Shooting Man's Best Friend

Awful title, isn't it?  Hear me out, though!  

As far back as I can remember, I've always had at least one dog in the house.  When I went to college, it was really tough for me to not have a four-legged friend around with me, so adopting a dog was one of the first things I did when I graduated.  Now, I can't go anywhere without having a litte, 30-pound ball of fur hot on my heels.

Because I'm around dogs so much, they naturally become the subjects of many of my photos.  They're some of the best, and worst, subjects to shoot, so I thought this might give me a chance to impart a little knowledge on you dear readers on getting great shots of dogs!  

A note:  I'm fairly certain these tips are applicable to cats, as long as they let you take photos of them, but my main focus is on dogs because they're way more friendly and loveable.  This is opinion, folks.

One of the hardest things to do when shooting a dog is capturing outside of its four main "modes":

  1. Sleeping
  2. Eating
  3. Sleeping
  4. Playing

Because of this, capturing a pup when it's not paying attention to you requires quickness and stealth.  My first tip for shooting dogs is...

1. Use a fast camera and shoot in ideal conditions!

I know, this is pretty much a cop-out "tip" but it's true.  If you want to get great shots of dogs, you need to use a fast camera in an environment with a lot of light (or lighting, depending on your use of flash).  Using a fast camera is the difference between a blurry shot, like this:

And tack-sharp, action-oriented shots, like these:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Set your ISO to an appropriate speed, so as not to get a ton of noise, and make sure you're shooting the dogs in sunlight.  Doing this, along with an appropriate aperture, will allow you to capture the animal mid-jump, or running right at you, instead of get a blur o' fur coming at the camera.  Another way to make sure you're getting the dog sharp in the image is to make sure the focal point is on the dog.  I realize that this might sound like a no-brainer, but if you're using AI SERVO to focus, you run the risk of catching an incorrect focal point.  For anyone that doesn't know AI SERVO is a Canon feature that continually re-checks the focus and ensures that the camera is focusing on the correct point, no matter if the subject is moving, or remaining still.

2) Get Low!

Except for my friend's 160 pound Great Dane, there aren't many dogs that can look a photographer in the eye.  If you don't want to take hundreds of pictures of dogs looking up from the ground, don't be afraid to change your level.  Get down on the ground, the lower the better, and shoot square at the puppy.  Heck, get lower than the dog and shoot up!  Few things create a cooler (or cuter) effect than take a wide-angle lens and sticking it right in a dogs face.  You get to see what it's like to be a dog, and see things from their angle.  In addition to this, there are few things more attractive to a dog, then sticking their nose in the front of a camera lens.

Have fun with the pup while you're down at their level, and make sure you show your appreciation for their help.  You certainly won't need to get a model release from them, but they won't turn down a nice pat on the head and a quick scratch on the belly!