Adding a puppy to your family is one of the greatest joys in life – one that we just love to share with the world! Nowadays, if you have pets, chances are their cute faces are all over your social media. Capturing that adorable puppy pose can be challenging. Most puppies (and many full-grown dogs) have a lot of energy and can be difficult to photograph. This blog will offer guidance on how to photograph puppies.
Smartphones these days have stellar cameras that can capture your cutie in high resolution. Most new camera phones even have burst modes. Newer iPhones include “Live Photos” – these can be played like a video and also give an opportunity to select the best moment from a couple of seconds you were taking the photo. This helps when the puppy only stops to look at you for a fraction of a second! I am also a big fan of Portrait Mode, but this can only work when the dog is good and sitting still because a moving subject will turn out blurry. Portrait Mode really emulates that professional photo look by adding Bokeh (background blur) to a photo.
If you are opting to use a DSLR camera, make sure you’re shooting in a continuous shooting mode so you can click your shutter quickly enough to capture how fast the photo moment comes and goes. The focal length you choose depends on the kind of photograph you’d like to get of your puppies. Consider their personality here – is your pet calm and dignified? Perhaps a close-up portrait with a 50 or 80mm lens would suit them nicely. Maybe your puppy loves to romp around the yard and you want to capture their environment as well. A wider lens like a 35mm would do the trick.
When choosing the best spot in which to photograph your pet, consider two things:
- Lighting— Choose a spot with natural light if you can. Puppies love to be outside so nature is always a lovely, organic setting for a dog. When taking pictures outdoors, make sure the light is consistent. You want the puppy to be either entirely in the shade or totally illuminated by the sun (which can be quite stunning on a shiny dog). Inconsistency in lighting, like your own shadow, really detracts from the image.
People often take portraits during the “golden hour” of sunset because the light is soft and even, which is flattering for people and puppies alike! If you choose to photograph your puppy inside, place them near a window during the day so there is nice, natural light illuminating their face. Soft box lights also help kick it up a notch if the room is too dark. Adding extra lighting can be really flattering to a puppy and exaggerate those shiny, puppy dog eyes. If you’re choosing to use flash lighting, do not use it too close to your puppy’s face. Instead, bounce the flash off a light wall or ceiling.
- Aesthetic – The setting of the photo creates the vibe of your puppy portrait. If you have a couch potato pooch, maybe a cute portrait of them on their favorite pillow gives the photo that extra special personal touch. Perhaps you want to communicate how poised your Mini Bernedoodle is so you have them sit perfectly on a round pouf in front of a backdrop. If your puppy is particularly patient, dress them up or create a set for your model! Puppy photos make everyone happy, so putting extra effort into them is sure to give you a “wow” factor online. You will be the envy of all your friends for having the cutest and smartest dog.
Getting Your Puppy to “Model”
Photographing puppies requires a tremendous amount of patience. This is where having some basic obedience training established will go a long way. If your puppy already knows how to sit and stay, you have won half the battle! Just bring some treats as a reward and coax them into sitting in the perfect photo spot. Holding a treat or squeaky toy near the camera will help them look over at you.
If this is your puppy’s first photo session, they will have no idea what you want them to do. In such cases, make sure you have someone to help you get the shot. Having an assistant will go a long way in getting that fleeting photo moment.
It’s a good idea to let an energetic puppy run around and play for a while before trying to make them sit still for a photo. When you and your model are ready, get your assistant to help you get the pup in place and hold them there while you prepare your shot. Young puppies are easily distracted but also very curious. That is why the secret is the squeaker.
Choose a dog toy that is easy to squeeze and has a powerful squeak. Most puppies cannot resist turning their attention to whatever is making that interesting sound. Creating funny noises vocally can also get your puppy to look up and maybe even give you a heart-melting head tilt. Trust me, the weirder the sound; the better the result. Fart noises produce a head tilt for me about 50% of the time.
Don’t over-do it on the sounds; sometimes it can do more harm than good by scaring the puppy or exciting them too much. Work according to how your puppy responds to your tactics and don’t go too crazy!
In addition to a squeak near your camera, your assistant needs to be quick. You can establish a countdown method for holding and releasing the puppy. This way, your assistant can move their hands out of the photograph and allow you to capitalize on the few seconds before the puppy wants to go do something else. Combining the hold and release method with a good squeak should do the trick.
With bigger, more unruly dogs you may want your assistant to hold the dog with a leash and harness. This way, you can get their attention with a treat or toy and they cannot jump on you or run away. It is best to use a harness to hold them back so they do not choke themselves. If you’re feeling extra particular about having a “clean” image, you can clone out the leash later in Photoshop.
Whatever method you choose, make sure you approach your puppies photograph session with patience and positivity. This should be a fun experience for you both. Most puppies love to please their owners, and seeing your joyous reaction when you get the photograph will make them happy too! Remember to reward your model and instill confidence in them. After all, they are the star!