People frequently ask me for photography tips and I have to be perfectly honest: I don’t really think about it! Photography is something I do so that I can share my world with others. It’s not about art for me. It’s about showing how I see things, what I experience on a day to day basis.I actually had a photography teacher in high school tell me that I had no talent and should quit while I was ahead. Obviously, I didn’t take his advice. Instead, I started to experiment with things that worked and things that didn’t. Over time, I have discovered that certain things really do help make a better photo.
It’s time to share those things! Let’s see if I can make a series of 10 Dog Photography Tips in the upcoming weeks..
Composition - This is the one thing that I learned from taking the one photography class I enrolled in. It’s also something you’ll learn in most basic art classes, starting in middle school. There are a few basic concepts that will help make your photo more appealing to the eye.
The first thing to keep in mind is your focal point. This is the focus of your photo and the thing you want your viewer’s eye to be drawn to. When it comes to pet photography, this is most commonly the pet. However, it’s often fun to switch this up. For example, in this photo, which I still feel is about Herbie, the focal point is actually the kitten in the foreground.
Keeping the dog blurred emphasizes the kitten as the focal point of this photo.
Remember, it’s always fun to switch it up! We all love to see cute and charming pictures of dogs and especially puppies, but it may be more interesting to focus on a specific aspect of your dog. Dogs have great textures on their paws and their noses. They have soulful eyes and favorite toys. They leave footprints and wear dog tags. All of these things make for alternative to your standard dog posing or face-focused photo.
In this portrait of a ferocious looking happy greeting, the dog’s teeth are very obviously the focal point.
There are several things you can do to draw attention to your focal point. The first is to use the rule of thirds. This rule dictates that, rather than placing the focal point in the middle of your shot, you divide the photo into thirds and place the focus where those lines intersect.
Here we see the dog placed on the rule of thirds.
The rule of thirds creates visual interest and lets you do things like play with negative space (the empty area in a photo). It’s important to pay attention to this negative space because the way you balance it can really change the feel of a photo. A photo that is well balanced in its use of visual space can give a calm, relaxed, or still feeling, while a photo with dramatic negative space can come off as dynamic or full of motion.
Here, for example, the dog is laying still and the photo is cropped close. The dog takes up about half the space in the image and the photo feels peaceful and balanced. You feel as though the dog is going to stay put for at least a little while.
This photo on the other hand features a lot of negative space and background. The pose alone would make for an exciting shot, but leaving a lot of the background allows the viewer to imagine just how much open space there is and just how far the dog could run. There is a sense of motion and speed about the shot.
Another compositional tool is the leading line, a literal line in a photo that leads the eye to the focal point. Trails, long dog legs, or dogs arranged in size order are just a few examples of leading lines that can really make a focal point the center of attention.
In this photo, for example, the line of reeds in the background draws the eye horizontally across the photo and to the dog.
A final compositional concept that I frequently use in my photography is that of natural framing. We’ve all seen photos framed and hanging on the wall, but natural framing refers to objects in the photo that seem to surround the focal point, really making it pop. My friend’s boxer, Kole, has a fun habit of naturally framing himself!
Kole demonstrates natural framing.
So there you have it, the basics of composition broken down a la textbook… only featuring dogs as the subject! Check back soon for more dog photography tips… including how to get the best light, capturing poses and expressions, and selecting good angles and backgrounds for your photos.