Editor’s note: Have you seen the new Dogster print magazine in stores? Or in the waiting room of your vet’s office? This article appeared in our August-September issue. Subscribe to Dogster and get the bimonthly magazine delivered to your home.
In 2009, I decided I needed professional photos of my dog, Riggins, and me. Our session with pet photographer Lori Fusaro, the artist behind My Old Dog: Rescued Pets With Remarkable Second Acts, was amazing and left me with beautiful keepsakes of my boy and a friendship with a talented fellow dog lover.
However, a session with a professional animal photographer can be expensive, even though these artists’ talent is worth saving up for. In the meantime, how do you up your pooch-picture game until you can afford a session? Some famous photographers shared their tips with us for capturing the sweet souls of our fourlegged family members.
Fix the flash
Lori’s favorite tip is to take extra steps when you have to use a flash. “If you have one that you attach to your camera, point the light bulb portion at the ceiling. This is called ‘bouncing’ the light, and it will make a much nicer photo with soft, even light.” If your camera has a built-in flash, she recommended taping a piece of wax paper over the entire flash bulb. This acts like a diffuser and keeps the light from seeming too harsh.
Put your pup on a pedestal
Jim Dratfield has taken pictures for Jennifer Aniston, Elton John, and other celebrities. His photos have been part of 12 coffee table books, including The Love of a Lab, which comes out next year. His advice: “I often place a dog on a chair or couch (something off the ground) where you have that window of time before they jump down to get them to stay still and not run off.”
Make it a positive experience
Carli Davidson is a well-known animal artist who considers her work an excuse to hang out with lots of pets and have a good time. Her tip tackles a problem many dog owners have: a dog that seems “afraid” of the camera or doesn’t want to look at the lens. “This is sometimes good manners, as a dog isn’t making direct eye contact with a giant camera eye,” she said. The solution? Positive reinforcement. “Start rewarding them for approaching the camera, feed them … by hand while holding the camera near them.” By doing this consistently, your pup will start seeing the camera as a way to get a reward, and your photographs will reflect his happiness.
Start with training
Sophie Gamand is known for her Flower Power series where she takes shelter Pit Bulls and photographs them wearing flower crowns to dispel the prejudices often held against them and highlight their sweetness.
Her tip is to not overstimulate a dog during a shoot. “Work daily on small exercises involving ‘Sit’ and ‘Stay,’” she said. This simple tip that will help your dog become the inner model you know he is.
Kaylee Greer is an internationally recognized pet photographer whose pictures’ vibrant colors help capture the character of dogs. She has also traveled the world teaching pet photography workshops. She brought up a good point about photo sessions with dogs: “Dogs’ senses can get overwhelmed very quickly and — depending on their level of obedience — their patience tends to run out faster than you can say, ‘Who wants a cookie?’” The solution? Take frequent breaks, allowing your four-legged model to run, play, and be a dog so he can refocus on the task at hand — being his cute, adorable self in one place for you!
Hide and seek
Seth Casteel is the author of Underwater Dogs and Underwater Puppies. One look at his wonderful pictures, and you realize he’s someone who knows how to capture great expressions. His tip takes advantage of your dog’s naturally curious personality. “Dogs are such candid beings,” he said. “Have your dog sit and stay, then go hide behind the couch, and call your dog’s name. When your dog comes around the corner, snap a pic!”
Mike Fish of OH MY DOG! Photography has been running an exclusively pet photography business for eight years. He knows how to capture each pet’s unique characteristics. His suggestion: Move around. “One of the reasons our [professional] images look different from so many pet pictures we see is that we lie on the ground — a lot,” Mike said. He also suggested holding the camera directly over your pet while using a wide lens or even shooting your dog from below with the blue sky above.
With these professional tips, your phone’s memory will be pushed to the limits with adorable dog photos in no time. Happy snapping!