I read somewhere that the two most difficult things to control during a photo or film shoot are children and animals. I know this is true because I read it on the Internet. I’ve also experienced it firsthand. But with all of the success we’ve enjoyed with our Cover Dog photo contest, I figured it was time to review some of the basics of dog photography in order to help you (if you haven’t yet picked up that camera) get started. And being a part-time, semi-amateur photographer, I figure I’m just as qualified to tell you how to take pictures of your dog as my three-year-old son, who just received his very first camera.
I’ll begin by stating the obvious: Taking a picture of your dog is easy. Taking a good picture of your dog is darn near impossible.
The best way to get started is to set up a tripod and turn on some music. Then call your dog over and explain to him what’s about to happen. Just tell him that all you’re going to do is take a few pictures, and that he should simply “act natural.” At this point, start clicking away. Then remove the lens cap and continue clicking. Do not utilize the tripod—it is only there to add an element of professionalism to your set.
After reviewing your first 200 or so shots, you will begin to notice an underlying theme of extreme awfulness. This is due in large part to the fact that you’ve been shooting towards a sunlit window in an otherwise darkened living room while following your dog as he sniffs around the base of the couch searching for remnants of last night’s evening snack.
At this point you should announce to your dog that you’re relocating the shoot outdoors in the hopes of finding a more “dog-like” environment. Let your dog outside and immediately begin stalking him as if you were the Paparazzi.
Once your dog is ready for his close-up, find a nice patch of grass, a front step, chaise lounge, or pickup-truck bed and sit yourself down. Photography can be a strenuous activity, and a nap will certainly help clear the head and recharge the mind. After a brief two-hour siesta in the sun, you should be ready for that cover-worthy shot. Unfortunately, your dog will now be nowhere in sight.
A brief walk around your house will eventually lead you to your subject, asleep in the sun-dappled late-afternoon shade, snoozing away. Watch as a gentle breeze rustles his fur, while a butterfly hovers just above his moist nose—this is the shot you have been waiting for all day. It is at very moment that you will realize you left your camera back on the chaise lounge. Quietly slink away, taking care not to disturb your slumbering friend, grab your camera, and rush back. If you did this correctly, your stretching, tail-wagging friend should now be walking up to greet you. Please refrain from throwing your camera as far as you can.
And there you have it, a quick-start guide to almost getting that perfect shot of your dog. But don’t give up. Your dog will most certainly fall asleep again. And next time, you’ll be ready. Or will you?