You spent the day with your dogs. Your dog enjoyed a spa experience with quality dog products and supplies. Now you want to capture the moment.
Getting that perfect dog picture requires patience and timing. A functioning camera helps too. A camera needs to have a fast enough shutter speed to stop the action of your big dog and prevent blur. If you use a disposable, get one with a film that is 200 asa or higher. Use a flash indoors.
Try to photograph your dog doing things she enjoys – going for a walk, chewing on a rawhide bone in the yard when she is alert and interested in what is happening around her.
Choose your background carefully to avoid areas that subtract from your main image, your dog. Stop and look at your dog. What is behind him? Is there a fence, an alley full of garbage cans, or other background distraction? You are trying to simplify the background so it does not detract from the main attraction, your dog. Walk around the area a bit and see if you find one view that is better than others. A simple dark-green hedge behind a light-colored dog will be much better than a neighbor’s garbage cans and open garage door seen through a chain-link fence which will detract the viewer’s attention in the final print.
An overcast day or open shadow area offers the best lighting outdoors. This allows you to have reduced contrast between light and dark areas so details record better. Do not be afraid to take pictures on a cloudy day. If it is early or late so that it is too dark to shoot without a flash, use your flash.
If you are indoors, plan to use a flash. Is the window behind the dog? This will cause a flash-back hot spot. You will encounter the same problem if a mirror is directly behind the dog. Just as you do outdoors, walk around and see what is behind the dog. Keep the background simple. If your dog is lying on the couch, perhaps a friend or family member could hold up a plain blanket behind to “clean up” the background and effectively block out the TV, bookcase, and toys that otherwise show up.
While you are moving around both inside and outside, study what the light does. Try to keep the light source in front and slightly to the side, not directly behind your dogs. Slight side light will give your subject the best natural look, be more rounding and more flattering.
Get close enough to basically “fill the frame” with your dog’s image. Your dog is the main point of the picture, so eliminate what is not necessary by staying close to the dog. You may keep a margin of space around the dog, but do not stand so far back that you lose the details of alert eyes, pricked ears, and so forth.
Bracket your exposures if possible. This means shooting the same picture with more/less light. Not all cameras are adjustable, but if your camera allows it, try to shoot more than one with a slight change in each up and down. For example, on a 35mm SLR, if you are shooting at f/8, also shoot one at f/11 and one at f5.6. One of the images should be just right for exposure of the details that are important to you. For non-adjustable cameras, take a couple of pictures according to the manufacturers’ guidelines. They should be fine.
Try to keep the dog so that everything you want in focus is about the same distance from the lens. If a dog is lying down and the front foot is reaching out to you, the foot will appear larger in proportion to the dog than it really is. In this case, try moving slightly to the side so that the extended foot is more on the same distance plane as the face.
Get down to your dog’s level. If your dog is lying on the ground, you will be down on the ground too. If your dog is sitting, you want to bend down (crouch) so that you are still about eye level to her.
Remember, be patient. Enjoy your dog. If you only get one picture, try again later. Make it a good experience for you and your dog. Use treats and reward your companion for staying put if that is what you want. Keep it light. Play with your dog. Make this an experience that the dog will want to repeat.
To capture the moment in action, be ready to take the picture as it happens. Move (pan) with the dog. Keep your camera just slightly ahead of where you want the dog framed and push the shutter release. Your dog should be framed where you want him.
For every good picture you get, you will probably get 3 or 4 that are not what you want. That is fine. Every photographer has plenty of discards. A class instructor once told me that if I got 3 really good prints to a roll of 24, that was exceptional and way above average. If you are patient with your dog and pay attention to your surroundings, you will be an exceptional photographer for your dog.
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