10 Tips for Photographing Dogs in Live Action Outdoor Landscapes

October 15, 2015

It was a day filled with jumping paws, frolicking canines, and fur-flying fun. We anxiously awaited to view the fabulous shots of excitable RAD pups modeling the newest of our fantastic gear, only to find blurry, chaotic shots that looked like a muddy, unfocused mess of fur.
We believe this photo shoot to be sort of an initiation to the big "dogs"--going from the organized, still studio sessions to live action shots of dogs modeling our gear. But we didn't expect such an enormous learning curve!

There are so many aspects to photographing live models well, let alone capturing these shots on models whose fur covers our products and whose excitable attitudes leave few distinguishable and focused shots!

 So, we thought we'd gather up all we learned from our Rad Dog photo shoot and share with you our...

Ten Tips for Photographing Dogs in Live Action Shots

1. Photographing dogs is a game of patience. Don't try to make the shot happen, rather, wait for the shot to happen. Dogs aren't humans; they don't take instruction. The best way to guarantee a nice shot is to put a dog in its natural setting and wait to capture them in action.

2. Less is more. Getting a good shot of one dog is hard enough. Two dogs--nearly impossible! This goes for human companions as well. The fewer people around--and the fewer the distractions--the more likely the dog is to cooperate.

3. No camera if fast enough for a hyper pup. No matter what the shutter speed of your camera, it is not contest against a spastic, crazy dog. So, if you are working with a high-energy pup, it's a good idea to take them for a quick jog or walk prior to the photo shoot to help them calm down come picture time.

4. Try different angles. Even a seemingly boring pose is much more interesting from an unusual angle. Simply taking a picture with the camera looking down on the dog can be dull...that's how we view them all the time. Try to get down to their level and capture their spirit by seeing things the way they see them, on all fours!

5. Play with filters and color correctors. Because dogs were made to blend in with natural landscapes, it can be difficult to see them in their full beauty when competing with an outdoor landscape. Think of a white Shepherd in a snowy field, or a brown Aussie in a pile of leaves; a little color correction can turn this shot from boring to magnificent. Most pet photographers who photograph pets outside, up the saturation and sharpen the image to enhance the photo.

6. Sunny day not ok. For the reasons listed above, an overcast or cloudy day can actually be your friend. That's because the sun can sometimes wash out a dog in a natural setting, and a slightly overcast sky can give the photographer opportunity to play with color.  

7. Have a plan. Deciding ahead of time what sorts of poses, activities and scenery you desire can help bring a calmness to the chaos of a dog photography shoot. Dogs usually take our lead, so if we are relaxed and prepared, they are more likely to follow suit.

8. Bait your dog. Depending on the type of incentives your dog likes best--treats, attention, games--use those as incentive to get your dog to follow instruction. Just use treats sparingly so you don't end up with a roll of pictures of your dog sniffing your pockets.

9. Slow down the action. While action shots are great, it can be difficult to get one where the dog's attention is forward, upright and the dog is in a good position. Not to mention it can leave you out of breath. So, try to mix it up and take some still shots as well, with the dog using props to show action; for example, carrying a large stick or frisbee. Or, opt to snap the photos as the dog comes to a halt, rather than when the dog takes off.

10. Shoot tight. Yes, the doggy breath may be off-putting, but a close shot and close crop leaves less to adjust later and truly captures the personality of the dog--without furiously wagging tails to compete with!

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