Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Photographing Dogs and Other Small Animals

Our pets, warm and cuddly, bursting with cuteness, why wouldn't you want a photo of your little honey to show others or to perch on your desk in a nice frame. But where to begin. How do you get a technically good picture and one that depicts your dog's personality?

First, the setting. As usual, outdoors with open shade is preferable to sunny glare or indoors, where a flash going off presents a whole new problem of "red eye," or in a dog's case, blue or even green eye. If you must do the photo indoors, use a digital camera so you can take it to Photoshop easily and paint out the blue or green lights. The prepackaged "red eye" fix that comes with your camera software won't work on blue or green eye glare.

Some technical considerations. Choose a background that contrasts with the animal. Or use a telephoto lens which will let you blur the background. You want the animal to stand out as much as possible. Also, the exposure itself can be problematic. A very dark animal will require some overexposure to maintain details in the fur. A white animal is better under-exposed to keep its fur from be washed out.

Next, how to photograph your pet--there are a couple different options. Squirmy, fidgeting dogs aren't easy to settle down for a portrait. You may choose to photograph the animal with a family member who can control it. If you prefer the dog alone, try offering your pooch a favorite toy to keep him occupied. Whichever you choose, the next step is to get your animal's attention while you click the shutter. Use a squeaky toy, held just behind the camera, to make the dog look up.

Also, move in close. Fill the frame with your pet. Furnishings or background are not part of this story. Your pet is. So get in there and make this picture all about him. Keep your camera at eye level with the dog. You want to be down where he lives. You'll probably have to get on your knees. Make eye contact, or use the squeaky toy. Try a variety of shots, too. Think like an artist to bring out your dog's personality, looking for characteristic gestures, postures, and nuances that describe your dog.

If you photograph in digital, it won't cost you anything to take lots of shots. Even if you're using film, isn't it worth a few pennies to shoot lots of angles and try every idea? So indulge yourself, make up your mind to get a great portrait; and most importantly, treasure this special event with your animal. Our animals are with us a very short time, and a good pet portrait will be loved forever.

Copyright 2007 JO Janoski


  1. Some really good ideas Jo. I miss my photoshop being on my computer. I had an older version, which on my old computer. Not compatable with my new Vista. I could bounce back and forth with a CD, but pain in the butt! Loved all those filters, someday maybe I'll get the newer one but so expensive.

    Hey heads up, I sent you something snail mail, let me know when you get it! :) You are right I have a special photo of all my animals, even the ones who passed. Xmas stockings I made are still hung each year in remembrance, reminds me I need to make a new one for OP cat this year! How is your dog doing!

  2. Jo, Got your package today. Thank you. Haven't had a chance to read it, but it looks interesting. We have some Xmas ornaments for the pooches. It means so much at Xmas to remember dear pets past. Peepers is still hanging in there to our surprise. She's on some medicine that helping her to hang on for us.