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If you own a dog then chances are they are as much a part of the family as you son or daughter. In fact in many ways, the behaviour of your dog can seem more human than many of your nearest and dearest! It comes as no surprise that many owners want to achieve fantastic shots of their four-legged friends. With all that boundless energy, it can sometimes be rather difficult to get them on camera.
The primary point to take into consideration when shooting is to make sure your dog is safe. Also, make sure your dog is familiar with the equipment you are using: sometimes pointing a camera at a dog can seem confrontational to them and may end in tears.
When taking pictures of any kind of animal it is advisable to have an assistant, as two pairs of hands are always better than one! Also, have a supply of dog treats to reward your animal and some squeaky toys to get their attention. The background you choose needs to be as clutter-free as you can find, and try to avoid any unwanted distractions for your dog.
Some experts suggest using a mottled drape over a chair. When framing your animal, try to come down to their level and not just shoot from a standing position. This way you stand a better chance of getting the true personality of your dog on film. Choosing a time when your dog is chilled out and calm is key to getting ‘that’ shot. If he has a tendency to be hyperactive at any time of the day, then avoid it.
Your dog needs to be in the right mood! If you want an action shot, the best likely time to achieve this is during their walk. A calm portrait could be best when your animal is tired – perhaps after a walk in fact! If your dog becomes uncooperative, stop the shoot and wait for a better time.
One of the key things to remember is focusing on your dog’s eyes. This is where you will find the true personality of your animal and it’ll shine through in the shot. It is easiest to achieve this with your autofocus on. Plus, remember our earlier tip, if you want to get your dog’s attention and for them to focus on something, then have a few treats handy. Select the center point of your camera’s nine focus points and hone in on one of the dog’s eyes. Then utilizing focus lock, recompose your shot before clicking the shoot button.
Something else to keep in mind, especially to get the dog’s nose in focus, is to consider which f/number to use. It will differ from breed to breed due to the distance from the camera but generally speaking f/8 on a 70-200mm should give the focus you need. Your shutter speed will depend on what type of result you are after. An action shot will need a fast shutter speed such 1/500sec while a portrait will be best using 1/600sec. You will need to use a tripod for slower speed to avoid camera shake.
For creative shots, you can try using a wide-angle lens at its widest end. This will give you what is known as a parallax effect, where the part of the dog nearest the camera appears to loom while the furthest part looks disproportionately small. The key thing is to achieve a shot that captures your dog’s personality. That will ensure the shot really captures them and is one to frame.