Dog Photography 101

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Everyone should have at least one high-quality photograph of their dog. But capturing the perfect pic of your beloved furry friend can be a complicated and frustrating task. So I approached top commercial photographer Anthony Tortoriello for some advice.

Anthony is the official photog of the famous two-legged dog Faith (maybe you recognize this photograph, named as one of 2009’s Best Animal Images by the New York Post?). Anthony’s work has also been published in Cesar’s Way, Modern Dog, and Dog Fancy magazines. He has photographed canines for national advertising campaigns, celebrities, family-owned businesses, and the average American family.

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Anthony shared that following just a few simple tricks can take a photo from sub-par to stunning.

Need a Dog Photography 101 lesson? Then check out Anthony’s ten tips:

1.) Establish a comfort level with the subject (dog). Make sure that both you and the animal feel safe, happy, and at ease around one another.

2.) Try to capture the dog’s personality by photographing her eyes. Pay close attention to how the light hits the eyes to ensure they are in focus.

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3.) Use a flash to add “catch lights.” These little reflections/specular highlights help draw attention to the dog’s eyes, which otherwise can look like they are lacking life.

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4.) Keep a toy handy to spark your dog’s interest. Try concealing a squeaker toy in your hand, and you can capture great photographs of a curious dog.

5.) Get down on the dog’s level to see things from her perspective. Try all different angles – experimentation is key! Stand up high, crouch low, move in close, or pull back for a long shot. Personally I love shooting low and up, so only the dog and the sky are in the image (added tip: coordinate your shoot for days with excellent weather).

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6.) Minimize distractions to help ensure that the shoot goes as smoothly as possible. Avoid having people stand around trying to get the dog’s attention – attempt to engage your dog with only your camera/lens.

7.) Photograph your dog in natural light. Try using morning or evening light, when the sun is lower and the light is warmer and easier to work with – these types of conditions are more flattering and forgiving and, once your eye is trained, you will most likely start to notice that really anything looks beautiful in that light!

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8.) Have fun! Play around with your dog, make noises, wave a toy, flail your arms… whatever you can do to gain the dog’s attention and reveal her personality on film.

9.) Take advantage of the times when your dog is resting comfortably in her own environment. This could be while she is sleeping, sitting by the door, lying in the sun… anywhere she is comfortable and at ease doing her own thing.

10.) Shoot in interesting locations. For example, try playing at a beach, using a hose on a hot summer day, running at the dog park, or taking a boat ride.

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Photo Credits: Anthony Tortoriello. Become a fan on Facebook here.

Head over to the National Geographic Channel DOGS forum to share your photography tips and exchange pics with other animal lovers!