Cheat Sheet

Dog Photography For Dummies

From Dog Photography For Dummies by Kim Rodgers, Sarah Sypniewski

Dogs make great photography subjects, but they also come with their own set of challenges. When you want to take a picture of your best furry friend, you can't very well tell him to look at the camera and say "cheese." You need some doggie-centric tricks up your sleeve to make the most of your photo session with Fido.

Packing for a Doggie Photo Session

A dog photographer's camera bag is filled with much more than photography equipment. Remember to pack these dog-specific accessories to make your photo session more enjoyable for you and your dog:

  • Treats: Whatever your dog goes crazy for!

  • Treat bag: With one of these clipped to your belt, you don't have to go digging in your pockets for that next treat.

  • Water: All those treats are bound to make him thirsty.

  • Toys: Choose the ones he likes best and responds to.

  • Noisemakers: Purchase dog toy replacement squeakers online, but be prepared with other sounds as well! Try dog training clickers, a kazoo, or even those crazy ringtones on your cellphone!

  • Retractable leash: These little gems are a lifesaver if you decide to remove your dog's leash in postprocessing because they're thinner than most leashes. Just be sure you know how to put on the brakes before you venture out to the park.

  • Slobber rag: In case things get messy.

Including Your Dog in Your Family Portrait

The family portrait is a classic must-get when you're taking pictures of your dog, and you can go as traditional or creative as you'd like. Just remember to position the people and the dog so they're roughly the same distance away from the camera (or on the same plane in photo lingo). Generally, the easiest way to keep everyone on the same plane is to put them all in a straight line, but that's about as exciting as watching grass grow, so think creatively:

  • Sit them on the staircase or front porch to create two rows.

  • Gather your dog and his people in a corner on the couch, using pillows and cushions to create different heights.

  • Use a cool-looking chair or two; a couple of people can sit on the chair while others lean on it.

Taking Pictures of Cats and Dogs Together

Everyone loves pictures that show cats and dogs getting along like best buds instead of fighting like cats and dogs (you saw that one coming, didn't you?). Here's how to photograph canine and feline pals:

  1. Get the dog in place first because he's more likely to stay put when told.

  2. Have an assistant round up the cat (good luck!) and attempt to comfort her and calm her down.

    Do these first steps slowly and steadily so you don't startle either animal.

  3. Have the person holding the cat sit next to the dog with enough room between them for the cat to be placed.

  4. Have your assistant place the cat next to the dog while continuing to comfort and pet the cat.

  5. The cat handler should slowly inch his body out of the frame.

    If the cat appears to be comfortable enough to stay in place, the assistant can slowly let go of her. If the cat seems apprehensive, she's probably going to bolt the second your handler lets go, so instead, have him keep his hand on the cat's back end so she continues to feel that secure touch. You can always remove the assistant's hand in postprocessing, just like you remove a leash.

  6. Snap off as many frames as you can before the cat runs and the dog gets bored.

This technique is for dogs and cats that already know each other and get along. Never force a dog and cat together if they're not comfortable with it!

Minding Your Dog's Leash during a Photo Shoot

A leash is a must-have item during any photo shoot with your dog where you're outside or in an open area. You probably don't pay much attention to your dog's leash day in and day out, but put it smack dab in the middle of your frame and you'll have an eyesore you wish you had noticed. Try these leash-handling techniques for a better photo:

  • If you're going to leave the leash in the photo:

    • Choose a leash that has some visual appeal.

    • Tell your helper to pull the leash up and away from Fido so that it's not lying on his body.

    • Be aware of where the leash crosses his body. Try holding it off to the side of the frame instead of directly up, where it may appear as if it's growing out of Fido's ear.

  • If you're going to remove the leash during postprocessing:

    • Use a thin, retractable cord leash. Getting rid of a tiny black cord is much simpler than removing a standard thicker leash.

    • Have your helper hold the leash tight enough that it's not lying on Fido's body but loose enough that the collar it's connected to isn't being yanked off his neck. Otherwise, you'll end up with a pretty strange looking collar when the leash is removed.

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