Since you have the hard part of capturing that stellar shot for me to work from, I’ve compiled a list of photo tips to help you help me do my best work. Don’t get overwhelmed, just in corporate a few tips, have fun and see how they work out for you…
1. Natural light works best, outdoors or indoors.
Unless you run a professional photo studio and have great indoor lighting, photos taken outside in natural light or inside near a bright window during the daytime work best. If you can position your pet so that the light falls on one side of the face with the other in shadow, that’s even better. That type of dramatic lighting can help me create a portrait with a lot of impact.
2. Ban that flash
The biggest obstacle to capturing your pooch accurately is the dreaded camera flash. The flash will make your pup look one-dimensional and will distort his/her fur color and eyes. You know that great photo you took with your friends in 1992 at that club but you had it developed and–dangit!–you all have red “flash eyes?” Would you like me to paint your portrait from that image? Same thing with dogs. So find some daylight and ban that flash.
3. Clear & close-up
Though a little artistic license will be taken on my part to capture your pet on canvas, I really do work from exactly what I see in the photos. Clear, detailed photos that focus on his or her face and shoulders taken in natural light will cut down on the forced guess work that occurs on my end when working with blurry or long-distance photos .
4. Up your pixels
No, that wasn’t an insult. Most cameras these days allow you to set the resolution of the photos you take. If possible, dig up your manual (the setting is in the menu somewhere) and set your camera to the highest possible image resolution or dpi. The larger/higher quality the image, the better I will be able to see all the little details that make your Retriever look like your Retriever, not a Retriever.
5. Unique perspectives make unique paintings
I highly recommend getting on your dog’s eye level during your photos session, rather than looking down at him or her. Get on the ground with your pet and snap a few shots. Try taking some to the side of his or her face (a profile shot) or from below their eye level, whatever interesting angles you can come up with. The more perspectives the better.
6. Early morning or early evening
The most flattering light is in the early morning or late afternoon. Think early sunset: it makes humans look great and it does the same for your pooch. If you happen to be an early bird, early mornings are also good. Trick is to take photos when the sun is relatively lower in the sky. So if you and your pet can get outside during those times, give it a try.
7. Play first, then pictures
Action shots are great for photos, but they’re not ideal to work from for portraits. It is tough to take clear a photo of even the most camera friendly pet when they are feeling frisky and want to run around. So take a few photos after they have had their romp, chased a squirrel, fetched a ball…or even eaten dinner. Any time when they are more calm, in their favorite spot or just relaxing on the kitchen floor can work well.
8. Treats, toys and an assistant
I’ve had some good luck taking shots when I’ve incorporated the three items in the above subheading. One person can hold the treat or toy to get your dog’s attention, and the other person snaps the photos, candidly and often. You know your dog the best. Use what treats (and people) work well for your pooch.
9. Take a ton
The more photos you take, the better your chances of snapping that single shot that will make a stellar portrait. So as long as you have already both committed to a photo session, why not take a ton of photos? Ask any professional photographer: 200 shots = a few stellar images. It’s a numbers game. Kind of like sending out resumes after college.
Have fun and good luck!