Quick Tip for Puppy & Dog Portraits

Today’s photo tip is to help you in shooting better pet photos. Pet portraits can be the most fun you’ve ever had with your camera, you’ll meet a bunch of really nice people and it’s one of the easiest ways I know to go “pro” if that is a goal of yours.

This tip concerns the tongue…

number one dog photography tip

Photo by James Barker

When I was specializing in pet photos, at first I used to work very hard at shooting the dog with its tongue in its mouth!

This is always a good strategy because it gives you an elegant, classic portrait.

But, my customers would look at my photos and frequently I heard comments like, “But he doesn’t look happy!” They could never explain why the dog didn’t look happy, just that it was true.

This stumped me for a long time. The ears were up, the dog looked alert, and I clearly remembered the dog as being very happy that day. The portraits were gorgeous.

Finally, I tried shooting a series of shots with the tongue out – and I never heard that complaint again!

When the tongue is out, the dog looks happier and more playful. You lose a bit of the elegant look, but gain a lot of personality.

When you are shooting, do some of each. Tongue in for a more classic and elegant pet portrait. Tongue out for a happier more playful, exuberant one.

number one dog photography tip

Photo by Jamie Street

But, the tongue has to be in front of the mouth; not hanging out the side… no one likes those. It’s amazing how long some of those tongues can be! Whether to the front or the side, you don’t want it hanging halfway to the ground.

How to get the tongue in?

Get a dog’s toy that squeaks. They have them in almost all grocery stores. I like to get the “newspaper” one. They are flat and don’t roll away when it hits the ground. Get ready to shoot and then gently squeak the toy.

The ears will pop up, and the tongue will go in – for about half a second. So, you have that half a second to get your contest winning shot.

Eventually, the dog will get tired of the squeak and it won’t work any more. When that happens, gently flick the squeaker into the air. (Near the lens.) Shoot fast, the dog is going to go for the toy. See why I don’t want it rolling away? I want to get it first!

You will only get a second or two for the shot, but with a bit of practice, that is plenty of time. While I always recommend taking your camera off its automatic settings, with animal photos, auto focus is almost a MUST!

number one dog photography tip

See how much sadder the dog looks without its tongue? (Photo by FLOUFFY)

Shooting better pet photos is easily with reach of all of us. Give it a try! Pet portraits are very rewarding and the pet owners will love you forever!

About the Author:
Dan Eitreim writes for OnTargetPhotoTraining. He has been a professional photographer in Southern California for over 20 years. His philosophy is that learning photography is easy if you know a few tried and true strategies.

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4 responses to “Quick Tip for Puppy & Dog Portraits”

  1. J Hicks says:

    This is good advice for photographing dogs but am a bit disappointed in the misleading title. I photograph cats and horses mostly and this doesn’t really help for them. Would like to see an article that addresses many types of pets.

  2. Dot Baum says:

    Photographing dogs can be a challenge. Most photos of my dogs were impromptu. Unless you are in a secluded area, their attention is everywhere but on you. Of course, not having a toy on hand doesn’t help. And my dogs, being the insufferable pets, will choose to ignore me when I call their name.

    Rather than becoming frustrated, I tried mimicking a cat meow. (I have to admit, I can pull off a pretty good meow.) The dog would immediately swings its head towards me, ears up with that cute and inquisitive, little head tilt and snap! I got my photo!

    Of course the drawback is, anyone who is watching will laugh and chuckle at your tactic. I would look at them, shrug and say, “Well, it works!” You do what you gotta do!

  3. Kate Miller says:

    Sometimes it is also nice to get photos from the pet’s viewpoint like this http://www.katemillerphoto.com/blog/?p=1477

  4. russel Ray says:

    Hit the nail on the head with that hammer.

    This also works with other animals. For some reason people just really like to see that tongue — snake tongue, giraffe tongue, even hummingbird tongues (which many people never think about but love it when they see a picture of one).

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