Set up a Simple Dog Photo Shoot
I know they never look at your camera. Or your doggie BFF only does something dog photoshoot worthy when you don't have a camera!
So first, let's talk about what your purpose is for this adorable photoshoot with your dog. Maybe it's for some fantastic Instagram pics for your furry Boo’s new IG account, OR you want a chic, stylish pet portrait produced for your home using your dog's photo (like the ones we have coming soon…stay tuned).
I am a professional photographer, as well as a dog mom. I know for sure, depending on the pup, dog photoshoots are sometimes like photographing a baby that runs, barks, and doesn't always acknowledge you. However, with a little bit of planning, you can take some beautiful images with a few simple tips.
Let's look at a super simple dog photoshoot plan (say if you need a great headshot for our portraits (coming soon!)...or you know the Hero dog photoshoot shot!)
Simple Dog PhotoShoot in 3 Steps
1) Pick a location with great light
Remember who the star is of this dog photoshoot—your furry BFF. So keep this in mind, choose a simple backdrop. Outside in open shade is always a winner. Look at what is in the background—are there distracting colors, the latest issues of Modern Dog, or too many things taking away the star's attention? Pick a location with minimal distractions to focus the attention on your fur baby.
Light is, in my opinion, an essential part of the equation. A location with bad light equals bad photos unless you can change the light or use the light in an intentional artistic way. If you can find open shade, such as a spot in the yard with a giant tree, a wall with beautiful indirect window light, or shoot later in the day when the sun is at a good angle at the location, it can make all the difference.
2) Prep and have your tools ready
Whether it's an iPhone or DSLR camera, the tools aren't as important as what you do with them.
—iPhone or Camera
—Treats (your dog's favorites, just like photoshoots with children - bring on the bribes baby!)
—Noise (think squeaker toys, sounds you can make, your voice tones)
—Optional have another human on hand
Whether I do an elaborate dog photoshoot or a minimal one, these tools are always the same.
Once you set the dog in the location and are ready to go with your camera, use the treats and noises to get their attention. By the way, if you have the skill to make weird noises, now's the time to use what you're Mama gave you.
While we are on the subject of noises, here is a word on dogs and noises—dogs are like toddlers with quick attention spans (or sometimes, I like to think of them as a person who is just not having it after a while, ie "you're boring me move on"). So use your noises wisely! Once one sound doesn't deliver, move to another noise, etc. And always save your best noise for last (maybe it's their favorite squeak toy).
Also, think of your voice as a tool, the tones of your voice can get very different reactions from dogs. Some dogs get too excited if you are excited, so experiment with your voice and see what reactions you get. Maybe your passionate voice gets your dog to tilt their head just right or you have a great fake accent your dog loves. Use different tones to create various expressions in your dog’s face.
Treats—I learned very quickly the skill of walking backwards at photoshoots (keeping in mind that big table or tree behind me lol). Sometimes, it helps to hold the treat as you tell your dog to sit and stay as you walk to your spot. I think of treats as my attention-getting movement stoppers.
3) Dog Photoshoot Time
You have your spot planned out and your tools—it's GO time.
Suppose you have a human helper, now’s the time to instruct them. Tell your helper to stand right behind you, unless you need help to keep your star subject situated. Then to move behind you and your camera, more importantly, to help get the dog’s attention on you.
Prep your dog—leash on or off (depending on the situation and think safety). You may be able to hide most of the leash behind the dog.
One simple yet important tip to remember is to have the settings on your camera or iPhone set BEFORE you sit your dog in place. And remember to focus your phone or camera on your dog’s eyes as much as possible.
Now have fun, use your tools (noises, and treats to get your dog's attention) as you snap your hero shots. It’s a progression of sit, stay, treat, and repeat.
*Tips for dog photoshoots with no human helpers:
Depending on your dog's prior training—set your dog up and keep talking to them or tell them to sit as you walk backwards. Dogs tend to want to follow you when you turn around, especially if you turn around with the aroma of salmon treats in your pocket. If you have a very active puppy, show the puppy a treat, have them sit, give them a little bit of the treat, and walk backwards to your spot as the puppy eats the sample appetizer. Getting your dog to stay in place takes some practice depending on how fast the dog eats. Sometimes talking to them as you walk backwards helps as well since they are waiting for another command and treat.
Tips for Pet Photography if you want to get more elaborate with your Boo (you know for the ultra-cute IG account you set up for them).
Think about your location choices:
Are there any parks or other locations near you that allow dogs?
The perfect IG background may exist just down the street! Make a list and better yet store in on your phone. If you and your furry Boo are out, you might have the perfect opportunity to go to a great location with all the details stored at your fingertips.
Pick safe locations—if unleashing your dog makes you nervous, don't decide to try it on a busy city street. If there is a risk to you or your dog, a picture is never worth the risk.
And again, location choices are always mixed with good light choices. Light is vital. It helps you edit your pictures (more on that coming), but it also helps your photoshoot star stand out. Think of it as putting them "in a good light." It brings out the best in your dog's features and allows the focus to be in the right place.
How can you make your images stand out?
One tool on IG I love is the save feature. You know the little flag at the bottom right of an IG post. When you hit the flag on a post idea you love, it saves the post in your “saved” posts section of IG. These are private and you can think of them as you IG idea boards just like Pinterest. To see them, simply go to your profile page and hit the three lines top right then click on “Saved.” Or maybe you’re a Pinterest maniac like me, make a Pinterest board as I have here.
I think it’s pretty obvious you don’t want to do exact copies of other people’s ideas. But use these ideas to inspire your dog photoshoots. What kind of unique spin could you add to this idea? Store and sort your image finds in a folder, and when you need inspiration, whip out your phone, it's all there with you.
If you are taking pictures with your dog:
Get a friend to help—not only add a little support, but also hold treats, and be your photographer, so you have images with your dog.
Remember your outfit choices—I always tell my clients to match the colors they love in their home. Usually, the colors you like in that Anthro find, are the ones you would also want on your walls. Lay everything on a bed together that you intend to wear and then edit. You get a big picture view of how it will all come together. If something looks out of place, take it out, it’s as simple as that.
Hire a photographer—if your dreams are elaborate, overwhelming, and seem out of reach, hire a photographer. Here are some tips to think about when hiring a pet photographer. Wanting to create that gorgeous IG feed you’ve dreamed about, make sure to see if the photographer you hire offers the files to purchase. Get the details ahead of time so you know your total investment, and what to expect. It’s a great idea to talk with your photographer to discuss your ideas because this may determine the location and how the photographer will plan your photoshoot. And if you're in the Atlanta, GA or Jacksonville, FL area click here, I would love to serve you. You only have a limited time with your furry Boo, and you will want images of your relationship to enjoy for all times.
You can do it. Get your camera out and start snapping. So what’s stopping you from photographing those beautiful fur babies?