As much as your woofer may think you have finally lost the plot as you place them amongst some bushes and ask them to stay for a photo, they would almost certainly wag their tail in delight if only they could see how good they look.
A photo can and should be three dimensional, drawing you in through light and dark, depth and separation.
*note, please don’t run at the mere thought of adding creative flair to your photos, it’s not that difficult!
A day in the life of a budding dog photographer can be tough, the never-ending quest for drool and goof free face harder than onlookers may think. Add to the equation your desire to create a masterpiece, poo bags hanging out of your pocket, almost breaking your ankle down a rabbit hole whilst half standing, half kneeling and things become a little interesting.
So, how do create a dog portrait worthy of the cover of your local glossy mag? Or at least one you are happy to have as your phone screensaver. Should you find out please tell, however, if you feel you may benefit from some creative influence then read on.
You can incorporate absolutely anything to create depth or atmosphere in your dog portraits, even an old feather duster or pot plant make for a great photographer’s prop when indoors.
Step outside and you will see that bushes, long grasses, tree’s and even brick walls can all be used to add leading lines.
By adding things, or using your surroundings in your photography it is possible to lead the viewer to where you want them to end up, in this case, our wonderfully obliging dog model. Your eyes will instinctively be drawn to lighter or darker areas in a photo, emphasised even more so by using objects to guide them.
Take this image of Sid the working Cocker, admittedly incredibly handsome in his own right already.
Now, we want all the attention to be about him and nothing else, ask any boy and they will tell you the same. The background was at a suitable distance to create separation, to add extra focus, I took up a position partially covered by some bracken.
Focussing on Sid, the bracken and background will be out of focus, meaning the only thing sharp in the shot will be him. Your eyes will naturally dismiss the darker bracken, leading your eyes directly to the waiting model, as planned.
For the next example, you will either need a well-trained model or some good timing as your woofer charges through bushes at will!
Without wanting to show Spaniel bias, the next shot is also of another, albeit this time a delightfully sweet Springer named Boo.
When planning for this particular shoot we travelled to Thetford Forest specifically for the numerous ferns that carpeted the forest floor, the idea being to incorporate them into the shots.
To give you a very brief example, pick up your phone and open your camera, with whatever hand is free, create an open fist or hollow and place this against the camera. You will see it gives the effect of looking through a pringle tube. This will pinpoint the area we are wanting to focus on.
Back to the photo of Boo girl. You don’t always need to have full body shots in dog photography, often just a head shot portrait gives more emotion, being so much closer to their eyes.
With the aid of her favourite treats, we kindly asked her to sit amongst some ferns. By shooting from a low angle, I made sure to have a few of the leaves between myself and her to create depth in the photo. With the ferns being the same tones throughout the shot, there are no points that draw your eyes from her.
Camera and Phone Settings
There are some things we can do to add to the effect we’re trying to achieve, the most important of these is aperture. Phone users hold on! If you have a camera with interchangeable lenses, look for something with the lowest F-number, shallowest depth of field.
This was shot at F2.8, creating blur both in-front of and behind Boo. If you are using a lens with a higher F-number, F4 for example, increase the spacing between each layer. To explain, see the image below.
With the quality of modern phones, you can capture some fantastic shots without the need for carrying mountains of camera kit with you. Apple users, flick your phone into portrait mode, Android, sorry I don’t know your equivalent as I’m fully sold out to Apple.
Apply the same principles as described above and you will amaze yourself at what can be achieved.
Being a dog photographer isn’t all sunshine and rainbows, we more often than not need a little lady luck on our side.
When faced with an active model, try to pre-determine where your woofer will emerge from when running through bushes or grass. Look for a natural clearing that you feel they would poke their head through and lay in wait with your camera at the ready.
This shot of Dusty the Sausage was taken exactly in this way and gave the perfect background and foreground blur. Whilst she was off exploring all things remotely interesting, I popped myself on the forest floor. With my finger tentatively hovering over the shutter release button I lay in wait. Low and behold, she duly obliged and a head popped up dead centre of my viewfinder and she just gazed at me for 2 seconds before continuing on her way.
If you see an opportunity, take it and good luck!
As always, thank you for reading and give your poochio a belly rub from me.