Dog Portraits: Some Tips and Techniques

Written by: Glyn Dewis

Published: October 15, 2015

Category: General

Below is a recent portrait of a beautiful dog called Sadie which I took quite literally by chance on Wednesday this morning this week when in a local café.

Owner and dog walked in and as I always have my Anytime Anywhere, well, it just had to be done…

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Taking dog portraits is something I do purely because I love dogs and I love photography, and from the number I’ve taken so far there’s a few tips or techniques that I’ve quickly found give me the best results so I thought I’d quickly run them past you:

Shoot Wide
Unless you’re photographing Lassie, Benji or the Littlest Hobo (guess I’m really showing my age there right?!?) you’re  pretty much guaranteed the dog won’t sit still and hold a pose, so I’ve found that shooting wide works best rather than zooming in on the head/face. Generally as the dog portraits I’ve photographed have been impromptu, I’ve used my Anytime Anywhere kit, so I’ve used a Canon 24mm f/2.8 lens on my Canon 760D; a crop sensor camera so the focal length equates to roughly 38mm.

Shoot from Above
Shooting from low down at the same height as the dog I’ve found does one of two things a) makes the dog come straight to you b) makes the dog nervous (especially if they don’t know you and you then put the camera in front of your face).

I’ve found I get best results with the camera at around chest height aimed down in one hand and then my flash in the other off to one side to give me a cross lighting pattern and catchlights in both eyes. Holding the camera above the dog I have found makes the dog look up inquisitively…especially if you’re standing next to someone the dog knows and trusts i.e. the owner

Nail the Flash Exposure
You definitely DO NOT want to be testing the exposure by taking test shots of the dog for a whole host of reasons not least to say you’ll freak the dog out. Plenty of practice will give you a good idea of what settings you’ll need for your camera and flash but one thing I do before the camera is anywhere near the dog is take a picture of my foot; i just point the camera to the ground, hold the flash out to the side and raise my foot slightly. This way I can see the exposure and if the light is in the right position…then I just mimic the positions when photographing the dog.

Don’t Push It!
Quite simply don’t keep on keeping on taking photo after photo until you get what you want. Constantly taking pictures one after another will alarm the dog, the dog will get bored, the dog will get irritated and so on…

•   •   •

Anyway following quite a few questions I’ve had come through since sharing my dog portraits I thought this post might help answer some of the common ones.

As always though if you have any questions feel free to make use of the comments section below and I’ll be sure to reply.

Catch you next time,
Glyn

•You can check out the LARGE version of SADIE over on my 500px page by CLICKING HERE

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4 Comments

  1. Brian

    Thanks for the tips Glyn! I’ve tried out your anytime anywhere ideas and black background techniques – they work great!

    Here’s a link to a photo I took of my daughter’s dog: https://goo.gl/photos/ewmNa9TA586kqCns7

    Thanks again for sharing!

    Reply
    • Glyn Dewis

      You’re welcome. Thanks for looking in Brian.

      Reply
  2. Nick Webb

    Hi Glyn, great photo, and perhaps partly because it looks very much like a painting. Have you done any post-processing using filters/brushes on it?

    Reply
    • Glyn Dewis

      About 5 mins of post production on this and finished it with my painterly technique

      Reply

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