How to Photograph Dogs

Show Champion Dachhund photographed by Noami Estment of OV&P

Dogs add so much fun to life, don’t you agree? And to photo shoots for that matter . . . although there’s no denying that they can be challenging! Perhaps the most important thing to pack is a big dose of patience, along with your camera and a zoom lens, together with your flash. If you’ll be shooting outside then a reflector may also be a good idea, as long as you have someone who can assist you by holding it, and the dogs can be depended on to be relatively still some of the time. Depending on the nature and training of the dogs you’ll be photographing, treats may be helpful too. And by the time you’re done, you can bet that all of you will be ready for a long drink of water!

During my recent trip to Cape Town, I was delighted to photograph 3 Dachshunds on location for my aunt, including the show champion above. As dogs go, I must say that these are feisty, fabulous and full of life. Fortunately my Mom was with us, so she also helped to keep them more or less in control. Being in a public park, they needed to be on their leads when other visitors passed by with their dogs, but could run free in between and play to their hearts’ content. As with all outdoor shoots, timing is crucial and we were blessed with beautiful late afternoon light. It’s key to position yourself with the sun behind you so that it can shine across the dogs’ coats and create a catch light in their eyes. We didn’t have extra hands to bring a reflector into play, and this would have been tricky anyway because they were darting around. Instead I used fill in flash to lift natural shadows cast by the sunlight.

A family of Dachshunds photographed by Naomi Estment of OV&P

Fortunately the park where we were shooting was quite expansive, so we moved towards the middle, allowing plenty of grass and gorgeous teeny flowers to form backgrounds for the photos all around us. For the best perspectives, it’s important to get down low and shoot as much on a level with the dogs as you can, which pretty much means lying down in the case of Dachshunds. Find the balance between doing this and also ensuring that the frame is filled with your background of choice, which you would ideally blow by using a wide aperture to create a shallow depth of field.

As with family shoots, when photographing more than one dog, I love to create a vibrant portfolio that features photos of each individually as well as combinations of them all, including action shots of them running around and playing together. Apart from capturing their beauty and personality, my goal for a great shoot is to convey the essence of joy. In that sense, dogs are perfect. Surely no subject is more in tune with living in the moment!

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