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Fotographing Fido…

Alright, as promised, today we are going to chit chat a bit about how to photograph our canine (and feline) pals.  This is going to be rather condensed but it should give you a fair number of tips.  First tip is that although I will mention “rules,”  photography is an art and as with other arts, the rules under some circumstances can be broken and still produce awesome images.

I don’t have one of those fancy cameras, there’s no way I can take quality pictures…

Not true.  I shoot with a 4 year old digital SLR when I’m actually going for nice quality shots and have the time/hands to fidget with and carry a much larger camera.  When I can’t/don’t want to carry/fidget with the big camera, I carry a 2 year old low/mid range point and shoot.  If I’m just casually documenting an experience, it’s just the point and shoot.

Shot with my small point-n-shoot camera

Also shot with my little point and shoot

Basic Composition Tips:

Get Close--use your feet to get somewhat close to your subject, don’t overly rely on using the zoom.. with the point and shoot’s, once you get past the optical zoom distance the quality of the image with “digital zoom” diminishes.  A lot of what makes photos look so nice is getting close and really filling the frame with the subject

Get Low--For pet pictures you want to be on the level of the dog or lower… so kneel down, sit down, lay down etc.  When I’m photographing my dogs I am quite frequently laying on the ground rolling around… while you CAN make taking a shot from above look good, it takes a little more skill to get that type of shot to work well if it’s not done well.

Look before you click— Before you snap that photo take a second to look in the background.. check for poles coming out from behind a head, or other funky things.  If there is a wonky background MOVE!  Change the direction at which you look at the subject, or if you can, ask the subject to move.  Also, check to make sure the camera is level before clicking (unless intentionally skewing the angle).

Take lots of pictures–When I’m snapping photos with the dogs (either point and shoot or DSLR), I take tons of photos and end up using only a small number of them.  Sometimes the lighting is funny, or the dogs turn their heads, or whatever… but since I took so many shots, I know I’ll get at least a handful that are the quality I like.

More advanced (but equally as simple) composition tips:

Rule of thirds (1/3’s)–One of the easiest ways to pick out newbie photography is that the subject of the photo is almost right smack-dab in the center of the image. While this is not unappealing to the human eye, it is not terribly interesting to the human eye either.  Again, there are ways to make it work where the subject is smack-dab in the center.

So what photographers tend to do is follow the rule of 1/3’s. When they look into their view finder or on the viewing screen they break up their image into thirds vertically and horizontally, they will place a main subject on one of the vertices.

So image taking a picture and drawing lines on that image… you ideally want to have a main subject land on one of the vertices (or you can weight the image and have the main subject on one of the thirds (so taking up two vertices).

Sorry don't have any of my canine photos marked up into thirds... so instead you get to look at a lil kid silhouette from Hawaii

Leading Lines–Another technique that is used frequently is the use of lines to lead the viewer’s eye right to your subject. The line can be a tree branch, a railing, a road, a shadow, any type of hard line that leads you in the general direction of the subject. The most common type of image using leading lines are probably the pastoral picture with the gravel driveway leading up to the little farm house sitting on the hill LOL… but this type of small composition tool ads a really interesting sense of purpose to an image … leads the viewer very quickly to the subject. It can add a sense of depth or length…it can be a really interesting tool…. it’s often used to bring the eye of a viewer to a subject further back in the image… but i can be used as an enhancer to close-up images.. to keep they eye focusing on the subject…

In this image i’m using both the rule of thirds and leading lines.. that railing gives a very hard line leading directly to the focus of my picture.

Again no canine example 🙂

Problem solving:

Laser eyes–These happen because the dog’s eyes are dilated and the flash of your camera is reflecting off the receptors in the back of the eyes (science fun fact, these receptors are why dogs see so well in the dark, they have a lot of area to receive light).  To fix this either increase the light in the room if you can or you can try buffering the flash with a piece of paper/tissue/masking tape…or go outside 🙂

Blurry photos–If the subject was NOT in motion then one of two things is happening…YOU were in motion or the camera didn’t/couldn’t focus properly.  If you may have been moving or shaking, try bracing your arm against a steady object or hold the camera against a steady object.   If you are quite certain that you weren’t moving, it may be a focusing problem with the camera.  If you are shooting with a DSLR make sure the lens is set to AF or make sure you take the time to focus it by hand.  If you are shooting with a point and shoot, make sure you give the camera time to focus. You can get the camera to focus by hitting the shutter release button (the button you use to take the photo) 1/2 way the camera will do lots of calculations and one of those things is focus.  So push and hold the button half way and make sure the subject gets focused before pushing the rest of the way down to snap the picture.

Hope these can help ya out! 

EDIT:  Hey Saturday Blog Hop folk, there is a contest happening on my blog right now…  when you comment you are entered into the contest.  If you want to comment but DO NOT WANT to be entered into the contest (for US and Canada) please note that in your comment! See this blog entry for information and rules on the contest!

