Dogs aren’t good photography models by nature: Wagging tails, an inability to sit still or even just the colour of the fur can make it hard to capture your beloved pet in a flattering, non-blurry way.
Elke Vogelsang is here to help. She specialises in animal photography and her work has appeared in National Geographic magazine, among other publications. But while she has a database filled with over 100 potential animal models, her favourite subjects are her three dogs.
Noodles, Scout and Ioli are old pros in front of the camera. Noodles, nearly 15, looks intently into the lens, as if he were a philosopher, while Scout nestles her head to the side in the cutest way possible and Ioli is the pure picture of joie de vivre from head to paw.
How does Vogelsang do it? Here are some tips for finding the proper setting, light, composition and technique for photographing your pet.
If you choose to shoot outdoors in the daylight, you’ll get your best results if you wait until the sun is as low as possible in the sky, i.e. in the early morning or evening. The light will hit the dog more flatly, which will help avoid any unsightly shadows under the chin.
In general, the photoshoot should have positive associations.
“It should never be seen as an obedience exercise, but as a bonding activity, ” she says. “Pressure, impatience and a bad temper will not produce results. And even if the dog is into it, you can always elicit that little spark of more enthusiasm by making it fun and exciting.” Patience and calm will always be the best way to go.
Whether playful puppies or serene seniors, all dogs want stimulation and rewards. Vogelsang uses three motivational tricks: sounds (voices or noisemakers, such as kazoos or squeakers), treats and exercise.
Even amateur photographers will see it’s worth using a dog’s favourite toy or bone to get better shots. “You can make sure that the objects used are photogenic and also fit the picture and motif in terms of colour, shape and size, ” she says.
“In some circumstances, the prop can become the main focal point of the picture and contribute to the image’s message, ” Vogelsang adds. However, a neon-coloured ball in the background is more likely to distract rather than add to the pic.
Vogelsang also thinks it’s important not to dress up your pets.
“Anyone who humanises animals is not doing them justice, ” agrees Patricia Loesche, who is chairwoman of the professional association of animal behaviours consultants and trainers in Germany. Good communication between dog and human is based on knowledge, empathy, patience and a deep understanding for each dog’s personality.
She emphasises that dogs live in the here and now, even during a photo session. “A dog doesn’t have plans, but instead acts according to its needs and based on previous experiences, ” Loesche explains.
People always have plans, she adds. They do something in order to get an end result – for example, a nice image of their dog. But the dog can learn to understand only the action, not the goal. That’s why an impatient person gets an insecure dog that doesn’t act as desired. – dpa