Getting your dog (and any other family pets) to sit still and look nice for a holiday photo can be a challenge. And they never end up looking like those photos in the pet calendar. Sure, you can hire a professional, but there is no reason why you can’t recreate those stunning photos yourself with just a bit of practice and these secrets from a professional photographer.
#1 – Preparation
First make sure your dog is groomed and brushed prior to the photo. If they are going to wear a collar, a new one always looks the nicest. Otherwise, at least wash their old collar. Having a hungry dog can help too. If they are hungry, most dogs will sit and look at the camera if there’s a treat in it for them. Have an active dog? These types of dogs often do better if they have a bit of exercise first, not so much that they are panting in the pictures, but enough to make it easier for them to sit still.
#2 – Perfect Background
Natural backgrounds can make lovely sceneries, and of course so does the Christmas tree or the fireplace. No matter where you shoot, keep in mind that your main subject is the pet, and shooting with a shallow depth of field will help them stand out in your image. If you really want your pet to “pop,” use a solid background like a grassed area, blank wall or hang a sheet up.
#3 – Color Coordinate
Think about what colors coordinate with your dog’s coat and make sure those are in the background, or if you are going to be in the photo, wear colors that coordinate with your dog but don’t make him blend in with you. So for example, don’t wear black pants and then have your black Miniature Schnauzer sit on your lap. Red or green pants would be more festive and will make your dog stand out without clashing.
#4 – Preventing the Blur
The hardest part of taking pictures of dogs is the movement. If you are using a camera and not a phone, make sure your shutter speed is fast to prevent the blur. With dogs that are highly active, you’ll probably need to take more photos in order to get that perfect shot.
#5 – Time of Day Tips
If you are shooting outside, pay attention to the different lights at different times of day. Different lighting will really affect how your dog looks, especially those with bright coats, such as an all white Maltese. All white dogs get washed out in bright light, an overcast day works better for them. On the other hand, avoid dark times of day if you have a dark dog.
#6 – Have Helpers
Having someone to wrangle your dog is always helpful, especially if you have more than one. That way, you can stay posed at the ready to capture the shot as soon as the other person or people get your dog(s) into position.
#7 – Pricked Ears
Be prepared to get a little silly and make some strange noises. Squeaky toys work from some dogs, though some get too excited and will want to take the toy.
#8 – Get Low
Getting low to the ground can give you some interesting angles and make the shots much more dynamic since you are at your dog’s level.
#9 – Special Tips for Black Dogs
With any black animal, overexpose the shot. This will bring out the details in the fur, and should prevent their eyes from becoming black holes. Professional photographers rarely ever use flash with pet photography, but almost always use reflectors to bounce some light onto their fur and into their eyes.
#10 – Photo Editing and Cropping
If you have any type of photo editing software on your computer, take some time to learn the basics, this can make pet photography much easier. For starters, you can keep your dog leashed and just erase the leash in editing. Cropping is available on all computers, even in Paint, and is very simple to do learn. No professional editing skills required. Cropping lets you cut out the stuff on either side of the photos so your perfect shot isn’t ruined because you didn’t notice you got the mess next to the Christmas tree in your haste to snap the perfect pic.
These tips will help you take amazing pet photos for the holidays, or any time for the year. Just remember to have fun and snap away – sometimes you get the perfect picture without even realizing it. And sometimes, the candid photos may not be what you were planning, but end up being the best ones. Finally, make sure your dog gets plenty of breaks so he has fun during the shoot too.