How to Take Great Dog Photos! - 10 Secrets from a Dog Mommy

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Hello Happy Friends!
This is Hazel, Happy's mom. ;)
Today I want to tell you my top 10 secrets on how to take great dog photos! <3

First of all, I'm not a professional photographer and these are not professional tips.
But I've always loved taking photos since I was a little kid!
I used to take photos with film cameras and bought a digital camera when it first came out in early 2000's.
Now I'm just a dog mommy who is passionate about my dog and photography. :)

Since I adopted Happy in 2013, I've been taking pictures of him almost everyday!
I've learned a lot from my mistakes and experiments and I'm still learning.
And I want to share my tips with you, so you can take better photo of your fur babies! <3

1. Low Angle - Eye Level - Eye Contact

Dogs are shorter than us. 
So we gotta get down to their level to capture their world. :)
Let's take a look at this photo.
I'm not on Happy's eye level and he's not making an eye contact with me.
This photo is not so interesting.

On this pic, I'm on Happy's eye level and he's making eye contact.(...maybe too much! LOL)
But this photo is shows better of Happy's face and I caught his attention. ;)

For this one, I put the camera on the floor and I'm on the floor too. :)
By using low angle, you can capture so much more of what your dog is doing 
than just looking down from your own eye level.
And it's more fun and dynamic, looking from dogs' point of view. <3

To make eye contact and catch their attention, call your dog's name or say chicken or whatever catches their attention. ;)

*Extra Tip - It can hurt yours knees and your back, always bending down.
You can just sit on the floor or lay on the ground if possible.
You can also use treats or squeaky toys to catch your dogs full attention.

2. Go Outside! (or Use Bright Light for Indoor Pics)

Most of the dogs love being outside than being inside.
Happy LOVES going outside. He is so much happier outside than being inside.
And most of all, the best lighting for great photos are natural light!

This is a good picture indoor and I really had to take indoors because it was for the dog bed review.
As you can see Happy was not really excited about this photoshoot.
And I had to shoot on a bright day in the morning by the window and edit it to get a bright photo.

On the other hand, if you go outside, you have all day so much options!

And dogs are happy and excited so it's easy to get great photos!

Happy really loved this food but he seems like he's not happy at all.
Plus because of the dark carpet color and lack of natural lighting indoor, this picture is so dull.

Take a look at this one.
So much better although he's not smiling, he looks like he's in a better mood just by being outside, 
and everything looks so vibrant because of natural lighting.

This is an ok photo taken indoor.
But I had to edit to make it brighter, so Happy and products looks washed out.
And he doesn't look really excited to try this food.

But this one with the same food, he looks super excited to try the food,
 and the whole picture looks exciting!

*Extra Tip - These two pics above was taken during a Golden Hour.
After sunrise before sunset is known as Golden Hour for photography.
You can take some amazing photos during that time and capture beautiful sunlight in the photos.

For indoor pics, use bright Daylight Light bulbs and natural light by the window.

3. Play with your Dog, Make them Happy and Capture the Moment! + Action Shots

If you try to take photos when they are bored then you will get boring photos. ;)
You gotta make them happy to get happy photos! :D
This is Happy at his favorite park, doing his favorite thing, Running!
Instead of making them pose and force to certain things, it's so much easier and better.

Happy also loves hiking, so I took him hiking and gave him a treat and made him happy!
So I captured that moment! :)

If it's for a product review, you can sneak in the products next to the dog's face at that happy moment! Natural Balance Instagram liked this photo and contacted me if they could use this photo. ;)

Here are more examples of capturing moments.
The moment he found a ball and telling me to play with him.
I captured his excitement and playfulness. ;)

This was a moment, when we were playing at the dog beach and wanted me chase him. 
and at the same time he's scared of water! LOL
Captured his funny character. ;)

The moment of running free at the beach.

Meeting a new friend at the dog park. LOL
It's so much fun and exciting because it looks like it's happening right now. :)
Instead of taking a photo of them just standing around.

Running makes him happy!

