9 Dog Photography Tips To Shoot Pawfect Pics Every Time

Everyone wants an awesome picture of their furry friends, but the task is more challenging than one might expect. Not every animal is eager to cooperate for the camera. But, fear not, I’ve come equipped with my very best dog photography tips. 

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dog pet portrait
For today’s feature, my handsome dog Pluto will be lending his modeling talents to illustrate the best strategies for tackling pet portraiture.

Top 8 Dog Photography Tips

Follow along and you’ll be well on your way to making pictures of your pup that are sure to stand out!

Tip 1: Grab (and maintain) attention.  

First and foremost, the key to a great pet portrait is your pet’s attention.

More likely than not, your dog isn’t going to be especially impressed by your camera alone. However, if you have something that your dog wants, all eyes will be on you.   

bribing dog with treat
If you want a dog’s attention, offering some food is usually a good way to get it!

Find out what motivates your dog and use it to your advantage. Treats and toys usually do the trick for a little while.

Just hold their desired object in line with the camera’s lens and they’ll likely offer a direct, attentive gaze. From there, you can “pose” your pooch by requesting they sit or lie down.  

dog toy bribes
Food not doing the trick? Try using a toy to get your dog’s attention!

If all else fails, some high-value human food can seal the deal.

Steak, anyone?

Source: GIPHYY

Even the pickiest dog isn’t going to turn down the chance to earn some fresh cold cuts or a spoonful of peanut butter!

Tip 2: It’s all in the eyes.

It doesn’t matter whether you’re photographing a dog, cat, or human – in 9 out of 10 scenarios, you want to focus on your subject’s eyes.

We connect with other living beings by looking into their eyes, and our four-legged friends are no exception.   

dog photography eyes
They say that eyes are the window to the soul, and dogs are no exception. The eyes are the most expressive feature, so be sure to hone in on them!

Keep in mind that some dogs are a little uncomfortable directly looking you in the eye. In such cases, you may have to improvise a little bit.

While they don’t need to be staring directly into the camera, the eyes need to be the sharpest part of your photograph.   

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Tip 3: Think about perspective

Dogs don’t see the world the way us humans do.

Bringing ourselves down to their level can make for a much more engaging image.   

If you always shoot downwards from five feet above the ground, your images will quickly become stale.

Instead, experiment with perspective.

Try to crouch or kneel down to get a “dog’s eye view”.   

pet portrait perspective experiment
Don’t be afraid to experiment! I used some attachable mini lenses to take this fun fisheye portrait with my iPhone.

Depending on your subject, getting low to the ground may excite the dog. If this is the case, offer a few polite hellos and let the dog acclimate to you being on its level.

With time, it will calm down and become easier to photograph.  

Tip 4: Show off some personality!

Ask any dog owner and they’ll relay to you that their dog has a mind of its own. To bring your photographs to the next level, challenge yourself to capture your subject’s personality in a picture.   

If you’re working with a client, take some time to ask about the dog you’ll be photographing.

Is it a silly, playful puppy? A crafty mutt willing to solve any puzzle for a treat? A regal show dog?  

Dog personality in photography
Some dogs love to run. Others thrive on human attention. Pluto’s favorite thing to do is lie around with his stuffed dragon.

Once you know a little bit about who you’re working with, you can look out for the moments that really illustrate their defining traits.

While it takes a little bit of extra effort to get an expressive shot, the end result will be all the more meaningful to the client.    

Tip 5: Add depth with the background.

A good picture is elevated to a great picture when the right supporting details are in play.

Take some time to think about what’s going on around your dog if you want to make a truly outstanding pet portrait.  

For instance, some play with colors can make for a more striking image.

A sharp contrast (like a red-haired Irish Setter against yellow autumn leaves) can immediately grab a viewer’s attention.

Likewise, an environment can highlight an animal’s existing aesthetic qualities (like a bright white Samoyed on a snowy day).  

color pet portrait
A pop of color is a quick way to grab some attention.

