Every photo of your dog is an amazing work of art. But with any piece of art, it's always the smallest details that make the difference. So here I have outlined a beginner's guide on equipment, software, and editing techniques to help YOU help your dog shine above all the rest. Let's face it, he's destined for Insta-stardom!
Equipment is important!
There are plenty of camera bodies and lenses out there to choose from when selecting equipment. There is a difference between mirrorless and DSLR cameras, which you can read in detail at this fantastic post on photographylife.com. I chose to go with mirrorless because the cameras are much more compact and have almost as much power as the DSLR cameras.
Different software can do different things in terms of editing.
I use Adobe Photoshop CS5 to process and edit all of my photos, and will use that program to show you some editing techniques in this list. Even if a photo is taken in perfect conditions with fantastic lighting, I always like to work on them and polish the shots that I get.
You can find a trial of the newest version of Photoshop, Adobe Photoshop CS6 here from the Adobe website. My knowledge on Photoshop is completely self-taught. The more you play around with the program the more you can learn! There's also a ton of fantastic articles, blogs, and sites on the web with detailed Photoshop techniques and tutorials. Get your dog's attention!
Call his or her name, make sounds they respond to, and talk to them to get them to look at the camera (if that is what you want). You can also use treats! Dogs will almost always look right at the treat. If you have an assistant, even better! Have them hold the treat where you'd like the dog to look. Don't forget to reward your pup for being a good model!
Decide what you want the environment you're shooting to look like.
You can change up what the background will look like easily. If you'd like a backdrop, you can fashion one out of any type of fabric! A piece of colorful cloth from the local craft store or even your bed sheet will work perfectly. Painted (or unpainted) walls also serve as great backdrops and can be easily edited.
Get your dog to smile!
An easy way to get them to give you that big grin is to take them for a quick run or tug on a toy with them. Have them chase you around your living room or have a quick 5-minute play session. An active dog is a happy dog and will likely flash you a huge smile after settling down.
Get on your dog's level and take pictures from different angles for more interesting shots. Take photos from above, below, in front, behind! Use your creativity to produce different photos that highlight your favorite parts of your dog from all different points of view.
We all know our dogs like to move around, which is a challenge when trying to catch the best shot. A faster shutter speed will help, but with a faster speed there will be less light caught by the lens. Balance this out based on how much natural lighting you have available--outdoor photos with fast shutter speeds make for beautiful portraits, but indoors (with low light) you're at a huge disadvantage.
Post-processing of photos can make a huge difference.
Here are some of the most common editing techniques I use on my photos. More often than not, there is not sufficient or natural lighting to take a beautiful raw photo. Below is a photo of Champ the Australian Shepherd without editing, and a photo after. Change the levels of the photo to be more natural.
Especially in the winter, photos can be washed out or the white balance can be off. The easiest way to do this is to select "Auto" when altering the levels, but you can do it manually by eye as well. Use this to balance out the light and dark areas of your photos, giving it a more natural look as if you were physically there!
Use curves to enhance the brightness or contrast in your photos.
You can do this with brightness/contrast but it works more naturally this way. A good rule of thumb is to make a slight "S" with the curve tool to do this. This will also make the lighting look more natural and appealing to the eye.
Especially for pet photography, increasing saturation can be a great way to combat the dull photos in the winter snow.
I increase my photo saturation anywhere from 5-25 more depending on what looks the most natural. Remember to use your best judgment and reflect your dog in the best light. Of course for black, white, or primarily colorless dogs, this won't be as necessary.
Sharpening the photo can enhance the fur on any pet photo and make it look more crisp.
Use your best judgment again, and don't let the photo become too grainy with too much unnecessary sharpening! Finally, a nice touch to portrait or pet photography can be enhancing the subject's eyes. Small things like this really matter and make a shot much more appealing. You can do this by using the dodge tool on the light/colored part of the eye and the burn tool on the dark/pupil area. This little trick gives live subjects a little more soul and character! And once you're finished editing your fantastic photos, throw 'em up on BarkFeed, a dogs-only Instagram! We might just grab your photo and feature it in a post!