Pet photography can be very difficult and challenging. When I'm photographing on a professional level for clients, I must have an extremely high level of patience and understanding. I never know what to expect from shoot to shoot. If you're just photographing your own pet for fun, depending on your goal, it can also be challenging. I always have in the back of my mind that I'm photographing dogs and it's not meant to be easy. So have fun! The more fun you have, the better the photos are. Try less, play more and relax.
Get down at your pet's level. Lay close to the ground with it. It's a more natural photo and you see your dog as other dogs would see them. You see what their world looks like.
Capture your pet's personality. Capture your pup doing what it likes to do the most. If your dog sleeps a lot (what dog doesn't?), take pictures while it's sleeping. Sleeping dog photos are especially hilarious if your dog is in a funny position. Does your dog have any special abilities? Capture them.
Focus on the eyes. I love a photo of a dog's eyes looking into a camera. Studies have suggested that dogs bond with humans through eye contact. As a dog owner, I'm confident that this is true.
Avoid flash. Flash can frighten your dog and can cause an effect similar to "red eye" in humans. And flash can create a harsh light effect on your dog's coat, especially if it's white or black. If indoors, find windows with good light coming through.
If you're shooting outdoors on a sunny day, try shooting in the early morning or evening when the natural light is soft. Sunrise and sunset are great times of the day to shoot. That doesn't mean you can't photograph during the day when it's sunny out. It all depends on what you're hoping for.
Smile! Want to get a good smile out of your dog? Have a quick play session. Once you stop, they almost always have a big smile.
Get your dog's attention by holding a treat or toy right over your lens or smartphone.
Is your dog afraid of the camera? Don't worry, it's very common. Focus on sleeping and action photos. Consider a zoom lens to get some photos from a distance. Want to try and get them comfortable with the camera? Set it down and put a treat on the lens. When I recently photographed 150-plus dogs for the peanut-butter book, I often let the dog eat some peanut butter off my camera. It worked most of the time and the dog was comfortable. They viewed the camera as a source of treats.
Again, be patient. Don't try to force a photo if your dog isn't feeling it. Dogs feed off our energy and they'll know if you're frustrated or stressed. The more relaxed and happy you are, the more relaxed your dog is.
Greg Murray is a local professional photographer specializing in dogs (though he's great for everything else as well). His puppy peanut butter series (For the Love of Peanut Butter, if you're Googling it) has picked up a publisher and will be turned into a book. For more info or to schedule a shoot: Greg Murray Photography, 15200 Madison Ave., Lakewood, 216-374-4909, gmurrayphoto.com.