Everyday is a school day when it comes to photography and recently I thought I'd like to get involved with pet portraits, namely dog photography. This is what I've learned so far and whilst I'm no expert it offers a starting point for those of you who might wish to take an image of your pet pooch.
Firstly and perhaps most importantly is that dogs are far from stupid and can be understandably nervous of camera gear, so don't just expect them to sit and pose nicely for you. If you take your time and allow the dog to settle, in other words to get bored of you and your camera, then you're likely to get some good images. It might take 30 minutes or more before a dog settles (especially if you're a stranger), so be patient and don't expect to just jump right in. Dog treats are a great bribe and an invaluable resource when it comes to getting your pet to behave and look in the right direction!
Dedicated dog photographers may have a studio with powerful lights, a studio background and a table for the dog to sit on, which are all ready for action, but I'm talking about getting a good image in your own home. Good light is important so you can always shoot in your garden (if you have one) but for now I'll restrict my advice to indoor photography.
If you hold the camera up to your face and in the process hide your eyes a dog can become uncomfortable and turn away from you. If this happens try using the live view on the back of the camera to frame your timid friend (this way the dog can still see you). When composing your shot be aware of your surroundings as there may be distractions lying around that could spoil the image. Look for contrast too, try and photograph a black dog against a lighter background and vice versa. You can use off-camera flash, but that's a more in-depth topic and one that I'm not going to cover today.
Most importantly (to me at least) is to get the eye/s in focus, not doing so doesn't make for a great picture. Your going to need a wide aperture to collect as much light as possible and thereby allow for a shutter speed of 125th sec or more, this will help prevent getting a soft or blurry image (from camera shake or dog movement). If you're widest aperture doesn't work sufficiently then increase the cameras ISO setting and move to the brightest part of the room. Hopefully by now you'll be able to take a few images with good shutter speed.
There's a good reason that the phrase 'never work with children or animals' is often quoted, as you might not get a dog that is willing to work with you. Just be patient, sometimes a silly noise or other distraction can grab the dog's attention long enough to allow you to get an image of your pet that looks super...