Keeping in line with our post from last week, 10 Tips For Taking Fantastic Fall Pictures of Your Dog, I thought it would fun to share a few tips on taking basic pictures of your Newfoundland.
Over the years I’ve been asked many times how I get such good pictures of Sherman and Leroy and I honestly don’t know. I’m not a professional. I have a basic camera. I don’t have any technical camera accessories. And I don’t have Photoshop.
I’m very basic and I keep things simple. The less stuff I have to lug around with 300 pounds of dog, the better.
So here’s a few basic tips that have gotten me some spectacular pictures over the years:
Pick your camera. With cell phones continually improving their cameras it seems like everyone these days has a camera at their fingertips. I personally use both. Sometimes it’s just easier to get my phone out rather than my camera. Not to mention my phone is on me 24/7 and my camera is not. With that being said, my favorite pictures are usually taken with my DSLR. You don’t have to have a $2,000 camera. Some experts may disagree with me but that’s why I’m not an expert. The picture below was taken yesterday on my iPhone. It’s currently one of my favorite pictures of all time. I had my DSLR with me but not the right lens. I was also finished taking pictures and the big camera was packed away.
Get your dog use to the camera. Leroy could care less about a camera being all up in his grill but Sherman isn’t a fan. I use mostly a zoom lens with Sherman and loads of low-fat treats. Sherman will only look the way of a camera if I’m holding a treat above my head. Let your dog smell the camera and then start taking pictures of areas around your dog. This can help them get use to the sound and then you can pan over and they might not ever know that your taking their picture! It takes some dogs longer than others to get use to a camera so just be patient. In the picture below, I’m about 200 feet away from Sherman. I was acting like I was taking pictures of the birds next door and then I panned over and caught him.
Practice. Taking pictures can be a great way to work on commands with your dog. Sit, stay and down are all commands that you’ll use often so practice those with your dog in the backyard. Reward them for good behavior. Leroy’s hardest command was always stay. After 8 years I think he’s got it.
Bring your basics. If you know you’re going to be taking pictures you’ll need to bring along a few items; brush, treats, any props you might use and a drool rag. I always forget the drool rag and will often have to use my sleeve or just leave the drool right where it is. I mean, drool is what Newfies do best! I need my brush too. Do you really think Sherman and Leroy just walk around the back yard with every hair in place. No, no, no. Most of the time I brush those hairs into place and sometimes I don’t.
Patience. Don’t forget to bring your patience too. Most dogs are going to get bored just sitting for a picture so you just have to be patient with them. If you get frustrated, walk away. I’ll admit that I have a tendency to growl a lot under my breath when I’m taking pictures, especially of Leroy. I have an idea of what I want and Leroy’s idea of what I want is totally different. When my growl comes out, that’s when I know it’s time to walk away.
Exercise. You don’t expect a child who just swallowed a pixy stix to sit still for pictures do you? Don’t expect your dog to do it either, especially if you’re out and about in a new area with all those new smells taunting them! Take them for a walk and let them explore. If I’m out and about with Leroy I always let him walk around for at least a good 30-45 minutes before I ask him to sit for a picture.
Natural light. I don’t have all those fake lights and most of my pictures are taken outside. If we are inside I still use natural light. Overcast days usually work the best because you don’t have to worry about the sun getting in the way but if you do choose to shoot on sunny day just remember to shoot away from the sun and not into it. And turn off that flash!
Check your background. Your picture should focus on your dog not the patio furniture behind them so make sure that your background isn’t cluttered. I’ve learned this hard way more than once. Sometimes I’m so focused on taking the picture that I forget to do this. Like this picture above where I didn’t see the runner approaching from behind. In all honestly, that could of been dangerous if Leroy would of gotten startled so always try to be aware of your surroundings.
Get down to your dog’s level. Newfies are giant so this isn’t so hard for most people. I’m vertically challenged so depending on where I’m standing and where they’re sitting, I might not have to adjust at all. If you’re shooting a head shot you want to shoot from their eye level. Now, if they’re laying down, guess what? You need to lay down too. Most of the time when I take a picture of the dogs laying down, I’m laying down on my stomach too. Even in the snow.
Take tons of pictures. I’ve said this at least a million times; for every 1 good picture there are at least 30 bad ones. That’s what happens when photographing dogs. They close their eyes, they look away, they walk away, they lay down, they yawn, they drool, they get up and go poop. Whatever. Just take a lot of pictures and delete the ones that don’t work. More times than not I usually end up using a picture that wasn’t planned.
Bribes. You got it, I said it. Newfies are stubborn and sometimes you need to bribe them with something they can’t turn down. Both the boys go crazy for treats but I have a designated treat just for pictures. This way, it’s not a treat that they get on a daily basis and they’re a little more excited about it. For Sherman I also use his favorite squeaky toy. Nothing gets his attention more than that old squeaky toy.
Bring out their personality. Newfies are either being goofy, working, sleeping or dreaming of what they want to be when they grow up. Make sure you capture their personality on camera for everyone to see! I can’t tell you exactly how to do this because you know your Newfie best but just think Newfie.
Black Newfs. Newfies can be hard to photograph due to their dark coat colors, black Newfs being the most challenging, but if you implement most of the above mentioned tips you should do just fine. Clutter-free background are a must because the focus needs to be on the black dog so nothing else should distract from that. Use as much natural light as you can but not direct sunlight as it will present a glare in some areas and shadows in others. Try softening the bright light with some shade. Focus on the eyes but try to stay a little above eye level. This is so the eyes don’t get lost in the darkness. Try the flash. I personally don’t like using a flash but some of my friends have said that they use a flash when photographing black dogs. The key is too to be far enough way that the flash spreads out. I’m experimenting with this today so I can come back and let you know how it works. <- I tried it and I don’t like it BUT I have a brown dog and not a black one so give it a try and let me know!
Time. I hate to tell you this but time is not on your side. You need to snap fast. The longest photo shoot that I do lasts about 5 minutes. 30 seconds is usually the normal. Leroy has the attention span of a pea and it’s even less than that if I run out of treats or if he gets bored with them. I have a very small window to get what I need to get and if I don’t get it, I’m plum out of luck. Sherman’s attention span is a little longer but he’ll start to get nervous if I’m not too much.
Edit. You don’t need to spend hours editing but most photos will need a little editing. Crop as needed, lighten, brighten or darken. You just need a few easy editing tools to get those pictures ready to view. I personally use PicMoneky for all my editing because it’s super easy and it allows me to share as needed to my social media sites.
That’s all I’ve got without getting too complex talking about manual mode and apertures, but honestly, unless you’re going pro, that’s not something you need to worry about. You can get great, wall hanging pictures, with just the basics.
Again, I’m not an expert but these are a few things that work for me!
The best time is upon us Newfie friends so happy picture taking!
Please share any photography tips that you might have with us in the comment section below!