Tips for Capturing a Great Picture
I am not a professional photographer but my pictures have been used in some printed media. I consider myself a hobbyist in dog photography but I'm mostly interested in capturing the essence of a dog's expression versus a hobby in photography and the mechanics of picture taking techniques. Therefore, I won't be able to discuss the mechanical aspects of taking a great photograph, like shutter speed, lens details and even some of the settings on my own camera that I don't use.. etc. I am a layman's photographer.
It's my hope that some of the tricks I use will give you some ideas on how to take better pictures of your dogs and those around them.
I use a very OLD DSLR Canon Rebel. (DSLR basically means, "digital camera").
My camera is so old, it's probably outdated and I need to upgrade but I'm lazy.
I have two lenses; the simple lens (18-55 mm) that came with the camera and a slighly longer lens (75-300mm) which I use for father distances.
The basic essentials of every good picture:
1. Good lighting where you can see the dog well.
2. The dog is in sharp focus.
3. The picture evokes some type of feeling when you view the picture.
The importance of distance and angles
The angle you shoot your dog from determines how you want your picture to be interpeted.
For example, the photo on the left, taken from a standing position and right, taken from a kneeling position in front of the same dog.
Objects closest to your lens will appear largest and objects further away will appear smaller.
Also, notice that the photo on the left, that Mark is sitting on a large concrete curb, and the curb on the right, is a smaller parking curb, bringing Mark lower to the ground, making the same dog appear even larger.
The best angles to shoot a dog from is "eye level" of the dog. This may mean getting down on your knees, laying on the ground or adjusting your position to capture that perfect shot.
Poorly positioned camera angles morph a dog's body proportions and mis-represent what the actual dog looks like. You are doing an injustice to your dog if you publish or share a photo like this. Please keep in mind...
A captured image is a just moment of time captured by a fast click of a camera. An image can last forever, good or bad. Poor or excellent. You have total influence over the image you create.
When shooting animals who are unpredictable and move quickly and unexepectantly, I shoot in "sports mode" versus "portrait" so I am able to capture a spontaneous moment in an instant.
The best lighting for animals is natural light, but not all natural light works the same way in a picture. For instance, the morning sunlight is very harsh, and where I live, the direct sunlight is very hot and unforgiving on anyone. Most people and animals do not look good in harsh lighting and the brightness causes them to squint, which will ruin your portrait.
In addition, harsh direct sunlight also lightens the eye color of your dog. The example on the left, the two older dog's eyes appear extremely light with the direct morning sunlight.
Shooting Multiple Subjects at Once
One of the first things I try and teach my dogs is "stay." It is essential for your dog or subject to remain still long enough for you to take the shot. This is definately a photoshoot that must be on "sportsmode" which allows the camera to perform rapid fire shots by depressing the button on your camera the entire time.
Our dogs are often used to taking pictures with "visiting" dogs from other families, so I am fortunate they are able to get along well with other new dogs.
The first step, if you are by yourself and trying to set up the shot and take the photo, to is create interest in the group of dogs so they give you "expression," Expression means, they have their ears up, and are looking at you with interest. I create this interest with a high value treat, like hot dogs, or cheese etc.
Here is the process:
1. Ask the group to sit. 2. While the group is all sitting, feed each dog a treat. 3. Standing or not waiting their turn is not allowed. 4. Once they understand everyone will get a treat when their name is called and they are sitting..you are ready to move back a few feet and walk up to them to give them their treats. *If your dog is too distracted to give their expression with a treat, use noise!! Make the weirdest noise with your mouth...or bang a toy. Be creative!! 5. Once the group can sit together and give me expression (because they are waiting for the name call and for me to come forward to give them a treat...you are ready for your photo shoot!)
In the examples below, the dog second from left is not as expressive in the left picture compared to the right picture.
An expressive dog which shows interest, desire and drive photographs much better!
In the photo below, the visiting dog was "Mika" owned by Mildred Vicerra of Maui Hawaii, who was wearing the collar.
Below, picture of our Pauahi, again, not giving the expression I was hoping for with this group. She is pictured second from the left in both photos. Guest doggies are Viper, the largest male in front of her, and Butch, who is sitting against the wall. In the second photo, I tossed up a
hot dog, and as you can see, all stayed in their positions with exception of Raikou, who was probably 6 months old and didn't grasps the "stay" concept with moving food involved.
Pictures with kids and other people
Some of the most poignant photos I've taken were with people and their dogs. There is no doubt that when you add people to the mix, the feeling a photograph conveys is exponentionally multiplied. Here is the tip: Tell your human subjects that they have to keep smiling no matter what. Controlling the human element in a shoot is vital to success. Often times, I use my long lens and just allow the people to interact with the dogs and shoot random photos from afar with minimal interference. Many great shots are captured from a spontaneous moment which was caught on camera.
Here are a few things to keep in mind:
1. People should dress in solid colors to not take away from the overall picture. 2. Pick neutral backgrounds for the same reason. 3. Clothing for women or girls should be conservative with no short shorts or short tops or low cut blouses. 3. Planned portraits - the people should always be smiling and looking at the camera, no matter what the animals are doing.
Finally, you should know, that using the sportsmode, you can literally take hundreds of photos, and choose the pictures you want to use. Among these pictures I have shared, there are over thousands of photos that were NOT used. THOUSANDS. Capturing a perfect moment is not easy. This is why we can erase and do over! The most important thing to remember? Have fun and keep trying. You will get better with practice!