camera to just one single focus AF point.
Make sure the single focus point is on the dogs eye when you are focusing the camera on the dog.
A must in dog portrait photography.
Tip 3. Avoid midday sun
An outdoor dog photography tip here is to avoid midday sun. Especially when it is a hot summer day.
Doing an outdoor dog photo shoot out in the bright sun is the best way to ruin your photos. There will black shadows over the dogs on the photos.
Also the dogs will get too hot and start to pant. Your dog portraits may end up being stinky dog breath photography, rather than dog portrait photography.
Black dogs with black fur or black hair is one of the hardest to photograph at the best of times.
At midday on a bright sunny day it will be hard for your camera to expose correctly for the black dog. You may end up with just a completely black dog on your images.
Black dog photography
When photographing a black dog outdoors, use covered shade so you will have even light. A nice cloudy day is perfect for dog photography portraits of black dogs.
A studio dog photography tip is that you will need two lights for black dogs. Especially if you are using a black background. One to light the dog and one to create separation between the black dog and the black background.
Tip 4. Use covered shade
Use covered shade for your dog photography portraits. Covered shade like the trees, or a the side of a building with a slight cover overhang. This will create even light over the dogs and your images will be much better quality.
Tip 5. Think creatively
Try and be unique and creative with your dog photography, outdoor or studio.
It is fine to copy other dog or pet photographers styles and ideas. But to set yourself apart you really need to be unique.
Underwater dog photography and black and white dog photography are a couple of dog photography ideas to try out.
Tip 6. Try to use natural light
When photographing dogs outdoors use natural light. This will be a lot easier than carrying around a flash, triggers, a light stand and a soft box.
Just go with your camera and lens.
Make the most of the available light.
Tip 7. Use a fast shutter speed
Use a fast shutter speed for the action shots. Everyone always wants to know “what is the best lens for dog photography?”
The lens I mainly use for action shots is the Canon 70mm-200mm f2.8. I usually have the shutter speed set at around 1/1600 – 1/2000 of a second for action shots.
This usually gives me a good choice of shots to add the gallery of images I will be sending out.
Tip 8. Back button focusing
Set your camera to back button focusing. This will help with action shots or the running shots. Timing the shots will also help with getting those shots. You don’t need a 20 frames per second camera for action shots of dogs. Time the shot then hit the camera shutter button to take the photo.
Tip 9. Choose a safe location
For outdoor dog photography choose a safe location with no distractions for the dogs. If there is water at the location be sure to get the pet portraits done first.
Most dogs love to dive in the water. You don’t want to be doing underwater dog photography before you have the dog portrait photography in the bag first.
Tip 10. Get the dogs attention
How you get the dogs attention will vary from the type of dogs you are photographing.
Whether this is Working dogs, show dogs or pet dog.
You don’t get the attention of Working dogs or distract them while they are Working.
Show dog owners usually have certain type of photograph of their dogs which they are looking for.
This can be either a natural look, a show stance or a head shot. By squeaking toys or making a funny sound this will not create the right expression a show dog owner is looking for.
Tip 11. Understand the camera settings
Understand the settings on your camera.
This is going to really help you get the shots you need.
You will usually find your best shots are at the start of the photo shoot before the dog gets bored.
Knowing and understanding the settings on your camera will make dog photography easy for you.
Tip 12. Paint a wall
This a studio dog photography tip.
Pick a colour and paint a wall as your back drop for studio dog photography.
This will save you some money on backdrops, stands and studio equipment if you are wanting to try out studio dog photography.
Also great if you have a small space you would like to try out studio photography in. Backdrop stands can be a hazard especially with dogs chasing about.
Tip 13. Include the owners
Make sure to include the dog owners in the photos you take. This works great with kids too. You can almost turn your dog photography into a family photo shoot and sell more prints and products.
Dogs are part of the family.
Tip 14. Check your background
This tip will save you editing time. Be sure to check your background through your camera viewfinder whilst you are also focusing on the dog. Check for distractions within and around your image, like lamp posts, bins and signs.
It is amazing what appears through the view finder while you are photographing dogs.
Tip 15. Use a SmugMug website
The last dog photography tip number 15 is to use a SmugMug website.
This is the best dog photography tip I have ever had. May sound crazy but I will explain why using a simple SmugMug website for me was important.
Dog photography course
In order to photograph the Kennel Club events I had to go on a dog photography course or something similar.
On the course I was told I needed a SmugMug website if I was photographing for the Kennel Club.
Official photographer for the Kennel Club Working Gundogs
By using a SmugMug website for my dog photography I was asked back the following years to photograph the Gundogs.
I was asked back because of the simple fact that all the competitors from the KC event’s could easily view and buy photos online which I had taken.
Which lead to becoming the Official photographer for the Kennel Club for 3 years. Including photographing HM The Queen at The Cocker Spaniel Championship at the Sandringham estate for two days.
Because of this I was asked to photograph other Gundog events where my images were then published in magazines.
If you photograph dogs at events like the Gundog events I did.
You will soon learn where your camera settings are, how to use your back button to focus, how fast your shutter speed needs to be, how to check your background through your viewfinder. That you need to include owners and handlers in the shots you take. How to be creative with your photography so all the images don’t look the same. And that photographing black dogs in a wide open field at midday on a hot day in June are not going to turn out great.
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