10 Tips for Getting Great Photos of Your Dog

Sometimes we really wonder...with ears propped, head angled just a liiiittle to the right, and paws frozen in stance, our Mr. Snuffers McSnufferton seems to know when a camera's around. Does he know we're snapping a photo of him? He must!

Interesting then that he's so choosy about when he wants to have his photo taken. We don't blame him for feeling a little self conscious - that bargain pooch haircut, no bueno.

While we wait for that mop chop to grow out, and for our pupsters to feel a little more camera ready, we're going to capture all of his tail waggin', tongue hangin', grass chompin' charm with these handy bribes, er, tips!

1. The treat trick

Ahhh, the treat trick. Nothin' like some good old fashioned bribery to get your pup to do what you want. Sounds easy enough, but trust us when we say there's more to it than just waving a treat around.

Sweeten your pup up first by giving him a few small treats - comfortable and happy is the goal! Once he knows you have the treats and that you're freely giving them out, keep them in your hand and near your camera while you start to photograph.

Another option is taping the treat to the top of your camera - this way your pup's eyes will always be towards the lens! ('Course if you think your pooch might lunge for it, be cautious!)

The treat trick. Feed your pup a few treats first to make him happy and let him know you've got some treats!

2. Set up challenges you know your dog can't resist

We like to call these dog photo traps (not to be confused with the equally cool National Geographic photo traps).

Is there something your dogstinator can't resist? Drinking out of the toilet? An open screen door? An open bag of dog food conspicuously positioned smack dab in the middle of the kitchen? These are all ways to lure your dog out for some funny action shots!

Tailor it to your dog's quirks. For example, our poochface loves chasing leaves that are blowing in the wind. For some cute pics, we'll get him near a leaf pile. If there's no wind, we'll get a friend to help us get some up in the air!

3. Simple and colorful blankets, backgrounds and toys

Here's an easy one: simple backgrounds. They make for great dog photos! A simple, stuff-free background brings all the attention to your doggy. A blank wall, background, blanket - get your pup in front of one of these.

Colorful rugs, blankets and toys are the perfect way to brighten up the photo and will make your subject (aka pupperz) pop all the more.

A simple, colorful background will bring your pup into focus.

4. How to make your dog smile

This trick works like a charm every time. Take your main woofer for a quick sprint around the backyard/block/living room. If pup's not in a sprinting mood, throw a toy around to get him active.

Bring him back to the spot you want to photograph. At this point, your pup should be panting up a storm a.k.a. looking up at you with a big cute, tongue-hangy grin! Aim, shoot, "awww."

How to make your dog smile: take him for a quick sprint!

5. Candid photos: See what your dog is doing when you're not looking

There are three methods to candid photos of your canine companion. They work best when not used with flash since flash will grab your dog's attention. If you're indoors, instead of flash, set your camera on high ISO, sports mode, or any mode that lets you take photos in low-light conditions.

  • Sneak attack - Take your shoes off, get in stealth mode, and sneak up on your pup. We keep our camera held up to our face while we do this, so as not to startle him with any sudden movements (i.e. bringing our camera up to our face). This one's the most difficult since dogs have such a keen sense of hearing.

  • Zoom - Have zoom on your camera? Use it! This way you can stand far away from your dog and capture that adorable shot without distracting 'em.

  • The Camera Extender - The camera extender is a hand-held extendable pole on which you can mount your digital camera (works best with point and shoots). We like to use this one to peek our camera around corners, over fences, and under tables. It lets us capture our doggy without him knowing we're taking a photo. It's kind of like sending out a drone to bring back photos from beyond!

Use the camera extender to see what your dog is doing when you're not looking!

6. Get on your dog's eye level

All those photos you have of your kibble-nibbler from above are lovely, but you're probably tired of seeing your feet in all of your shots. Get down to your poocherton's eye level.

Chances are they'll be less distracted by you hovering from above and if you sit at their level long enough, they will start to get more comfy with you and your camera. Getting on their level also softens the master/follower hierarchy - now, you see your dog as an equal!

7. Catch 'em in a chillaxed mood

Wait 'til after you take them to the park or on a walk for your photo session; they'll be in a more relaxed and comfortable mood. Chances are you'll get some great pics of your dog lounging or sleeping!

8. Prepare to shoot on special occasions!

Baths, dog-friend birthday parties, doggy watersides, doggy trampolines. You get the picture.

9. Make a doggy composite

Get close up shots of your dog's most adorable parts - tufted paws, curly tail, shiny round nose. Put the photos together to make a doggy composite! This would look especially sharp framed and hung together in a block on your wall. (You can even make a dog photo block!)

10. Let your pooch do the shooting

Have you heard of Doggie Cam? You can use a Gorillapod (a bendy tripod) to attach a camera to your dog. Wrap the Gorillapod around your doggy's collar, turn the camera on video mode (or set the photo timer), and see where he goes and what he does!

You can also use the extender to take photos of you and your dog!

The Don'ts

Don't use too much flash. This will eventually bother your pup, and it'll make his eyes look funky. Shoot in daylight or use high ISO, sports mode, and any low-light setting if you need to!

Don't have a nonstop dog photo session. Let them have a break! Mix play in.

Don't make 'em do things you know they'll hate (i.e. clothes, go places they don't like)

Don't think you need a fancy camera. Point and shoots can do wonders!

Don't restrict yourself. Experiment!

Don't suddenly throw a camera in your puppy's face. Let them get used to the camera.

And there you have it! 10 tips for getting great photos of your pooch. Mix play with photos, and you're in for a photo session that will keep your dog happy, too!

This article was written for Dogster by Photojojo, an insanely great photo newsletter. It's chock full of original DIY projects and tips that pretty much anyone can do! You'll also find the raddest, most neat-o-est goodies in the Photojojo Shop.

Photos by: Sarah Palmer and Lisbeth Ortega