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Dog Photography - Level 2

Point and Shoot

It’s easier than ever to take fantastic photos of your dog using today’s new-and-improved technology.
By Laurie Meehan-Elmer

Never before has it been simpler to take great photographs of your dogs. The quality of digital point-and-shoot cameras has improved dramatically, and prices have dropped just as dramatically. Almost anyone can create a properly exposed photograph. Plus, many cameras are small enough to easily fit in a shirt pocket.

With digital technology, you can view your results immediately, and print or share only the best images. Within minutes, you can share your photographs with friends and family across the state or around the world via the Internet. It’s easy to make prints on a desktop printer or upload image files to your favorite photo lab, then have your prints delivered or ready to pick up the next time you visit the drug store. What could be more fun than using this amazing technology to capture and share those special moments in your dog’s life?

Pondering pixels
Pixels are the tiny blocks of color and tone that make up a digital photograph. Pixel count is related to image resolution. However, it would take a separate article to fully explain the relationship between pixels and resolution.

At first glance, it would seem that more pixels mean a higher resolution resulting in a better photo. However, the idea that more is better is misleading. Sometimes, more is just more. If you will be making 4-by-6-inch prints or sharing images online, you don’t need more than two megapixels (one megapixel equals one million pixels). A fantastic 11-by-14-inch print is possible from a six- or seven-megapixel image.

The camera as a tool
Camera technology has come a long way, but the technology isn’t what makes a great photograph; it’s the creative eye behind the camera that does. Understanding composition and light goes a long way toward improving your images. To get started taking first-class photographs of your dogs, here are a few tips:

See eye to eye. The biggest mistake most pet owners make is shooting their dog from their own standing eye level. For the most compelling portraits, avoid towering over your dog. Get down to your dog’s eye level so you can make the most of your dog’s eyes.

Look beyond the target. When composing a photo, consider the entire frame, not just the center. For example, don’t place your dog’s head dead center in the frame. Photographers refer to this as a bull’s-eye composition. This leaves unnecessary space above the head and often on the sides, as well.

Instead, follow the rule of thirds when composing portraits. The rule of thirds is a convention used by artists and photographers to create more dynamic and pleasing compositions. Imagine your frame is divided into thirds both vertically and horizontally, as if you placed a tic-tac-toe grid over it. Instead of placing your pet’s face in the center of the frame (the middle square), try moving your camera down a bit to place it in the top third of the frame.

Fill the frame. For traditional portraits, get close enough to your dog to fill as much of the frame with your pet as possible. This may mean using the zoom feature on your camera or physically moving closer. It may also mean turning your camera from the natural horizontal position to a vertical position. By eliminating most of the background, you eliminate the distractions that can ruin an otherwise wonderful photograph. Trash cans, laundry baskets and tool sheds rarely provide a positive contribution to a portrait.

However, sometimes the setting helps tell the story. If that’s the case, by all means, include it. A beautiful beach, a lush green park or your own backyard can make wonderful backdrops for portraits. The key is to include only the features that add to the story. Shoot from an angle that eliminates any unsightly distractions. If your dog is running or jumping, leave more space in front of it than behind so it appears to be moving into – instead of out of – the frame.

Light it right. Photo is the Latin root for “light.” “Photograph” means the recording of light. Many of today’s digital point-and-shoot cameras come with a built-in light meter and pre-programmed exposure modes to help you deal with challenging lighting conditions, such as back lighting, bright sunlight and low-light situations. Read your camera manual, and understand how and when to use these handy features.

Say cheese
I’m often asked how I get dogs to sit still for photographs. The truth is, most don’t sit still, at least not for long. Thankfully, your camera only needs a fraction of a second to capture an image. Try the following tips to make the job easier.

  1. Make sure your dog has burned off any excess energy. A dog who’s been cooped up all day while you’ve been at the office is unlikely to sit still until after a good walk or game of fetch.

  2. Do your best to minimize distractions and keep your dog’s attention on you. It’s unlikely your dog will look into the lens if kids are standing around eating ice cream cones.

  3. Most important, keep a supply of bribes handy. Ask a family member or friend to stand behind you and entice your dog to pay attention with a favorite treat or toy.

These principles aren’t exclusive to pet portraits; they’re the same guidelines used to shoot any subject, including people. With these tips, the convenience of today’s digital cameras and a little practice, you can create wonderful portraits that reflect the joy your dogs bring to your life.

Laurie Meehan-Elmer is a freelance photographer and writer who specializes in photographing pets. She lives in Seminole, Fla., with her husband, David (a veterinarian), and a house full of pets. For more information, visit

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Stephanie - 247306   Easton, PA

12/13/2013 10:00:11 PM

i'd like to take up photography as a hobby so this was a great article for me.

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Bec&Maya   Edmonton, AB

11/11/2012 6:42:50 PM

how do we submit photos for the extra credit?

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Bec&Maya   Edmonton, AB

10/4/2012 12:54:42 AM

great advice!

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