am always surprised at how much people struggle to get a decent
photo of their dog. I am comforted by the fact that I have wonderful
photos to reflect back on that showcases each stage of every one
of my dogs lives. From puppy to senior they are preserved forever.
A photo captures, keeps and treasures details long after your mind
has forgotten them.
I know that dogs and especially puppies are not always
the easiest subjects to capture but a good photograph is not an
impossible task. With a little time and a little patience you will
be rewarded with photos you can be proud of.
I think the one thing that most people might not
understand is the sheer number of photos that you typically have
to take in order to come away with those special pictures. You
literally have to take 100's of photos to get a handful of really
great shots. Thankfully with the widespread use of digital cameras
this is no problem at all. If you take 100 pictures and end up
with 5 great shots then you can simply delete the remaining 95!
It does not take a great deal of time to click off
100 shots either. One 20 minute session spent hanging out in the
yard with your dog can easily yield 100 photographs. I am NOT a
professional by any means, I am an amateur through and through
but I think I can share some tips that will help most anyone come
away with a better result.
for times when your dog might be posing naturally or looking
particularly regal or adorable. Spend some time in the yard with
them where they can relax enough to go about their business.
Then just watch for something worth photographing.
Captain loves to stand on the top of a wooden planter on the
deck and after watching him do it often enough I began leaving
the camera by the patio door in order to catch him in a handsome
pose. As a matter of fact I purposely leave the camera somewhere
near the patio door in case I want to step out and take some
- Action shots RARELY make a good photo. They
are usually blurry and or make the dog look awkward & unflattering.
If you can catch them “gaiting” or trotting beautifully across
the yard that may be a winning shot but wrestling, tug of war
and other such activities are TYPICALLY too difficult to capture
with any real success. But doesn't hurt to try.
- You will typically have better results outside rather than
inside simply because the flash on almost all standard cameras
will cause the glowing “pet eyes” that will ruin a picture faster
than you can say “CLICK”. Plus the grass and trees are just a
naturally beautiful backdrop for your Tibetan Mastiff.
When I spotted Asia lying in the daffodils I ran out in my socks
to capture this photo. I took at least 15-20 shots of her
lying in the flowers and came away with a few great ones. I never
caught her doing this again and the daffodils soon quit blooming
so I am glad I rushed out in my socks that day!
- Consider taking your photos on slightly overcast or cloudy
days. Bright sunlight will cast harsh shadows on your subject.
I get my best photos on overcast days, in the early morning or
later in the day when the sun is at a lower angle and is not
casting such a glare.
You can see with this photo of Katie that half of her face is
lost in the shadow cast by the direct sunlight and the other
half of her is overexposed. Solid black dogs are notoriously
difficult to photograph and bright sunlight makes this even more
of a challenge.
- Get down to your dogs’ level!! Nothing screams lazy like a
picture shot from a standing position showing the top of your
dogs head. Crouch, kneel, or lay down, whatever it takes! This
is crucial when photographing puppies. You are NOT going to get
a wonderful shot from a standing position unless they are up
on a table or deck. I will often literally lie down on my belly
to photograph the puppies and I am not disappointed by the results.
In this picture of "D" litter puppy Leo, I am on my
belly on the kitchen floor in order to capture this shot. Our
kitchen gets a ton of natural light so a flash was not necessary.
Also as you can see, he is unaffected by the camera because he
had been having his picture taken since birth ha!
CLOSER!! Did you ever notice when someone readies themselves
to take a photo they always back up several feet? Don’t back
up! Fill the whole frame with your subject unless the background
is something you are purposely trying to include in the photo.
You don’t want to be on top of the subject so as to distort the
photograph but close enough so that your subject takes up most
or the entire frame.
In this picture of Angus I not only moved in close but you can
also see that the absence of direct sunlight allows you to see
all of the detail of a black dog.
- Shoot often but don’t shoot just ANYTHING. You cannot expect
to walk out into the yard, snap five random photographs and come
away with five perfect photos. I cannot stress enough how it
will pay off for you if you take NUMEROUS photo! This
does not have to be time consuming; 15-20 minutes of straight
picture taking will most likely yield SOMETHING. But more importantly
wait for your dog to do something worth photographing. Wait for
them to sit or lie down and look off into the distance. Wait
for them to jump up on the picnic table and survey their surroundings.
WAIT WAIT WAIT for something that will make a potential outstanding
photo. If you are just shooting him walking with his head down
or chewing on a stick then you are likely to get mediocre photos.
If he is not cooperating on this day then try again the next.
Take several pictures a week and you are sure to come away with
something worth putting in your scrapbook. The more often you
photograph your dog the more comfortable he (and you!) will become
with the camera. My dogs rarely even blink when I am photographing
them. The camera is something they see so often it doesn't even
register a response. Even
when I do not have my camera I find that I am constantly framing
them in my mind. If I see one of them pose pretty or cock their
head I imagine snapping the photo in my head. Then when I have
my camera I watch for the same behavior, stance or position and
try to capture it on “film”.
- Shoot at the highest quality or resolution that your camera
will allow. Yes it takes up more room on the memory card but
if you end up with something you want to crop closer or have
printed for framing, you will not be sorry you went with the
WORTH YOUR MONEY!
Buy a digital SLR camera! They are a bit more expensive
than your typical point and shoot but I promise you it will be
the best money you ever spent. I own a Canon Digital Rebel and
once I wear it out, I will definitely buy another. The quality
of your photos, the recovery time between shots and the ability
to shoot continuously makes all the difference in the world - especially
when photographing fast moving subjects like animals and children.
I would advise you to save up for a digital SLR rather than spend
your money on another point and shoot. Don't be intimidated by
all of the features contained on the SLR's, even if you never use
anything but auto mode, the quality of your pictures will increase
And if you want to venture a little further into amateur
photography a digital SLR will allow you to expand your abilities
with endless settings, filters and lenses. It's a win win purchase!
An excellent site for camera reviews and specifications
is Steve's Digicams. I would not buy a camera without visiting
this site first.
I hope some of this will help you capture the spirit
and personality of your dog in a photo. Something that many of
you might find useful is a FREE photo editing program available
from Google called "Picasa". It helps you catalog your
photos and has editing options like crop, brightness, contrast
etc. It will also automatically resize your photos for emailing
and has a fantastic printing option and many other useful features
such as the ability to send your photos over the net to places
like Wal-mart, Ritz Camera or Shutterfly to order prints for local
pickup or delivery by post. You can download it here:
Happy shooting and remember that nothing will make
your breeder happier than receiving fantastic pictures of the puppies
they have entrusted to your care! It’s a thrill to open your email
and find that you have not only received recent photos, but extraordinary
photos of your babies.
Read another helpful article on photographing your
TM at the Tibetan Mastiff Response Network:
Your Tibetan Mastiff