I love these kind of photos because it's like a scene from a movie and it has a story. ;)

So happy running! ;)

This was a touching moment when I went to the animal shelter and a dog reached out to me. <3
 Last 3 pics here were taken with a phone camera!

*Extra Tip - Take photos while they are playing and in the moment!
So play together and have camera ready in your hand and take many photos.
If you just wait for the perfect moment, you will miss all the good random moments.

And if your dog gets too tired from playing, they will look too exhausted in the pictures, 
so take photos before then. 

Use continuous shots (some phone cameras has it too) to capture fast moments.

4. Clean Simple Background

I like this photo but I'd love it more if I didn't see a tent and people in the back.
And it's little distracting to me. I want the focus of this pic to be just Happy and the beach.
You could photoshop it out but it's better to take clean photos.

This one is so much better because the background is clean and simple with no distractions.

This pic was also featured on HotDogCollars main page.
It's great for submitting for dog photo contests or companies.
Because clean background makes your dog stand out more.
Check out DogsOfInstagram account for example. ;)

This one is perfectly focused on Happy's cute face because it has plain white background and it's blurred out.
If you have a messy background, it can be distracting from the main object.
If Happy was an actor, this would be his headshot. LOL

My favorite background is green grass and blue skies.
Anything in the natural environment.
It's clean and looks so natural with dogs.
This pic was also chosen for Hottest Dog Contest for and made Happy one of their official spokesdog!
It was featured on their flyers too. ;)

*Extra Tip- Get close to the object to blur out the background(with any camera) or for DSLR use 50mm 1.8f lens to easily get this effect.
At home, use plain wall background, plain carpet or plain bed sheets.

8. Make a Point! - Storytelling

This picture is kinda all over the place.
Happy's wearing Santa hat but he's in the mountain on the table and there are dog treats and the leash is all too colorful. It's hard to tell what this picture's point and story.

But this pic is so obvious, it's Christmas time and Happy's peacefully sleeping next to Christmas stuff in his Santa hat. So you can easily tell this picture is all about Christmas.

Like this picture, Happy's going shopping at PetSmart to Mix it Up! ;)

Happy is a surfer boy at the beach. ;)

This was for Look Who's Happy.
I really wanted to make these photos to be happy and exciting
Because that's the name and the theme of this company and Happy's name is Happy too. ;)

This one came out so much better, because Look who's Happy, Happy is Happy! ;)
My point of this picture was, just like those model dogs on their packaging, Happy's happy!

This was for Chicken Soup for the Soul and was featured on their social media.
So I'm reading a book about dog with Happy at the park next to the dog food.
This was a sponsored post, so it's quite obvious and you can easily tell what's the point of this picture.
But this pic was also for the #LoveYourPetEveryday .
So you can see how I show my dog love and many people really liked this photo because it's so sweet.

This was for the legalizing gay marriage. ;)
Caption was "Happy never judge but he always embrace." <3
So many people were touched and loved it.

This was for Grandma Lucy's.
We had some seafood treats for dogs, White Fish and Tuna. 
Although this picture was ok, background is little messy and hard to see the point of this picture.

I wanted to make it seem like Happy went out fishing in the water and catch them himself.
So I took a photo, right in front of the water to make a fun story to tell and make a point that it's a seafood treats by showing the water in the background. :)

5. Find and Develop Your Own Style

Know your dog's personality and uniqueness. :)
Happy is a happy dog.
He loves going outside and smiling.
So my photos are mostly close ups of him smiling outside.
Follow us on Instagram by the way. LOL

Here's a great example for a great photography style.
It's one of my favorite Instagram account by @kane9photo 
Christy Kane is a professional photographer at 
She also takes photos of shelter and rescue dogs! :D
Her photo are always fun, playful and captures great facial expressions of the dogs!
Like Boris he's so rock and roll. <3

Here's another example and one of my favorite dog on Instagram is Max @celozano13!
Max is a happy dog, he loves smiling and going to different places with his dad.
So everyday is different places and Max is happy about that! ;)
His dad is not a professional photographer, but takes amazing photos and has his own style of photography.

6. Get Close!

Although you can take great photos far away with a cool background like this one
you can capture more facial expressions from your dog when you get close.