28 Comments
  1. Great tips. Thank you.

  2. I love getting great photos of the spots. Speaking of which, I need to get a good one of their heads real close together… I need to do that today. lol

  3. Thanks Tena- and I’m sure my future fosters will thank you too lol. For some reason photography is something I just can’t seem to get the hang of, so these tips will really help!

  4. Thanks for the great tips! Does this mean I have to stop blaming my non-fancy camera for my lack of quality photos? Dang.

    • yes ;-P

    • Yeah… not an excuse!! You can get some really nice shots even with point and shoots! You have to make up for the technology by focusing on composition and pushing your camera to do as much as it can 🙂

    • I can even get shots with my cell phone camera that are incredibly nice. There IS skill and a “good eye” involved in making the very most out of your shots, but learning your way around your camera as well as understanding basic composition tips like Tena mentioned can make a huge difference!

      • If i have good lighting (ie not inside) i can get acceptable phone images… but i mess with the settings to get the best that i can (if i have time). Because i’m LAZY most of my tug toy photos that go to facebook are taken from my phone since i can upload directly to FB!

  5. well you basically summed up most the easy points I have wanted to compile a post with. I should snag it if I ever get around to making a post on this subject. But since most of my readers are your readers maybe there is no point. Practice is key, and I like that you put the “my camera is not good enough to take good photos” up first. That’s one of the biggest misconceptions. I shot with one of the first Canon DSLR made for consumers out there. My rebel served me wonderfully for years. I have won contests with images from that camera as well as printed large. Same goes for my point and shoots. It’s all about knowing the equipment you have, and how to get what you want out of it. I read my manual to each of my cameras several times, and learned something new each time, most people don’t even look at that book.
    That first shot is too cute btw
    Anna
    http://www.akginspiration.com

    • There are a lot of things you can do with a DSLR that you simply can’t do (or cant’ do easily) with a point and shoot BUT you can absolutely get quality images from a PNS. I shoot with a 4 (going on 5) year old Rebel EOS … I can’t afford to upgrade the body so I push that awesome little camera to the max so I can get as much out of it as possible. I don’t have a nice macro lens… so instead i use filters to get images that LOOK like I have $1200 lens LOL… if you know the product and the technology well you can do some pretty awesome things while on a budget.

      Thanks that was one of my favorite photos of puppy Rio… I have always really liked the second photo of Risa… I didn’t know how it was framed on the viewing screen because of the sun but it turned out really cute.

  6. I do fairly well with a point-and shoot… though I drool often over the nice super-zoom-ey cameras 🙂
    Gwynn isn’t interested at all in looking at the camera, though. And then he surprised me when we got his picture taken at woofstock by hopping up on the white sheet, doing an ‘epic pose’ and staring up into the camera the woman was holding like he was trying to send a message through his eyes 🙂 clearly i’m just not professional enough for his tastes!

  7. I have a post in the works (an unfinished note I made a while back, lol) that has tips for photographing adoptable pets. I will be sure to ping your post when it eventually publishes. 🙂

  8. I’m not much into the art of photography, but I do love having great photos of my pets! So, begrudginly, I’m learning a little at a time.. 🙂

    • Little by little… your learning will be rewarded by better photos so you’ll get that reinforcement and the learning will happen again 🙂

  9. Those are some terrific tips. I keep hoping there’s hope for developing my skills but most of the time I’m operating on the “dumb luck” principle.

    • I’d say 60% of photography is simply a skill that you can learn…. the other 40% is about having a bit of an eye… so if you can learn the skills… you can improve by 60% LOL! 🙂

  10. Thanks for the tips; I can get decent pics of the dogs- the cats?? Not so much 🙁

  11. Super great tips! I’d like to get better at taking pictures of my girls, Lucille and Maggie, so that everyone falls in love with them, too.

    Dropping by on the blog hop today. If you have a few seconds to drop by my blog, please leave a comment and enjoy the cat video. Talking cats – can’t get enough of them! http://www.pet-peeves.org

    Have a great Father’s Day!

  12. Wow! What great tips! I once took a photography class, but the way you describe the vertices made so much more sense to me. And, to think I never would have found you if not for the Saturday Blog Hop! Thanks!

    • Glad it makes sense! I taught photography to middle-school students and had to really think about the way i describe things 🙂

  13. Good tips! I need a new point and shoot, as my current camera does not capture motion well AT ALL! It’s the worst digital I’ve owned, and the most expensive. Funny how that works out…

    http://parkerskye.blogspot.com/

    • That would be terribly frustrating! I’ve had really good luck with Canon Powershots… my last point and shoots have been powershots and both were able to get some quality images (these were the mid-level powershot, not the fancy-pantsy bulky powershot)

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