Say Cheese! Tips to Capture Your Pooch's Best Pose

Not every dog owner can afford to hire a pet photographer to capture that sweet canine face for a holiday card, framed photo or refrigerator art. Successful pet photographers have a lot of tricks (and treats) up their sleeves, but in this digital age, you can take great at-home photos of your pets—provided you follow a few tips from the pros.

Roberta Braun Kingston has been a professional pet photographer in Charlotte, North Carolina and Charleston, South Carolina for more than a decade. She is known for her ability to showcase an animal’s personality—whether it’s a canine, a cat, a bird, or a rabbit—and showcases samples of her pet photography online at www.Berta-O.com.

“Patience + love = one great pet photo shoot,” she says. “Don't try to rush through a photo shoot if you want really great pictures. And don't get discouraged if the perfect results aren’t evident the first time.”

One of the key elements of a great pet photo is the background. If you’re using a blank wall as a background, clear items out of the shot that could detract from the photo.

“Select blankets without checkers or patterns because they can conflict with animals' beautiful coats,” says Kingston. “Outdoor photos are a lot easier because you don't have to worry about the right flash or lighting.

Without a professional flash, indoor photos are more challenging, as it is harder to regulate the lighting. If you must shoot your pet’s photo indoors, Kingston suggests turning on all the lights in the room and closing the blinds to cut down on shadows.

“Schedule your photo shoot early in the morning before the sun comes out in full force or in the evening when the sun begins to set,” she says.

Using the right camera mode can make or break a photo, too.

“Always keep your camera on "sport mode"—a fast shutter speed—indoors and out to ensure you will not miss a shot,” says Kingston. “Prepare to take multiple shots for each pose. For every 10-20 shots you’ll get at least three to four great photos.”

For novice photographers, Kingston says to keep the camera on auto focus and set it for the highest resolution.

“You can always decrease the resolution, but it is harder to increase it and still have the photos look good,” Kingston says. “Any camera that is six mega pixels or higher will take a great photo. The higher resolution the camera, the better.”

Possibly the most important element of a great pet photo is getting your pet to look at the camera. Kingston uses the power of sound to get the shot.

“Most animals are treat or squeaky toy motivated but some dogs are not, and for them, you may have to make high pitch noises or loud, banging noises to get them to react. Try not to scare them, though,” she says.

Ready to get the shot? Grab your gear (and your pet) and keep these top 7 tips in mind:

  1. Timing is everything.  Wait until grooming day or soon after to take photos.
     
  2. Have the right gear.   Use an SLR (single lens reflex) camera instead of a digital point-and-shoot camera. Just because SLR cameras are the choice of the pros doesn't mean you need the most expensive one. With recent price drops, you can get a 14.2 Megapixel SLR that also shoots HD video for less than $500.
     
  3. Set the stage.  Drape a blanket over your couch for a background. A solid color is best, as it's less likely to conflict with your pet's coat.
     
  4. Lighting, lighting, lighting.  Turn on all lights and close the blinds. For outdoor shots, schedule your photo shoot early in the morning or as the sun begins to set. Shooting at noon--when the sun is at its harshest--is difficult.
     
  5. Capture the moment with clarity.  Keep your camera on "sport mode" to avoid blurring adorable faces. Use the camera's auto focus, and set it for the highest resolution.
     
  6. Shoot fast.  Take multiple shots for each pose--most SLR cameras have a "rapid fire" mode that can capture 5 or 6 frames per second.
     
  7. A picture is worth a thousand squeaks.  Try squeaky toys to motivate your pet to look at the camera. Few things in life are more adorable than a pup who knows it's playtime. 

Quiet on the set. Action! Got a great pet photo? Share it in the comments!

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