In this article, you will learn 10 camera tricks and hacks that could help you take far more interesting dog photography — or photos of any pet, for that matter.
If you love taking pictures of your pooch but don’t feel that you are getting any spectacular results that are worth framing, then perhaps some of the following tips will help inspire you to take your pet and dog photography to the next level.
Let’s see if these 10 dog photography hacks will inspire you to try something new today.
1. Use window light
This might not seem like much of a hack, but it is your job as a photographer to look for the best light. Many photographers say that window light is their favorite light because it’s a soft light that creates beautiful shadows across your subject.
If you are looking for the quickest and easiest way to create a more professional look for your pictures, moving them closer to a soft light source such as a window would be my first tip.
In the image above, you can see the difference between having the dog by the window and not. Not only is the light more dynamic, because your camera will detect more light, but it will use a lower ISO, which all means a cleaner, less “noisy” image.
2. Use your phone light
We probably all know the saying, “Never work with children or animals”. The reason is that they are unpredictable and quite often do not do what you want them to do when you want them to do it. There may be times when your dog is doing something cute, and it is simply not possible to move them to a window to get that perfect lighting.
These days, however, you have access to light right in your pocket. Next time your dog is doing something cute in lousy lighting conditions, rather than pushing that ISO up and just dealing with the bad light, why not introduce some of your own light using the phone in your pocket? It takes seconds to set up and can instantly give your pictures a far more dynamic feel.
3. Tin foil
Now that we have covered the basics of good lighting, we can move on to some of the fun stuff. If you are a fan of beautiful round bokeh (blurred background), then tin foil could be your new best friend. By putting some scrunched up foil behind your subject and shining a light on it, you will instantly get a “starry” bokeh effect.
This technique requires a bit of practice, but my top tips are to use a lower aperture and move your dog far enough in front of the foil that the camera focuses on the dog, causing the background to blur.
My second bit of advice is to use a short telephoto or zoom lens, preferably above 50mm to 85mm. This is because a wider lens takes in more of the background so you will need more foil. If you use a telephoto lens, less of the background will be in the shot, which means you will need less foil to create the effect.
4. The upside down reflection shot
This tip is as simple as it sounds! The next time you are near some still water, such as a puddle or a pond, try holding your camera upside down and shooting your dog’s reflection in the water. When you look at the image the correct way, you will create a fantastic illusion. When people see your dog’s feet at the bottom of the picture, they will realize that they are looking at a reflection.
This tip works well with dogs as they are so low to the ground.
5. Use a mirror to create white space
It is your job as a photographer to lead the viewer’s eye to the subject that you want them to look at. This is part of the beauty of these fast lenses with really blurry backgrounds; you can leave your subject in focus and blur the background, so it is clear what you want our viewer to look at.
Another way to do this is the use of white space. By shooting in a mirror, you can purposely introduce a significant portion of the wall behind the mirror and put your subject off to the corner of the image. This creates a massive amount of white space, producing a far more interesting picture.
6. Fairy lights
Fairy lights are great as they introduce three elements that photographers love:
- Added detail.
- Possibility for nice round bokeh.
- Additional light.
Why not get your dog to sit on some fairy lights when you are taking his picture next? You can also add your phone light as well to add that lovely dynamic shadow at the same time.
7. Phone or Perspex reflections
Symmetry will become your best friend when taking pictures. There is something about reflections and balance that are very pleasing to the human eye.
If you find yourself without a reflective surface to shoot into, why not make your own? I carry a small bit of perspex with me wherever I go. However, many photographers use their mobile phones.
All you need to do is hold it next to your lens to create a reflection of your pet.
Prisms mix two elements that we have already discussed; they can create white space, almost blurring out a significant portion of your photographs, and you can get some exciting reflections out of them.
However, the reason why I love using prisms is that they can add some fantastic color to an image that might otherwise be a little dull.
9. Phone flare
Flare is a real sought-after look. We have all spent time pointing our lenses almost directly at the sun trying to get that beautiful lens flare look.
Well, the next time you want instant lens flare, just get your trusty phone out of your pocket again and try shining that light into the camera to get a very similar effect.
10. Change your perspective
Finally, why not just change your perspective? The number one thing that will make your pictures look more professional is capturing things in a different way from others.
Most of the time, this just comes down to shooting something from a different angle. People are used to looking down at their dogs, so they will typically take images of their dogs from above. Why not take your pictures from floor level to get pictures of your pet you may not have seen before?
Also, try mixing my technique of using white space in combination with this tip. Purposely shoot more of the floor and put your dog in the corner of the image to help lead the viewer’s eye.
11. One final bonus tip for good luck
One of the best tips I have ever received for my photography comes in particularly handy photographing dogs.
Always focus on the eye that is nearest you.
Your viewers will always focus on the subject’s eyes. If they are sharp, then people do not worry so much about the rest of the image.
If you look back at some of the pictures above, you will notice that sometimes the nose is slightly out of focus due to the use of a shallow aperture. However, you may not have noticed that when you first looked at the images because the eyes are in focus. I do this with all the pictures I take.
I hope the video and these tips have inspired you to go try and take new images that you may not have thought of before. Even if you don’t use these exact tips, perhaps some of them might help you think more about using reflections, lighting, and white space, which will help your pictures stand out from the crowd.
Please share some of your tricks and tips in the comments below.