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How to Take Great Pictures of Dogs

Taking pictures of dogs is something that every dog lover loves to do. Just look at all of the people that turn dogs into Instagram celebrities. In this article I will go over the basics of taking stunning photos of pets, whether you are an aspiring professional pet photographer, or just want to take great photos of animals for your own personal enjoyment.

First step for taking great dog photos is the lighting. If you have the environment with soft, even lighting, then you are 75% on your way to getting a great photo. The gear is also a part of making fine prints, but the lighting and composition is absolutely necessary to create a spectacular image that makes that ‘wow’ factor.

If your goal is to take photographs of your dog outside, then I would recommend doing it in a time window of 2 hours before sunset, or a couple of hours after sunset. In a perfect world, you want to avoid midday as the sun produce harsh and unflattering light. There are exceptions such as overcast, nice tree shade, etc. Rules are meant to be broken but if you are just starting out, you can save a lot of camera shutter clicks and up your ratio of keepers by shooting in the above mentioned time windows.

The Camera Gear

For large prints that look like they are real, you are going to need at least a Dslr camera body, and you are also going to need a sharp lens. If you are on a budget, I recommend the 50mm f/1.8 from Nikon or Canon, it’s a prime lens and can produce amazing results. If you are on a budget, spend up for the lens over the camera body.

When looking for a camera body to take photos of dogs, look for one that has at least capture 5 frames per second if you want to catch some action shots. Stick with prime lenses if your goal is to take sharp photos.

How to get Sharp Photos of your Pet

Technique of holding the camera lens and shutter speed is crucial to getting a great shot. I’m not going to go over which settings you should be using in depth, but you should be using manual settings.

If you are using a 50mm lens, you want a shutter speed of at least 1/100 sec  for animals that will sit still, which is rare. I personally never fall below 1/200 sec unless I am using flash, and when using telephoto lenses to catch dogs in motion I recommend 1/1000 sec or faster.

This goes for all photography, but you always want to aim for the lowest ISO setting possible for sharp photos. Some camera bodies handle higher ISO’s better than others, the best pictures will be at the lowest ISO settings.

Every lens has a sweet spot of sharpness that is superior to other apertures, and from my experience it’s usually 2-3 stops down from wide open. For example the Nikon 50mm 1.8 gets sharp at f/2.8 and even sharper at f/4.0. Bottom line is if you are looking to get the most out of your lens as far as sharpness, and you have the light for a fast shutter speed, then don’t shoot wide open.

When composing a photograph of a pet, you want to aim to nail the focus on the eyes, and preferably you want the eyes to be looking directly at the lens. In my opinion this leads to more ‘keeper’ images that you or a client will be willing to print out and hang on a wall.

Of course these are all general guide lines and rules, and they are meant to be broken from time to time. If they weren’t, nothing new and amazing would ever happen.

You don’t need the best gear available to take great dog photos, but it will increase your ‘keeper’ ratio if you have the right gear for the specific shot you are trying to create.

Thank you to Denver Pet Photography for these great tips and tricks.

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