Dogs are man’s best friend. I love dogs, cats, hamsters, rabbits, ferrets… I just love animals. There’s something fascinating about each and every one in their individual way.
I’ve learnt that photographing animals can be a tricky task. They don’t smile for the camera like a person. That’s part of the appeal. The thing you’re trying to capture is the personality of the animal, the situation, the emotion, the thoughts.
Yes, a dog may answer commands like sit, stay, fetch… but the second a camera comes out… that goes out the window in most cases.
Some are fascinated and like to get right up close to the camera, have a sniff, maybe a lick. Others don’t really know what to make of it and can be quite nervous, especially when something moves or makes a sound, such as the autofocus motor, the flash or the shutter.
Like with many types of photography, the perfect moment can come and go in an instant. With animals it’s no different. You have to be quick otherwise you may miss out on that winning shot!
here are a few recommendations I have when photographing animals and pets. These are just a few things i’ve learnt from going out there and taking pictures. It’s all trial and error until you get a result your happy with.
A freshly loaded memory card
I always recommend that you have a enough storage so you have enough space to shoot away without having to think about running out of storage space.
Using a wide aperture can help to remove the focus form unnecessary and distracting objects in the background. This will bring the viewers’ eyes in on the subject, in this case the dog.
Choose your focus mode carefully. I like to use continuous focus mode as it allows me to concentrate on getting the composition right and helps prevent blurry, out of focus shots.
In this situation I tend to choose continuous shooting modes. This allows you to continuously fire the shutter so you can capture all of the small movements your subject may make. Some people will call this the “spray and prey” method and will proffer to have much a much more precise approach to releasing the shutter.
Remember your shutter speed. If your subject is moving you will need to use a faster shutter speed. You can reduce the shutter speed by panning your subject which creates a really cool effect.
Get on their level
I see this as a great technique for capturing really great pet portraits. I’ve found that obscure angles can also create an extra depth to a photo and also help accentuate the characteristics and personality of the animal being photographed.
The most important thing to remember is have fun! Photographing pets has brought me nothing but joy because animals are awesome!
Here are the photos
Oscar the Border Collie
These photos are of my dog Oscar. He’s an overactive, giddy, loveable border collie with a lot of spirit.
This was the first opportunity I had at photographing a dog and so I was in for a surprise. I did a little research first for some guidance on things to watch out for, settings to use/try so I was a little prepared. The results were varied. Many of the shots where blurry due to Oscar moving around and being in a low lit room and a slow shutter speed and low ISO. bumping the ISO up would have made a massive difference here.
Oscar and Maisie the Jack Russell
These next shots are of Oscar and Maisie. We were all out in the garden on a nice and sunny day.
Maisie is a ridiculously small jack russell who is incredibly gentle and loves generally lazing around in the day and running around in the park at walk times. She may be small but she has a lot of character and can be really funny. We noticed that she was quite frequently lying upside down and when the opportunity arose I thought it would be the best way to reflect Maisie and the kind of dog she is. This shot really captures her personality well.
I couldn’t forget about Oscar… he wasn’t having any of that. After some playing with his ball for a bit I had him completely focused and fixated on it. This was a great opportunity to capture him in a deep trance, waiting for the ball to be thrown again, watching its every movement closely.
Del Boy the Border Collie
These next shots are of Del Boy (Definitely a unique pet name) the border collie. He was only a pup at the time. He really wasn’t sure to make of the Nikon D3200 I was using at the time. He clearly hadn’t seen anything like it before and was wary of it, especially when the autofocus moved or the shutter released. I eventually coaxed him closer to be by playing with the camera strap which he seemed to like chewing on.
This next photo has to be my favourite photo of my buddy Oscar. It’s one of the best photos I have taken to date. It really captures the kind of dog he is; Incredibly gentle and loving and truly mine and my wife’s best friend.
The new addition, Stanley the Jack Russell
Stan… Where to start… he’s a little sod! Full of character though and rarely sits still.
These shots are of when he was a few months old. I have to admit he was really funny looking, kind of like an alien or a bug because he had massive eyes, a really tiny head and was really podgy. At this stage he was just started to grow into his personality so these photos are nice because he looks well behaved and almost angelic.
He’s much older now and we’ve had many trips to the park to play with his other dog friends. These next photos where captured over months of trial and error, trying to capture moving subjects that are pretty unpredictable at times. There is also an appearance from Rio, a Golden Retriever and Rusty, another Jack Russell.
This next shot is of Pixel who is an Australian Kelpie which is an Australian sheep dog. They are primarily bread as a working dog to work livestock including cattle, sheep and goats. We were having a BBQ and there where loads of distractions but Pixel behaved like a champ. This shot captures Pixel’s beautiful red coat glistening in the sun and for me captures how majestic animals can be.
So, there you have it! These are some of the dogs I’ve photographed to date. You can check out more of my photos on my flickr profile.