Dog Photography Tips Part 2: Working with Your Surroundings
In Part 1 of this three part series on dog photography tips, I talked about how to work with your dog to achieve the best results in your dog photography. In this section I will give you some tips on working with your surroundings and how to choose the best setting to create beautiful dog portraits
1. Change Your Perspective
Most people take photos of their dog from the same perspective: standing at their normal height with their dog standing or sitting below them (the photo on the left below). While this is how we typically see our dogs, this is not necessarily the best perspective from which to create a good dog portrait. Instead, try getting down on your dog’s level. As you can see from the examples below, getting on level with the dog will give your viewer a better connection.
You may even have to lie down on the ground, but getting on the dog’s level will dramatically improve your dog photography by bringing you and your viewer into the dog’s world.
2. Be Conscious of Your Background
A cluttered background will distract the viewer from the main subject. Try to choose simple backgrounds and if possible, move any distracting objects out of the way. If you are not in a position to move distracting objects from a background, zoom in tighter and use an open aperture (lower number) to blur the background. As you can see below, there are a number of distracting items in the first image such as the chair and the persons feet. By zooming in and choosing an open aperture as in the photo on the right, these distractions are eliminated and the viewer can make a better connection with the dog.
3. See the Light
The word “photography” comes from the combination of the Greek “photo” meaning light and “graphy” meaning the process of writing or representing. So photography is the process of writing or representing light. Be conscious of where the light is coming from in your image and how it is falling on your subject. The light is prettiest early in the morning or in the evening. Photographers refer to the hour before dusk as “The Golden Hour” which is by far the preferred time of day to shoot. If you have to shoot during the day, try to avoid shooting in the mid-day sun, which will create harsh shadows as you see in the picture below on the left. Instead, choose an area of open shade as in the photo below on the right.. The light will be softer and more flattering to your subject. (This goes for photographing people as well as dogs!)
Also, try to avoid using an on camera flash. Unless you modify it, the light from most on camera flashes will be flat and harsh. Today’s cameras have such sensitive sensors, that in most cases you don’t need a flash. You can bump up the ISO and get beautiful images even in somewhat low light. The images below were taken on the same day at the same time. In the image on the left, you can see how harsh the light is from the on camera flash. The image on the right was taken using just the natural light from a nearby window. Again, the light is much softer and more flattering.
4. Think About Composition
How you compose your photographs and where you place key elements in the image will make a huge difference in the impact you photographs will have on the viewer. One basic guide is the Rule of Thirds, which says that key elements of the image should be placed at the intersection of the lines that divide the image into thirds. These are known as “Power Points” and are the points in any image toward which the eye is naturally drawn.
Of course, this is just one way to compose. There are numerous different guidelines for good composition, and anyone who is serious about creating artwork that is visually captivating should seek to learn more about composition. Photographer Steve McCurry offers some great information on composition in this short video. 9 Photo Composition Tips
Check back soon for Part 3 of this series of dog photography tips. In the next section I will talk about some basic elements that will help you understand how to choose camera settings to get off automatic and have better control over your images.