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Archive for the ‘Shooting Puppies’ Category

Editor’s Note: Dee Clark has graciously come to this blogger’s rescue by penning a guest post on photographing puppies and young dogs. With integrating our new German Shepherd Dog, Brio (Baccardi Liquido) into our pack, a whole lot of travel in June, including a couple of unexpected trips, life has been a bit chaotic. Thank you, Dee, for sharing your experience on how to photograph puppies and young dogs!

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Photographing puppies and young dogs is like trying to capture lightning in a bottle. They are very unpredictable and you never know when that great image opportunity may strike. To get great shots, you will need patience and be ready to click that shutter, as the moment can come and go as quick as lightning.

Other important tools, besides your camera and lens, are an assistant, treats and a repertoire of interesting noises to gain the attention of your subjects. Puppies and young dogs, although wonderfully fun to watch, have an amazing capacity for “attention deficit disorder (ADD).” They also may be so focused on you – the photographer – that they will not leave you alone or get far enough away from you to take pictures.

The following are some key points to remember when trying to capture lightning in a bottle:

  • Have an assistant; kids are great for this!!
  • Check the lighting and get your camera set for optimal exposure. Also, scope out the area for good backgrounds and optimal lighting conditions.
  • A set environment helps; for example, obstacles for exploration, a kiddie pool, giant ball, wheelbarrow or large rocks. Again, be mindful of what is in the background and what items could be hazardous.
  • Let the puppies get the “zoomies” out when you first take them outside, but have the camera at the ready. It also is good time to take some test shots and adjust your settings, if necessary. If your camera has a burst mode, use it.
  • Have a basket or pile of toys in a central area for the pups to access. Puppies actively engaged in play inspire some wonderful facial expressions.
  • If you have a trustworthy adult dog available, let h/she mingle with the puppies, as the dog will help keep them moving. It will also help the pups settle to capture close headshots.
  • Hungry puppies will respond better to the pocketful of treats that you and your assistant will have on you.
  • Keep squeaky toys on you, too, which you can use to grab a pup’s attention quickly. These toys are particularly useful for getting photos where the puppy looks perplexed.
  • Be mindful of where your feet are. When moving shuffle your feet, as your eye is trained through the lens, and you cannot usually keep track of where all the puppies are. Stepping on a puppy or being jumped on by a young dog is never good J
  • Wrap that camera strap tightly around your wrist!! Puppies of all ages see the strap as a tug toy!

Use your assistant well! Stand or sit back, and let your assistant to entice and engage the puppies. This will allow you to become the observer. If you do not have an assistant, then you will need to find ways to keep the puppies attention on toys or other objects so that you can move out of the way to get the shots. Small smears of peanut butter on toys or objects will almost always get the puppies to ignore you and your movements. After awhile, you usually can see the pups settle into their litter games and you can shoot away. This is a lot easier when it is not your own litter that you are trying to shoot.

When photographing puppies and young dogs, ages four months and older, puppy ADD is even higher. They might know how to sit for a treat, but puppies and young dogs rarely know how to hold the sit so that you can get into position for the shot. Again, an assistant or an older well-trained dog is helpful. You will find most of your photos are action shots, unless the puppy(s) or young dog(s) you are photographing has some training. Having an array of vocalizations you can use to get a pup’s attention really helps.

With respect to young dogs, action is the word! Having someone play ball or throw toys allows you to focus on the movement and your location in reference to the action to get the best shots. Side views and head on shots are great! These photos usually require that you be low to the ground. To add interest to your photos, have your assistant use objects with an array of sizes and colors to elicit movement.

Don’t forget to take frequent breaks, which will help you regain patience and allow the pup(s) to focus back on natural play. Again, keep the camera handy as this is when you usually get those shots you were looking for, but did not think would ever happen.

Puppies and young dogs are unpredictable and lightning fast. Getting them to do what you want to get that perfect shot is very difficult for us and for them. You can spend hours with the camera at the ready, snap thousands of shots, and maybe only getting 10 shots you actually like. It all comes down to patience. I liken puppy and young dog photography to sitting on the Serengeti waiting for the lioness to appear to cut a gazelle out of the herd. Sometimes it just never happens, but when it does – be ready – a great photo is at hand!

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