I love photographing animals. It’s great fun and they often come with a lot of personality, especially dogs. And who doesn’t have a dog or know somebody with a dog you can play with? If you’ve never tried photographing dogs before, though, it can be a bit of a learning curve. But to make life easier, here’s photographer Phil Harris with 10 tips in 100 seconds to get your creative juices flowing.
1. Use window light
This isn’t really much different to photographing portraits of people. Big windows can be a fantastic source of light for images like these. They’re nice and soft (assuming the sun’s not blasting straight through), but still give a nice directional quality to the light that still wraps around your subject. But it’s not a light source people typically think about with animals.
2. Use your phone’s light
In a pinch, phones can be an excellent source of off-camera light for many subjects. Even though they’re a small hard light source, you can see the effect it has on your subject while you’re setting it up. You can move it around to get the catchlights, highlights and shadows exactly where you want them, and when you’re happy, take the shot.
3. Make sparkly out of focus backgrounds using tinfoil
This is a neat tip for getting a nice background that contrasts with your subject without being very distracting. The sparkly reflections from crumpled tinfoil can look quite good when thrown way out of focus, and helps to add some separation on the shadow side of the dog if you’re not using a rim light.
4. Upside down reflections
It’s natural to want to photograph dogs outdoors as well as inside. Puddles can be a great source of reflection to give your shot an interesting or unique perspective that you wouldn’t otherwise be able to achieve.
5. Mirror white space
As a picture on its own, I’m not a huge fan of this, but for things like layout design, it’s a very cool idea. Want to make an advert for your new Doggy Day Care service? Plenty of space on images like these for putting your details.
6. Fairy lights
This one’s a little like the tinfoil trick. It’s a way to add interest to the environment surrounding your furry friend. Personally, I’d go a little more three dimensional with this using vertical space. Having some of them higher up in the background behind the dog, and some in the foreground in front of the dog all out of focus can add a lot of depth to the image when shot at the dog’s eye level.
This is one of those Marmite effects. You either love it or you hate it. I have to admit, I tend to be on the side of the latter. It’s just not my thing. But it can be a fun technique to experiment with and learn from.
And speaking of love/hate techniques, this is one I actually quite like. I’ve seen some beautiful shots of both people and animals made with the assistance of various prisms. There are all kinds of different prisms available that each offer very different effects. So, it’s worth exploring a few different types
9. Phone flare
Soemtimes, you just want to get a little bit J.J. Abrams with your photography and add a little lens flare. There’s a bunch of different ways you can do it, but the LED from your smartphone is probably the simplest and easiest. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. Sometimes it’s super distracting and at other times it can hide distractions. But it’s another one of those you’ll want to experiment with in a variety of scenarios.
10. Change perspective
This would’ve been my first tip. Getting down to the dog’s eye level is a great way to give your pet more personality. We’re always looking down on dogs, physically, not in a snooty way. We’re just that much taller than them. So, getting down their level, showing the world from their perspective, is a good way really connect with the subject.
Many of those tips above can easily translate to photographing people and other subjects. But if you have a dog or other pet, they can make great subjects to practice with, even if you normally photograph people.