How to Take Incredible Pet Photos by Regina Boston
“A dog is the only thing on earth that loves you more than he loves himself.” ~ Josh Billings
How true are those words!? There is something special about the unconditional love a dog gives that warms my heart. My husband and I have seven kids, two dogs, and a gecko. Two of our seven children are grown and have left the house. I keep telling my husband, every time a child graduates, we need to get a puppy. He’s not too fond of that idea, even though I think it’s brilliant.
How glorious would it be to have a house full of dogs that are always loving and thankful to have you around? The joy that they bring and express is wonderful to capture and is one of the many subjects that I enjoy photographing.
Lensbaby Velvet 85 | ISO 500 | F/4 | 1/1600
When photographing my dogs, I prefer to use two methods – posed portraits or capturing the moment. Both methods help to capture your dog’s personality. I have one dog that used to be camera shy, so much so that each time I raised the camera, he would turn his head away from me and point it towards the ground. I thought to myself, really?! How is it possible as a photographer to have a pup that is camera shy! That’s when I started thinking of different ways to capture him in the moment, whether it would be him standing at the back door to go outside or napping in his bed.
Here are a few pointers for capturing the moment
- Be patient and allow plenty of outtakes. Sometimes what you think is an outtake could be a splendid capture.
- Capturing their personality will create lasting memories. Does your dog love playing in the water, take pictures of them playing in a creek or swimming in a pool? Our neighbor has a golden retriever who could spend all day in the pool. It is so stinking cute! I’ll look over and see her just swimming by herself or relaxing on the steps. Our boy pup LOVES drinking water from the hose, and I have so many images of those moments. Our girl pup enjoys a good stroll in the river.
Lensbaby Sol 45 | ISO 320 | F/3.5 | 1/125
Does your dog love to take a nap in a little pocket of sunlight on the floor? Heck yeah, they do! Our two will lay on top of each other if it means they each get an inch of sunlight streaming through the window. Times like that, I prefer to have my camera nearby to quietly capture them. Dogs are like shadows, the moment I get up to stand they are instantly right next to me. That’s why it best to use whatever you have nearby in moments like that, camera or phone camera.
Perhaps you have a dog that loves to run and shower you with a big goofy smile, OMG those are the best!
Is it just me or is it so adorable when dogs smile? Moments like these are great to look back on when you’re having a “ruff” day! Our pups are very stoic looking, which is ironic because they are just big goofballs who love to play. Our boy is part Boxer and will stand at the back door with this intense look…though we know he wouldn’t hurt a fly! Our girl looks like she could be a Queen, she’ll sit there with her paws crisscrossed, and her head held high, though she’s even goofier than our boy. Moments like these are ones I want to look back on long after they have left us.
"We may take them in as pets; however, they become family and steal our hearts!"
What does naptime look like in your home?
That's a wonderful place to capture your dog in their element, resting and unaware of your camera. Our dogs have taken over the back of the couch like cats. It's quite funny, but a bit bothersome since they are both over 60 lbs and have smushed the pillows. That's how they earned the nickname, couch sloth.
Is your pup in charge of the neighborhood watch? Are they always on the lookout to tell you when a stranger walks by or longing to chase those rascally squirrels? Perhaps, they're waiting patiently for a family member to arrive home. These are great moments to capture! I will sit in our dining room, which is at the front of our house, and observe our dogs watching the neighbors go by. I'll casually raise my camera and capture them "on duty." Make slow movements while photographing your pup, so you don't cause them to change position abruptly. They are less likely to notice the camera and more interested in what is happening outside.
Try Some of the Lenses Regina Uses In Her Pet Photography
Lensbaby Sol 45 / ISO 640 / F/3.5 / 1/640
You have a dog that loves the lime light! Let's discuss posed portraits and what is helpful.
Assistance - I request the help of either my kids or my husband. Though any willing friend or family member works. I will ask my assistant to stand behind me and have them make noises to help keep attention. However, if your dog is well trained then an assistant might not be needed, unfortunately mine are not.
Treats- we have used little treats or large milk bones iced with peanut butter, our dogs favorite. I'll have my assistant hold the treat in the direction I want the dog to look. Can your dog catch a treat if you toss it to them? Have your helper toss the treat in the air and catch them in mid-air, or perhaps they have a favorite bone to chew on.
Canon 85mm / ISO 160 / F/2 / 1/1250sec
Lensbaby Sol 45 | ISO 400 | F/3.5 | 1/200
Location- this may be within your home or outside. Posed portraits work best when a dog knows their surroundings, feel comfortable, and relaxed. When your dog is relaxed, they trust you and their surroundings. Trust is key with your pup. The more they trust their environment, the more they are willing to pose proudly. Our girl is the queen of posing! Though, I think she just really likes the direct attention.
We have such a small amount of time with our beloved pets. Capturing them in these moments helps to ensure that the memories of our four-legged friends live well beyond the time they graced us. We may take them in as pets; however they become family and steal our hearts!
If you're on Instagram, check out our dog loop #itsadogslifeloop ~ Trust me when I say, it will add a smile to your day!
Canon 35mm / ISO 400 / F/3.2 / 1/250