Does this Kong make my teeth look big?

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I’m thinking about starting a weekly, or maybe monthly, post on taking photos of your dogs for all of you readers who keep wishing in the comments box that you could take great photos of your dogs too.  The good news is – you can!

These handy tip posts will not be very technical, because, umm, I am not very technical.  But I’ll try to give you some hints about how to improve your rate of success when photographing your dogs.

The photos in this post were all taken with a Canon 30D DSLR, and a 70-200 F/4-5.6 lens.  That’s a telephoto lens and there’s your tip #1 – when photographing dogs being active, a telephoto allows you grab the action without dogs being right on top of you.  Because when they are being active on top of you, it hurts.

I’m not much of a cropper.  I am lazy about cropping photos and prefer to just frame them correctly in the first place.  That means I take a LOT of shots.  If you do any photography, you know about the rule of thirds.  If not, go read it right now.

Ella will wait while you do, and silently judge you for it.
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Don’t try to put your dog smack in the center of the frame all the time.  Sometimes the more interesting photos come from letting the dog be somewhere else in the frame.  It has the effect of being a little more dramatic.

I am Piper.  I am dramatic.
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I am Tweed.  I am irritated that I have to keep bringing this Kong™ up the hill.
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Speaking of hills … the most common problem people seem to have when it comes to taking dog pictures is that they want to stand up there at their full height of 5 foot whatever and shoot down at the dog.  While this can work sometimes:

Hmmm … there seems to be a lens in my ear
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(this photo was NOT taken with a telephoto, but rather a wide angle lens)

… it tends to make for a boring shot.  If you want to see dogs like they really are, and to make the shot more dynamic, you have to get down at their level.  But this sucks when the ground is wet.  So today, I threw the Kong down a hill and crouched at the top to get shots of them running back up over the crest of the hill.

See, now we’re eye level to one another, and I am still dry :)
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And while I’m crouching here, I can just swivel my torso to the right and take a head shot of the world’s laziest dog, who is just standing at the top of the hill thinking about how stupid his siblings are for frantically running up and down it.

This shot is straight out of the camera, incidentally, no editing except for a very slight colour bump to bring out the real blue of his eye.
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The other advantages of your handy telephoto lens:

1) No argument spit on your camera and/or person
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2) Finn does not soak you when he does this.
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Speed-challenged dogs like Tweed can make your life easier
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But even Zippy Piper can be captured successfully with a little practice
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But you’ll never catch Dexter, because he’s hiding behind two blades of grass and is INVISIBLE.
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So remember – get down on your dog’s level and try capturing anything other than the straight-on shot!  You might be surprised at what comes out of your camera afterward.

YOU might be surprised at what I left on your rug. XOXO
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Is this kind of thing helpful?  Let me know!

ETA:  I’m sorry I cannot help those of you who are taking pictures with point and shoot cameras, as I never really use one and I’m not familiar with them.  I tend to shoot in aperture-priority mode on my DSLR, at about F/4.5 or 5 and set the ISO depending on the amount of light available.  I rarely shoot action in fully manual mode.  See?  Not very technical ;-)

Comments

  1. TFL, you’re a freak of nature. You make me laugh with EVERY. SINGLE. POST. That just ain’t right.

    By the way, LOVE the new site. ;)

  2. Yes, a funny and helpful post! Over the past year or so, I have used your photos as ‘tips’ for how to take photos of my dogs. My poor dogs languish in the computer though!
    kristy

  3. Yes, very helpful, even though I can’t aspire to a DSLR with telephoto! My husband has one, though, that I might be able to borrow once in awhile….

  4. Very helpful! The biggest problem I have though is gettng my camera to catch the action without blurring out. I’ll have to try the “action” setting. I have a point-and-shoot-for-dummys camera. You can manually change the settings but it takes so long to go through the darn menu that a shot can be gone by the time you get it set!

  5. a. Yea!! I got three posts in one day (since I missed them over the weekend)!

    b. The photography tips do seem very helpful, and are entertaining at the same time.

    c. Except for Piper’s hillbilly teeth (and even they are white), your dogs have the whitest teeth I have ever seen! Is that from feeding raw?

  6. Yes – love the photo tips! Can you also mention what setting your camera was on (if you know for a particular shot) and what the other settings were, like shutter speed, etc? I find it helpful to put a picture to certain settings sometimes.
    Love the blog – rarely comment, but check it every day for your hilarious posts!

  7. ktbug ladydid says:

    This advice (and the photos!) is excellent! I do have one question though….is there ANY hope for catching good dog shots with a simple point and shoot digital camera?

  8. Very helpful post! I envy your ability to take great photos of your dogs.

  9. Great post, Food Lady!

    Coincidentally, I wrote a similar post to the mcp actions blog as a guest blogger last week, about photographing dogs and mentioned some of the same tips. If you’re curious – http://www.mcpactions.com/blog/2010/03/15/8-tips-photograph-pets/

    just for fun, I happen to disagree on the rule of thirds, I think its a rule meant to be broken :P Its been pointed out to me that I often tend to follow it unintentionally. But I also love a good centered shot.

    Also I totally get a kick out of every invisible Dexter shot :P He’s awesome!

  10. Tips like this are great! I prefer they be easy to understand like this. Unfortunately, I don’t have a camera at this point of time. They keep getting stolen but I’ll remember these tips in the future.

  11. Thank you. Great tips. I need tons of help taking pix of my dogs. I love your new site.

  12. Why aperture-priority as opposed to shutter for action shots?

    I usually shoot manual for action and mess around with the other business for still stuff. Maybe why mine not as good?

