6 Tips for Amazing Photos of Your Dog

In my time between shoots, I have been walking dogs to make some extra money and getting some exercise. Of course, with anything I do, photography has become a fun part of meeting Seattle's fur babies.

Like the photos of my own dog, Will, I often get comments like, "How do you get him to pose like that?" and "I cannot believe he is so photogenic!"

I found this bright wall and it brought out the subtle pinks in her face!

I found this bright wall and it brought out the subtle pinks in her face!

You can take great photos of your four-legged friend using these tips!  

The camera, the angles, the light, the mood, and the context of the scene all play a part in great dogtography. That said, it isn't difficult to take a great dog photo and most of the success is in your interaction with your pup.

Many of these photos were taken on an iPhone with dogs that are not professionally trained. Many of them I had just met for the first time. If you've known your best friend for years, you should already be really good at the first step:


1. Know Your Dog

What is the breed of your dog? What size? Energy level? Knowing that will direct your photography more than anything else. Does your dog love to hear his name, or is she extremely treat-motivated?

Not only will this help you capture your dog, it will help determine how you want to capture your dog. Is she a super silly and energetic golden retriever? Is he a stoic mastiff?

2. Exercise

Exercise your dog first! If you had to pee, hadn't eaten in hours, and spent all day alone in an apartment, you'd be a terrible subject, too. Walk your dog for a good mile or more around the neighborhood. Throw the ball around. Play at the dog park. Just like training, your dog will be much more willing to participate and focus if he is well-exercised.

This photo isn't even totally in focus, but I love it because it gives an idea of this little guy's energy levels and his favorite toy.

This photo isn't even totally in focus, but I love it because it gives an idea of this little guy's energy levels and his favorite toy.

3. Set the Tone

When shooting in the studio, I like to play music my subject enjoys. In portrait sessions, I spent a solid amount of time getting to know the person, perhaps going five minutes at a time without pressing the shutter once. So how does this apply to your pupper?

You'll only want to photograph your dog at a dog park if the purpose is to get action shots. There is way too much going on.

Have some of your dog's comfort items at hand. Favorite treats, a blanket, and some toys always help.

Try not to get frustrated! Giving constant commands and showing signs of irritation will not help your dog calm down or pay attention to you. Work with them. Throw the ball for a few minutes, hold it up, grab your camera, and say, "Do you want the ball?!" Now that his tongue is wagging and he looks excited, take your photo.

4. Look at Me

This may be my best accidental secret with Will. I once read that "look at me" is a good command to teach a dog to make eye contact. This can help distract them from another dog, or simply imply that you mean business (usually followed by another command). Same goes for "look at me," when I have a camera in my hands.

This will take a bit of practice, but if you're diligent, it can be done in a few days. This will help your dog's obedience and give you control over your pup's headshots.

Hello there, Will!

Hello there, Will!

5. Get Low

Just like photographing children, get low to the ground. If you are not laying on your side or knees in the grass, you're going to capture an awkwardly-angled, uninteresting image of your dog. Imagine you had your portraits taken by a 30-foot tall person who refused to bend down. You'd look tiny and dominated by the height.

Sometimes the best photos are completely below the dog, leaving only sky behind them, blurry blades of grass, or a view of the dog's head held high, powerful and strong.

6. Be Creative

Find new places to explore with your dog. Sometimes the simplest backdrops add character and dimension to your images. Sometimes you give them the keys and let them take the wheel.

Share some of your tips in the comments below! Show us the best dog photo you've taken.