Shoot Your Dog!

sunset duoOf all the activities you could engage in with your dog—agility, nosework, or simply taking a hike together—there’s one that probably doesn’t immediately come to mind: photography. Sure, we all have snapshots we’ve taken of our dogs over the years. But wouldn’t you love to have beautiful, lasting mementos? You needn’t be a professional photographer, either; I’m certainly not. And as far as quality, nowadays even the entry level DSLRs and advanced point and shoots are capable of producing great shots.

There are two parts that go into photographing your dogs: your skills, and your dogs’ skills. I’m not here to talk about the first part. Believe me, I’m still learning myself. But let’s consider what goes into getting a good photograph of your dog, or, even more challenging, more than one dog. First, the pose. Your dog will need to know a basic Sit or Down, or a Stand, if that’s your preference. Then there’s the Stay. You might think, Well, of course my dog knows Sit and Stay. But will he be able to do it at a public park or other place that offers a lovely setting, while other dogs and people are walking by? That brings me to the next skill: attention. It’s easy enough to call your dog’s name and get his attention in your living room, but again, what about with distractions? Photos of dogs looking off into the distance can be captivating, but most likely you’ll eventually want one of your dog looking at you, as that’s where the real connection happens.

Taking it to the next level, if you don’t want to have to Photoshop leashes out after the fact, your dogs will need solid off-leash obedience skills. (Don’t ever put your dog in a dangerous position to get a photo; if he doesn’t have the skills, have someone stand out of frame and hold a leash.) The photo above was taken with Bodhi and Sierra off leash, before we headed out to the park. The sky was so beautiful that I wanted to use it as a background. This was on a hill outside our house where bunnies and squirrels abound, and trust me, when we first got the dogs, I would not have trusted them not to bolt. Building up their skills took some time and practice. The photo below was taken at the park, where people were passing by with dogs.
picnic tableDon’t think you have to have started these skills with your dog as a puppy. Just as with any other kind of training, dogs are never too old to learn. Both of my dogs came from shelters at around the age of two. It was pretty obvious that neither had received much if any obedience training. But, using plenty of patience, guidance, and rewards, they both learned quickly and enjoyed the process. Speaking of enjoyment, some dogs don’t love having a camera pointed at them. In that case, just pick the camera up, put it down, and give your dog a treat. Once he’s comfortable with that, pick it up, point it at him for just a second, put it down and treat. The next step would be to click the shutter while it’s still at a distance…you get the idea. The goal is that eventually, when you point the camera at your dog, he’ll actually look happy! I had to convince Sierra that the camera was her friend; Bodhi was apparently a model in a past life, and took to it right away. The only problem around my house is that when I want to sneak up and capture a heartwarming scene like my husband petting both dogs upon his arrival home after work, once the dogs hear the camera click on, they drop everything and run to me, tails wagging. I guess there are worse problems.

I hope this inspires you to get out there and shoot your dogs, in the best way possible. Oh, and not every shot has to be a portrait; sometimes the most engaging, heartwarming ones are actions shots or even our dogs just being plain goofy. Just get down on your dog’s level to make it more interesting. And don’t forget, models need to get paid! Bodhi recommends hot dog slices. Happy shooting!
goofy ball boy

9 Responses to Shoot Your Dog!

  1. Kuruk says:

    Mama takes our pictures all the time! And you two are beauwoooowooooootiful!

  2. threenorns says:

    i love taking pictures of dandy. he’s black and all i have is a cell phone, but he’s such a goofy pup that i’ve gotten some really good ones, such as the expression of utterly disdainful disgust on his face when everybody was “squeee”-ing at him wearing his devil horns for hallowe’en.

  3. Rebekah says:

    I have read that what a person takes the most pictures of is indicative as to what is most close to their heart, and would not bear losing. I feel this is true, as I take a ton of pics of my dogs, and have even had professional photos taken of two of them.

    I love seeing the photos that you take, Nicole!

    • wildewmn says:

      Great comment, Rebekah! I believe it’s true, too. Although I am able to take pleasing photos of architecture and other subjects, I really shoot almost exclusively nature and animals because that IS where my heart is. 🙂

  4. Matthew says:

    I enjoyed the pictures of your doggies. Bodhi does look like he was having more fun than Sierra

  5. Joe says:

    Great article. And I know you say you’re not a professional photographer, but you could’ve easily fooled me! You take great shots.

  6. Good post, we adopted this January and while Donna refused to look at the phone camera in the early months, it gets easier the more you do it! And I definitely think it gives more opportunities to bond with our new dog, on top of everything else we are doing. Not to mention the photos sometimes lets us see some of her emotions (good or bad) that we miss… particularly when she is moving too fast playing with another dog for example. 🙂

  7. Michelle says:

    hello nicole thanks for this! i totally agree and we have been taking photos of the dogs whenever we can.

    recently we shot a great photo of one of my dogs and i am in awe of how much of her spirit and curiousity we have snapped!

    thank you for your articles – i enjoy them. 🙂

  8. Nick Benger says:

    This blog is great, it inspires me to photograph dogs…. even more! I love photographing dogs.

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