    And for the record, I crop and I’m not ashamed. :-)

  13. Thanks for sharing. That was definitely helpful! :-)

  14. Very helpful! And thank you for sharing what lens you use =) I also LOVE my telephoto lens and mostly use it. (It is annoying when I’m trying to get a good shot of something and can’t get far enough AWAY from it… You will often see me standing on my coffee table, my car, climbing a hill…) I do love to lay in the grass to get those “dog’s eye view” pictures. Fun!

  15. Yes, very helpful. I’ve admired your pictures for months now. Question: How can I tell if a lens is fast? I’m using a Canon EF-S18-200mm f/3.5-5.6 on a Rebel body. I have trouble getting crisp action shots. The auto focus can’t seem to keep up. Also, how do you get those bright faces and sparkly eyes on your outdoor shots. Do you use a fill flash outside?

    Love your site. Keep it coming.

  16. …Almost forgot. Your dogs must love looking at the camera. Most do not. They see it as a big eyeball giving them the stink-eye and they look away. Any suggestions on how to get around that? I do the dog photos at our local shelter, and some dogs will not look at the camera no matter what.

    Toodles,
    L

  17. Thank you, thank you, thank you! Guess I’m using the right lens, but didn’t know about the aperture setting. I’ll try it!

  18. I love the photo tips! Thanks so much for sharing. Love your website, and your crazy, expressive dogs that make such wonderful subjects too!

  19. @lori, Bribery helps! I think a lot of the dogs (at least, the random dog park dogs) are staring at cookies and not quite at the camera.

  20. Totally agree with the first post by Dave! :)

  21. My teenage daughter is an aspiring photographer! I would love for her to get involved in photographing other peoples pets, so your tips of the trade are very helpful, and I am going to direct her to your blog! And, your tips are helpful for me also, an ordinary photographer! Thank you.

  22. Good tips.

  23. Thank you, very helpful info. I’ve also used some of your tips from the Border Collie Boards about shooting dark dogs. Every little bit helps.

  24. TY TFL! and thank you for including 2 beautiful Aussies in todays lesson. ;)

  25. Great post, and definitely helpful! It’s tips like this that have really pushed me to improve my photography. I must agree – I’m in love with my telephoto lens, so much so that it’s usually the one strapped on my camera, and rarely do I switch to a smaller / closer one. Maybe partially because I fail at getting good close-up shots, though that could be because my close-up lens isn’t the greatest, but tips for that would rock anyway :)

  26. Wow! You get a lot out of the f4 – I’ve been coveting that lens in f2 going on 2 yrs, now. (Indoor dog sport photography being the goal.)

    Pia – think “light”, as in, can’t never have too much of it around b&w dogs…

  27. Great post–even though I have a point and shoot, maybe one day…One question–how much editing and image adjustment do you do? I’m kind of lazy with my photo taking and am wondering if I have to get into doing a lot of post production to get good quality shots.

    The tips really do help even with my crummy camera. I guess my biggest challenge will be remembering to take it out with me when I take out the dogs!

    Are all the tips going to be classified under “big air photography”? It would be great to find them all at once if I do get the DSLR of my dreams!

  28. Great tips!!! thank you! I noticed that I like the pictures that come out with my zoom lens (nikon 55-200) but I’ve never thought to try it on Darwin, I’ve always used my18-55 which has turned out decent pictures but nothing THAT great. Now I know the secret! Looking forward to more tips! and pictures of the pooches! they (and your writing) crack me up!

  29. Thanks that is helpful. My merle color sheltie alot of times is washed out. Ive tried different filters, doesnt really help. Any advice? thanks, Diana

  30. Great tips! I would LOVE to see more posts like this one. Thank you for sharing.

  31. Bev Johnson says:

    thanks Foo lady nice gifty… got mine today

  32. Jenn Hine says:

    Yeah. I can’t wait for more tips … I love, love, love your pics!!!!

  33. Jenn Hine says:

    Also, what kind of phot editing software do you use ?

  34. LOVE, LOVE, LOVE this post!!! You take such incredibly great photos, thanks so much for sharing some of your knowledge! I don’t yet have a DSLR, but am on my way to gaining the courage to grab one. Posts like this one inspire me to hurry up with it. Thanks!

  35. i have nothing good to add except….

    Could Eella be any more freakishly photogenic? Poor Finneus destined to sad plain red dog obscurity behind the beauty that is ‘La.

  36. I think the vast majority of these suggestions are also very helpful for anyone with a point and shoot camera. Getting down on their level, rule of 3rds, etc.

    I have a point and shoot. Ok so I have a fancy point and shoot (I’ve seen it classified as a DSLR-like camera as it has many more manual controls than a standard point and shoot), but still it’s just a point and shoot and while the quality of photos I take aren’t nearly as awesome as ones taken with a DSLR, they come out really good for the camera quality.

    Since you can’t get a telephoto lens for a point and shoot, a super zoom camera is the way to go! I have an 18x zoom on my camera, so I can stand back from the action and still get good shots.

    I never use the action mode. I hate it. The pictures all come out grainy. My trick? Take LOTS OF PHOTOS. Tons of them. Most point and shoots have a feature where you can just keep holding down the button and it will keep snapping pictures until you release it. I get a bunch of blurred photos, but I also get some really awesome action shots.

    To Lori, in case you bop back in here — when I get photos of dogs who are more hesitant to look at the camera, I use treats or toys to get their attention, just keep snapping, waiting for that right moment. Sometimes it can help to have a longer zoom so you can let the dog wander around in an enclosed area and take photos without being too close to them. If the dog is seriously afraid of the camera and I have the time to do it, I’ll try to acclimate the dog slowly to the camera.

    You take wonderful photos so I’m glad you’re offering some tips for us laymen!

  37. NICE mad lip (TM) piper!

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