For those unaccustomed to working with animals, just keeping a dog under control can be an enormous task.

However, it’s important not to forget about the basic elements that make or break a photograph.  

If you’re lucky enough to work with a fairly laid back dog, you’ll have a little bit more freedom when it comes to setting a scene.

When working with animals, two of the most valuable assets a person could have are the abilities to improvise and empathize.

Easy going subjects may tolerate props. Some may even brave a studio setting.  

That being said, keep an eye on your dog and don’t try to force it into a scenario in which it’s uncomfortable.

If the dog isn’t having whatever idea you’re trying to execute, move on to something else.

Tip 6: Head outside!

This dog photography tip is somewhat of an extension of tip #5, but it’s important enough to warrant it’s own places on the list.

So, in short…

When all else fails, venture outside.

Most dogs are happy, excitable, and just generally in their element when they’re allowed to roam around a bit. Even a small move to a backyard can bring a dog out of its shell.  

pet portraits outdoors
It’s clear to see how much Pluto and his friend Frank enjoy hanging out outdoors. If only the bright afternoon light had cooperated with me nearly as much as these two did!

If you’re working with an animal that can’t stay still or can’t get comfortable in a controlled environment, don’t give up.

A candid shot in a picturesque area can be just as successful.   

When making pet portraits for local clients, do a little bit of location scouting ahead of time.

Public parks are always a good bet – they’re often free to visit, dog-friendly, and offer a variety of different shooting scenarios.  

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Tip 7: Don’t be afraid to bring in backup.

If anything else, dogs are social creatures. If you’re feeling a bit stuck or want to loosen your subject up, try bringing in someone (or something) familiar to the dog.

In particular, including the pet’s owner in your dog portrait can be incredibly beneficial.

An owner knows how to handle their dog better than anyone else. If you share what you’re trying to accomplish with their human counterpart, they can help to direct their pet.  

Dog Human portrait
Pluto loves his dad. Bringing a person into a pet portrait can show off the strong relationship shared between a dog and their human

What’s more, what client wouldn’t want an adorable picture with their pooch?   

When you start to feel confident in your abilities, don’t shy away from working with more than one dog at a time.

Granted, grabbing both animal’s attention can be a bit of a challenge. However, interactions between dogs can produce more dynamic pictures.

photographing multiple dogs
You’d be surprised how easy it can be to work with two dogs at once. Pluto and Pearl were more than happy to sit still for the camera.

Tip 8: Move quickly.

This may seem a bit obvious, but a dog will rarely hold a pose for more than a few seconds.

In order to get great shots, you’ll have to work fast.

pet photography camera settings
Regardless of what camera you’re using to capture your pet portraits, be sure to use a fast shutter speed!

When working with animals, opt for shutter speeds fast enough to freeze motion. Besides stopping their actions, doing so will provide clearer expressions and details. T

here’s a lot of variables to take into consideration when photographing animals. Don’t let a little bit of motion blur be the thing that throws off your photo.  

Keep your finger on the shutter and be ready to take your next photograph at any moment.

Don’t be afraid to shoot continuously. Sometimes, the best strategy is to shoot a burst of photographs and pick the best of the bunch later on. 

Tip 9: Have patience!

Last but not least, be patient with yourself and with your subject.

It takes time to find the best strategy to photographing a new dog, especially when they’re young or excitable. You can’t expect to get a perfect shot right off the bat.   

pet portrait session contact sheet
Here’s a peak at some of the shots I made for this particular article. Though I only presented a few images for the final product, it took dozens of tries to get the perfect picture.

If you find yourself getting frustrated, try a different approach. Even the best photographers will leave a photoshoot with a few dozen flubs. Keep trying and remember that it takes just a few great images for a shoot to be a success!

Let’s Hear Your Best Dog Photography Tips!

We’ve shared our list of dog photography tips. And in case you need reminding, they’re all here:

So now it’s your turn to share your best dog photography tip and help fill the internet glorious dog photos.

Why don’t you share your best bit of advice below along with a photo of your pup!