This one is not close enough and background is nothing special so it's kind of a dull photo.

When you get close, you don't really have to think about the background
 and just focus on the dog's face.

This one was taken in the car(boring messy background).
But it's so close to his face, you don't really see the background.

When you get close to the main object, it blurs out the background too.
Even on the phone cameras, you can get a subtle blur of the background when you get close.

And it's easier to get your dogs attention, because you are close.
Just make sure they don't lick the camera lens. ;) 

 7. Take a Lot of Photos!

I usually take more than 100 photos for product reviews.
So I literally have more than 10000 photos of Happy. (Crazy dog lady alert! LOL)

Even just for a day out, I take like 50 photos.
And I choose less than 10% of them to edit and publish.(for blog or instagram)
I can get lucky and get a great shot in the first shot or few but that's rare.

Professionals photoshoots takes 1000s of photos to get 1 good shot.
More photos more chances you'll get great photos!

Use continuous shots and even from the same place and pose and try different angles.

*Extra tip - Don't take too many photos to the point where you end up with way too many photos to choose from to stress yourself out....(like me -_-; I'm working on how to balance quantity and quality and the time I spend)

9. Experiment New Things!

Play with lighting, different angles, style and everything!
Break the rules, try new stuff and have fun!
These pics got really great response from people. :)

You don't have to be perfect.
Just do your own thing! ...(sounds like a life lesson lol)
I've seen professional photos like this one a lot and I wanted to try it.
There are certain setting for this kind of photo but I don't like following the exact instructions...
So I just took these for fun and it looks pretty cool.

For me personally, I love taking extreme close up style photos! :)
It looks kinda crazy looking but fun!

And this super low angle shots are fun too.
Make Happy look like a giant. ;)

*Extra Tip - Get inspirations and learn from others but make it your own and be creative! ;)

10. Edit!

I use Photoscape.
It's a free and basic software.
You can use Photoshop / lightroom and they are the best.
They are professional and cost money.

Photoscape is simple, easy and fast.
I use crop/resize and exposure most of the time and that's about it.
You can also add texts, filters and images to your photos using Photoscape.

*Extra Tip- Don't over do it with editing. It makes it look unnatural and make the photo unattractive.

Also most of these tips here also works for taking photos with human kids and babies. :)

...and that's all for my secrets on How to Take Great Dog Photos! <3 

One more thing, cameras doesn't really matter. Use what you have now! :D
But if you are planning to purchase a camera...

I recommend Mirrorless Cameras than DSLR for dog photos.
It takes great quality photos and it's way smaller and lighter than DSLR.
So it's convenient, especially when you are out with your dog and capture different moments!
There are good point and shoot cameras too.
Make sure it has fast autofocus, because dogs loves to move around and you don't want blurry a dog face. ;)

I use...Nikon 1 J1 10-30mm lens (first generation mirrorless camera) 
It's an old one, but my favorite, because it has fast autofocus and good for close ups. I love and enjoy using this camera the most. And I want to get Nikon 1 J5, because I've been loving my Nikon 1 J1 so much!  <3 

Canon Rebel T5 (basic cheap dslr) with 18-55mm, 50mm 1.8f (for cool blurry background)
Although this camera is on the smaller and lighter side compared to other DSLR, I don't really like carrying it around too much, because it's bulky and heavy.
And it takes time and skill to take good photos with dlsr.

and Cheap Phone camera (not like iphone or galaxy)
I rarely post photos taken with my phone because I don't have a nice phone. ;)
But I've heard that new phones take great photos.
So you can definitely use those phones, they are excellent for close ups! :D

PS - I've been wanted to write this post for a long time.
This is the longest post I've ever written and took me all day. (Thank you extra strong double black coffee.)
I'm sending so much respects to bloggers who writes like this long or even longer everyday on their blog!
You guys are awesome! ;) 
(How do you do it? I don't think I can do it again, LOL...)

And excuse me if my writing is kinda all over the place. ;)
I'm not a professional writer or a professional photographer...
I'm just a dog mommy and I'm lovin' it! :D

What's your tips/secrets? 

Please share in the comment sections! ;)

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