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Tips & Advice

Dog Photography tips by Rhian White

Studio portraits of dogs can be very nice, but images of dogs on their walks where they like to be really reflect their true character and help create lasting memories that you will want to cherish forever.

Rhian White of Brighton Dog Photography is an outdoor dog photography specialist whose main aim is to capture images of dogs where they are having the most fun. She meets with dogs and their owners in the dog's favourite place, where they are going to have the best time. 

Rhian White Photography

That way, the dog's enjoyment will come through in the images produced. She specialises in natural images of dogs playing, in action or simply enjoying their surroundings. If you would like some tips about dog photography, she has written a post on her techniques.

"Photographing dogs in the outdoors can often be a challenging task, but it can be one which is ultimately very rewarding. In this article I'm going to discuss some techniques and points to remember that help me get that perfect shot.

Patience

It might seem silly to start with a point that has nothing to do with my camera nor with the dog, but having patience is always at the forefront of my mind. Dogs don't always do or go where you want them to (I frequently only have one hour in which to get a selection of shots of a dog I have only just met, so the pressure is on) and it makes no sense getting frustrated. The more patient you are to get the shots you are after, the more likely you will get them. It helps if you try and practice with the dog little and often. Depending on the dog they will get bored, and if they do put the camera away, go and do what the dog wants for a bit and then come back and try again. Realise that it can take many attempts to get what you are after, so patience with yourself and your dog is paramount.


Enthusiasm

On my dog photography workshops I am constantly encouraging others to be as enthusiastic as they possibly can. If your dog is not the best at sitting still for a photo, but they do sit still for a few seconds, then praise, praise and then praise some more. Dogs want to please you and they will be very happy if you tell them they did a good job, even if it was just for one second. The next time they will be more likely to sit and you will have a better opportunity to get the shot you are after. Even if they only half do what you wanted, go crazy and make them think they did they best job in the world!

Where they like to go, not you

Even if you dream of taking a photo of your dog running through the shallow waters at low tide, there is very little point in trying to get this shot if your dog hates the water. You mustn't get them stressed just so you can practice your photography. You will get the best results by taking them where they like to be the most. If this happens to be rolling round in cow pats in the countryside so be it! If your dog is enjoying the experience then this will come through in your photography. Concentrate on making it their best day ever, every time. They will learn to love the camera.

Lighting

If you aim to take photographs during the ‘golden hour' (approximately one hour after sunrise and one hour before sunset) you will stand a much better chance of achieving good lighting and a beautiful exposure. During the middle of the day is to be avoided, especially on a sunny day in the middle of summer and especially if your dog has black fur. The contrast between the strong lights and darks can be too much for many cameras. Softer, golden lighting looks so much better and your dog will appreciate being out and about when it is cooler too.

Get on the ground

A lot of my most successful shots are taken from the dog's point of view. In some cases where the dog is very small this will mean lying flat on the ground so I always make sure I wear old clothes. If you do have a wide angle lens this would be the best time to use it as you can get some interesting angles of dogs looming over you.

Context

I like portraits of dogs where they take up most of the frame, but I also love images where you see the dog in the context of where they are. This tells the story if what adventure the dog was on and it can also be more interesting than a simple portrait. Get creative and use your surroundings.

Background

I try to place dogs in front of a background that complements the colour of their fur. It's important that there is plenty of contrast between the dog and the background so the dog stands out. I also like backgrounds that have nice textures and patterns, such a old brick walls and graffiti, but also more natural settings such a long grass, wild flowers, rocks on the beach etc.

Get to know locations

There are always going to be certain times of the year when certain locations are more interesting than at other times. A local park in Brighton, for example, is awash with Bluebells in April/May, and as long as you make sure your dog does not trample all over them these can provide a beautiful setting. In the summer there are fields upon fields of wild flowers in the fields. Obviously in Autumn there are the browns, oranges and reds of fallen leaves which can be spectacular.

Action, or the lack thereof

Getting shots of dogs in action can be some of the most fun to get, but if you have a dog that doesn't like to move very much when you want them to, it can be quite tricky. Of course it helps if you have a camera that can capture dogs at speed, especially for the really fast ones.
My rule of thumb to get the best action shots is to shoot the dog running towards you but slightly off to one side and get them running towards the sun. Get on the floor or use a monopod for extra balance.
Mostly I shoot in Continuous Focus bursts, but sometimes I will focus on a single point and shoot a quick burst when the dog enters the area where I have focused.

If you have a dog that can and does like to run, but just not when you are asking them to (don't try and make a poor old lame doggy run around) I have a little trick that makes them move. You will need another two people (unless they are able to sit and stay and wait for you to tell them they can come) to help you. Get the first person to take the dog to where you want them to start from and when you are ready get the other person to run away as fast as they can, but starting from where you are. The first person should then let the dog go and run out of shot and the dog should run after the second person and you can get your action shot. I've never been in a situation when this hasn't worked, so give it a go.

Post-production

I use Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop for the post-production of all of my images. Lightroom is fantastic for editing a large number of images quickly and for those where I feel some extra work is needed, I move over to Photoshop for some extra tweaks. Whether this is removing the odd bit of eye gloop, dust or shadows, Photoshop is amazing at allowing me to quickly edit my images using only a very small number of tools.
Generally I only use the Stamp and Spot Healing Brush tools, but I also utilise the powerful Shadows/Highlights function too which can turn some images I'm not too fussed about in to ones where I am extremely pleased. I really love colourful and vibrant images so back in Lightroom I tend to up the Vibrance and Saturation, crop where appropriate and that's it.

Lastly, it goes without saying really but the more you practice and search for the best times to photograph your dog, the better. Be prepared to have lots of unsuccessful shots, but they only serve to make the better ones all the more satisfying to achieve.

For more information on Rhian White or to contact her, have a look at the following links:-

www.brightondogphotography.co.uk

www.facebook.com/brightondogphotography

Or have a look at Rhian's Google Plus profile

For more general tips, check out our Tips and Advice.

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