The average lifespan of a dog is about 13 years. I am one of those overly attached dog moms who gets emotional thinking about that. I have always said that getting a dog was like setting yourself up for heartache because you are going to love them too hard and lose them too soon. It's just not fair. Even knowing this we went ahead and adopted our favorite guy, Hudson. Already, just two years in, I love him more than I ever knew I could. One way I like to toss the short life span out of the picture and focus on now is by documenting his little life. The biggest question I get from family and friends is always, " How in the WORLD do you get such great photos of your dog? You get him to do the craziest things!!" So I finally decided to let you guys in on my top secret photo tricks. Here are 10 easy ways to improve the photos you take of your pet.
1. Safety is always first. No matter how cute you think a certain photo may be, you must always have your dogs best interest at heart. Does he dart off when you remove his leash? Is he skittish of people and may run away if someone approaches him unexpectedly? Never put your dog in the position of making a choice his mind cannot truly understand the consequences of. You would much rather see his tacky looking leash in your photo than some of the other scary options.
2. Break out your nice camera. You don't have to have the latest DSLR camera, but sometimes an iPhone just doesn't give your pets the justice they deserve.
3. Use motivation treats. This is an important one. Some days I can get Hudson to do whatever the heck I want him to because he is in a charming mood. Other days he runs circles around me, silently mocking me for thinking I could get anything out of him without having something to offer in return. I'm not talking about milkbones here. You need to bust out the big guns.Hot dogs, ham and turkey always work best for me. If you have something your dog really loves it's a lot easier to get him to sit, stay and wait while you snap your cute photo. Milkbones and carrots are ok, but they won't give you the same attention you will get with a special treat they don't have all the time. Reward them as you go, too. They need to know they are working for something great!
4. Don't focus on perfection. One fall afternoon I followed my dog around for 15 minutes, snapping so many awesome photos. The true masterpiece though, came totally by chance. Hudson laid down to take a five second rest and SNAP! I captured a still moment so sweet, it reminded me of his puppy years. Some of the best photos you can take are the ones completely unplanned and natural.
5. Get them in action. Of course you want the cute, my dog looks like a model photos, but we all know that is probably not how they usually act. Capture their true personality by throwing a ball and snapping photos as they are running back to you, or sneak a shot of a quick shake off after a hot summer day's swim. Those are the photos you will appreciate.
6. Make it a game! Whenever I know I'm taking Hudson to a pretty place, I bring three things-my DSLR, treats and his rope. I swear he knows the rules by now: take some cute photos for mommy, get yummy treats and a nice game of fetch. I'm happy, he's happy! Your dog will start associating picture time with fun, happy playtime.
7. Get a tripod. Sometimes I'm a little shaky at the balancing act. I can take a clearer looking photo by having my camera on the tripod so I only have to worry about pushing a button and holding the treat. It's hard to do both at once without a trusty tripod! It is definitely worth the inexpensive investment, especially for posed shots.
8. Make a fool of yourself. Sometimes just saying my dogs name won't cut it. On occasion I have to break out my best high pitched baby voice, "Bubby Booyyyy!!!!! HII Hudson! Who's the best dog in the whole world? There's a good dog!!!" And if that doesn't lead to them getting over excited and running at you full force to shower you with love and kisses, then in the very least you should have at least gotten some eye contact for your photo. :p
9. Read your camera manuals. The best camera in the world won't give you an amazing photo of your dog if you don't know how to use it. Knowledge is power! There are some great tutorials online, too! (Here's a couple of my favorites- DSLR for Dummies from Decor and the Dog and I Have a DSLR Camera, Now What? from Two Twenty One ) Practice makes perfect, people!!
10. Avoid frustration. In the end, it's just a photo. It is never worth yelling at the dog and getting yourself worked up because he isn't being the model puppy you want him to be. It's OK. Tomorrow is a new day. Never take your frustration out on your furry friend because of their lack of photo skills. They are dogs, and there is a communication gap there- try to remember that. Taking nice photos of your crazy, on the go, full of energy pet is hard work! It takes patience, practice, lots of treats and even more love.
I hope this help you in your future pet photography endeavors! I don't claim to be a professional, but I do love practicing on my sweet pup! Even if you aren't an obsessed dog lover like I am, snap some photos anyway! You will appreciate having them to look back on. Give your furry children an extra behind the ear scratch just from me! Can't wait to see your photos!