Sunday, November 30, 2014

Pet photography and posing pooches

We have the cutest dogs in the world so it is no small wonder (pardon the pun) that we all love taking pictures of our dachshunds.

These days everyone has a camera with them just about all the time. Everyone is a photographer and the "best camera is the one you have with you" (Chase Jarvis).

That said, some photos are better than others so here are some of the tips that I've been given on how to get some pictures of your dog that you can treasure forever.

Focus on the eyes

Our dogs have long noses and it's easy to end up with a lot of pictures with wonderfully sharp, in focus nose prints and fuzzy faces.  Try to focus on the eyes  - they are the window to the dachshund soul after all.

Holding their favourite thing near the camera is a great way of getting them to "Look at me...". For Fletch or Izzy that might be a ball, for others it might be a tasty treat. Some will be attracted by  mum, dad or a special friend.  You know your dog, you know what their greatest love is.

Get down

It's easier with a Great Dane than a Dachshund, but if you can get down to their level you can get some great results.  Getting on their level might involve having them on a step, or it can mean you grovelling on the ground.  Prepare to be licked, but it's great fun.


Try to get your dog in full sun or full shade. Dappled light makes it really hard to get a good image. Be careful if you're using flash.  You may end up with creepy alien eyes and a creepy alien dog who runs away when he sees you grab the camera.

Getting the lighting right when you take the picture is best, but if you don't have perfect lighting, try fixing it in 'post' by using fill light in Picasa or playing with Shadows and Highlights in Lightroom.

Arty-farty portraits

If you're using a DSLR, use a shallow depth of field. This will give you a nice sharp foreground and blur out all the stuff behind you dog.

( large aperture = lowest number you can pick on your camera - it's counter intuitive - I didn't make it up).

Adjust the ISO to allow for light conditions - the more light, the lower the ISO.

(this one makes sense - a low ISO is 100, a high ISO is 1600 -- don't ask me why they didn't make Aperture this simple too).

Action Shots

If you're more into actions shots than portraits, you'll need to either increase the ISO, or use a fast shutter speed.

Ryder and Jetta's dad also uses a great technique and extracts images out of video.

Have fun

The happiness  and safety of your dog is the most important thing. If your dog isn't enjoying itself, go do something else.

On props and costumes - Some dogs are happy to be dressed up in costume and some hate it.  Your relationship with your dog needs to be built on trust so don't ruin that to get a cute picture.

An aside on costumes - when we got our first dachshund I was of the "I'm never dressing my dog up - that's just ridiculous" school of thought.  And then we got to our first winter and the little mite was shaking and shivering and sitting 5 cms away from the gas heater whenever it was on.  So reluctantly I agreed we could get her a little fleece to coat.

She LOVED it.  As the evenings started to cool down we would pull out her little coat and she would come racing over and stand still while we put it on.  My partner even hand tailored it to get that perfect fit...

Long story short, if you make wearing coats, costumes, harnesses, whatever, part of their training and make it fun (lots or treats always help) then that's another way to bond with your dog.  If it's a battle and your dog looks miserable, remember they are cute just the way they are - let them be a dachshund not a barbie doll.

When I got my first DSLR camera last year I started out by practicing every chance I got. Smudge was my muse. That means he now sees me get the camera down and starts wagging his tail because he knows he's going to get a) my undivided time and attention and b) treats, lots of them, keep 'em coming.

Make if fun for everyone. If it isn't fun, you're doing it wrong.

Take a LOT of photos

There are some incredibly skilled photographers in the world, and some of them might take one or two shots and they will be perfect.  For the rest of the us it's a numbers game.  Take a thousand photos and you'll find a gem or two amongst them,  It's digital, doesn't cost you anything but time and no-one has to see the duds.

Practice makes perfect and then there is the 10,000 hour rule. When you find there is a picture that you really like, take the time to figure out what it was that made this one stand out and try repeating that 'thing' the next time.

Use a professional

We are very lucky in Perth to have some great photographers who specialise in animals.

Most will charge a sitting fee for the session, and then you choose which of the pictures they take to buy as prints, canvas, albums etc.

This is obviously more expensive than taking your own pictures, but you may find that just by watching a professional at work you will pick up a whole raft of techniques that you can take away with you and use at home, so as well as getting some great professional photos you get an experience.
Some of the photographers our members recommend are;
  • VIVA! Joondalup - Generous supporters of LDWA fundraising efforts
  • Michaela Newman - LDWA member and contributor to Long Dogs WA and Dachshund Rescue Australia Calendars)
  • Houndstooth Studio - Award winning and all round great person Alex Cearns
  • Noah’s studio
  • Furtography
  • Shot by Nikki based in Bunbury for your South West Members
  • Claire Alexander - photographer at our 2012 Halloweiner
...and more.  If you have someone you'd like to recommedn, comment belonw, or send us an email and we'll add them to the list.

    Print, preserve and participate

    When you have a photo that you love, get it printed. Having them online is nice and having some on your phone to show to random strangers is essential,  but having one framed on your wall, on something you use every day is even better. And these days you can get photos printed on so many things. Mousemats, iphone covers, cushions, mugs, even fabric... the list goes on.

    Ways to share and print photos

    There are so many ways you can share photos these days.
    • Facebook – if you want to share photos on your profile and the Long Dogs WA group, set the photo privacy to public
    • Flikr
    • Picasa
    • Instagram

    Photo Editing and management software

    If you're going to start taking lots of photos, you may want to look at software to help you manage and edit them
    • Picasa
      The Picasa software is free and gives you some basic tools to brighten, crop
    • Adobe Lightroom
    • GIMP
      A free editing package that can take a little while to get your head around, but once you do you can use layers and create graphics from your photos
    • Corel Paintshop Pro
      I think of this as a poor man's Photoshop.  I used this for a few years and found it did most of what I needed it to do, and saved me scads of money. There are limitations though.
    • Adobe Photoshop
      The industry leader in photo editing.  If you can't do it in Photoshop its possible it can't be done.  It comes at a cos, but Adobe now offer a photographer plan.

    And make sure you keep a backup of your pictures. You can now do that fairly easily online or on an external hard drive, or copy them to CD or DVD.

    Other quick observations

    • Puppies are really hard to photograph, except when they are sleeping.  They move too quickly and are unpredictable. If you get a chance to photograph an older dog you will be delighted with the experience. Old is Gold.
    • Some of your best pictures will come when your dog has no idea you're photographing them. catch them doing their own thing.
    • A bit of 'noise' in your picture is better than an out of focus shot - up the ISO in low light.
    • Be patient, waiting for that moment can really pay off.

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