We know your phone is full of nothing but dog pictures.
Your dog’s face is on your lock screen, your home screen, and your Instagram is basically dedicated to their extreme cuteness. The world might not deserve your dog’s soulful eyes and extremely boop-worthy snoot, but that doesn’t stop you from showing off every dog picture you’ve ever taken—and that’s a lot of pictures. So whether you’ve turned your obsession for dog photography into your pup’s own Instagram account or simply want a decent picture for that online photo contest you know your dog could win, taking the perfect dog picture is pretty important.
While all our furry friends are cute, they don’t always make the best camera subjects. They don’t sit still and never look where you want them to. Getting the perfect shot can be a challenge, but these tips will help you get beautiful images of your best friend with every doggy photo shoot.
1. Know Your Equipment
We can’t all afford that $2,000 DSLR camera with the extra wide lens. If you have an actual camera (one that isn’t also a phone), that’s great. But in today’s world, you don’t need a fancy camera to take good dog pictures. The new iPhone 11 comes with a seriously impressive camera, and most smartphones, including the Google Pixel and most Samsung Galaxy phones also have great camera features.
Regardless of what kind of camera you have, do some research to learn exactly what you’re working with. Different phones come with different camera and editing features. If your phone camera isn’t the greatest, don’t expect to be taking crystal clear action shots. And if you have a DSLR, you need to know how to use it. It isn’t as simple as pointing and clicking.
2. Get (and Keep) Your Dog’s Attention
This is possibly the hardest part of taking a good picture of your dog. Our pups have notoriously short attention spans, and they’re not going to pose politely while you fiddle with your camera settings. You need your dog to cooperate, and the trick to that is to make the photo shoot fun.
Toys, treats, and praise will help keep your dog’s attention on the camera and not the squirrel on the other side of the yard. (Although squirrel-chasing shots are always winners.) Dogs will almost always look in the direction of a treat. You can also make sudden and strange sounds to get your dog to pay attention. I usually meow when I want my dogs to look at me with their “alert” faces. If your photo session is going to last more than a minute, remember to give your pup occasional treats to keep them interested.
3. Invoke Facial Expressions
My boy dog, Copper, has movie star good lucks. Seriously, just look at his handsome face. But the problem is, he has serious resting b*tch face. His natural expression is one of utter disdain and boredom. It’s hilarious, because that’s not his personality, but it’s also frustrating whenever I try and take a good picture of him. To get around this, I’ve come up with a few tricks to get him to switch up his facial expression.
The “meowing” trick I mentioned above usually works to get his ears perky and eyes focused. I also play with him before I bring my camera out to get him “smiling” with his cute tongue hanging out. Besides the classic “happy dog” look, I’m also a fan of the adorable “confused dog” face. For this one, I play interesting sounds on my phone—usually puppy whimpers or bird calls. It’s the best when I can get a head tilt on camera. Playing a doorbell sound is also a foolproof way to get my dogs to change their facial expressions.
4. Experiment With Angles
Our superior height means it feels natural to take most of our dog pictures from above. We point the camera down toward our dogs and get them looking up at us. That angle can work, but it’s also good to mix it up. Some of the best dog pictures happen when you lean down to your dog’s level. Get the camera level with their face for a nice portrait shot.
You can also get creative and take pictures from below, behind and to the side. One of my favorite pictures of my dog Bailey is one where I’m standing on her side so I can see her cute profile and steady gaze looking toward the beach. You don’t want your dog’s Instagram to be a repeat of the same type of picture, so changing the point of view is important.
5. Find the Light
Lighting is one of the most important parts of taking a good picture regardless of your subject. When you’re inside, position your dog near large windows to take advantage of natural light. But if you’re using artificial light, move the light source closer to your dog for a softer, more flattering look. You’ll also need to think about the positioning of the light. Side lighting is great for photographing dogs, because it helps show off texture, like a dog’s fluffy coat. Be mindful of shadows, and move the light so it isn’t straight on your dog’s face.
When you’re taking dog pictures outside, you don’t have as much control of the light. Mid morning and afternoon are generally considered the best times to take outdoor pictures. At noon, the sun is directly overhead and will cast harsh shadows. When the sun is lower in the sky, you can move around to find the position that works best.
Taking amazing dog pictures definitely takes practice. I’m by no means an expert, but my phone pictures started getting a lot better once I started following these rules. You and your pup will need to work together, and you’ll need to learn what works best for your particular model. Once you come up with a routine and learn your dog’s best angles, the only thing you’ll need to worry about is your phone running out of storage space.