Pet Professional photo portrait

How to take a photo portrait of your pet Dog

To take pet dogs photo portraits like a pro is a real job. It is mine since I became dog portraitist as I paint dogs on commission from photos. Each year I take about a thousand photos of dogs from different breeds. With the years, I learned a few tips and tricks and I became more or less a professional photographer. I give you here free advices to enhance your own pet dog photo portraits.

1° The apparatus :
Do you know that 99% of the numerical cameras can give only pullings photographs to the standard format 10x15cm ?.
You can always stick these photographs in your album, that will always keep you a memory of a particular day, but you will not be able to increase them to make posters. Neither me if I want to make a portrait from your photo, they would be fuzzy. Except...
Except if you are extremely fortunate and that you own a professional numerical camera, able to store images of more than 36 Mo. To give you an idea, 36 Mo, it is the size of the numerical file necessary to print an image 21x29,7 cm in quality "press magazine". You agree that your numerical apparatus does not offer this quality of images.
Most of the time, to paint a portrait from photo, I need pullings photographs to various formats, 20x30cm or 30x40 cm, but for my great dogs paintings where the dog is in a decor I use posters in 50x75 cm.
To be able to enlarge a photo at this size, only the traditional cameras can offer you such a good quality image.
If your old camera is stored in the attic, you had better to seek for it.

2) the lens :
Personally, I take all my dogs photo portraits with a teleobjective 35- 135mm . That enables me to take photos of excellent quality when the dog is between 2,50m and 7 meters. What I call an excellent quality, it is when you can count the fur on his ears. Obviously, that is possible if the dog is more or less static, or if you envisaged the place where it was going to pass in its race. You could also take good photographs with a standard objective of 70mm, but for that you will need to be closer to your subject... But you already know that, your dog would be perturbed by your presence so close to him.
Conversely, an objective of 200mm would enable you to take photographs moreover further, and thus to have a more natural dog... but your image will be can be slightly deformed, crushed by your zoom. Speculations of my share, because, alas, not having yet the fortune which I do deserve, (certainly, is not it? ) I do not have the wealth to buy different lenses.
It is very curious.. This page seems to have been translated by one of these damned automatic translators. Never use them. It gives really strange translations: a "fan's Club" will become a "ventilator's Club" I hope You understood my advices.

3) the film :
Each one his own taste. Mine go without any question to Kodak. Only their process makes it possible to find the colors which I see in a dog's fur. The other trade marks give too green whites, reds (fire, brown or leaver) which do not have anything to see with the color of the fur... Thus be kind, choose Kodak Gold or Ultra.
As regards the sensitivity, I recommend to use 200 ASA films. They will allow you to have nuances and details as well in the shadow as in the light. Prefer a 24 exposures roll of film and keep several films within reach.
Why ? When you will have taken 24 photos of your dog, you will stop for a while. When you will start again to take photos, the dog will have change his attitude, even the light will be different.

4) The Snap shot:
If you want your dog to be emphasized, do not take from top to bottom photo portraits. Your dog would be crushed by this perspective, its legs would seem shorter, its body too massive. In short, it is not so, that you will sublimate his beauty.

To magnify your pet, it is necessary for you to be at least at his height. Lie down on the ground or crouch down, and pose your elbows on the ground. Thus, you will have a stable support and your photograph will not be fuzzy.

Try to avoid the places where the grass is high, except if you think that that brings mystery to the photograph.
Imagine a dachshund in a corn-field!... I am joking... Seriously, for a dog portrait, it is better to find an open area, so that you will have all the details of the paws, nails included. If you do not want to lay down in tender grass or on the dirty macadam of the street, think of a place in the sun where there will be a terrace and a few steps. Place the dog on the terrace at the edge of the steps, and climb down a few steps to have your camera at the height of your pet's breast.
Look at this dog portrait, you will understand exactly what I want to say.

5) Centring :
If you wish to make a photo portrait of your dog, dont try to have at the same time the greatest landscape picture. If you focus correctly on the head of your pet, the castle or the church in background should be fuzzy. If it is not the case, it is that your principal subject is not sharp. As far as possible, tally your subject vertically.
Be extremely attentive so that the paws are in the photograph, idem for the ears, the tail and the totality of the body.
Most of the time, a young photographer will not be aware of these important details that make a great photo.

On this dogs portrait painted on commission from photos, I added a landscape in the painting. But on the original photos portraits of these border terriers, the dogs photos were very sharp and the landscape very fuzzy. I C'est ce que j'ai fait avec ces deux border collies dans le parc d'une belle propriété. Sur les photos d'origine, le point est fait sur les chiens et le paysage est très flou. J'ai donc réinventé le décor. I had the good idea to take different photos of the landscape while I was still laying on the ground, to keep the same perspective in my painting.

6) installation :
If you think of taking a great photograph with a single snapshot... you are a dreamer. To make an exceptional portrait of a dog, one needs a patience of angel, a lot of time and several films. It will be necessary at first, that the dog become accustomed to you, and to this unusual position that you took to photograph him... You will have to wait for him to become natural again.
If you are lucky, an unexpected event will occur which will give an interesting attitude to your dog. You can also say the magic words which will make him tighten the ear. That can be "cat", "hunting", "cheese" or "walk". If you have an accomplice beside you, who will speak to the dog, you will be able to take the animal of 3/4 face or profile. Your accomplice must also fold the knees sufficiently so that the dog will not have the head and the eyes too raised on the photograph.
Another trick, which can give astonishing results, put two animals in presence. Two dogs, a dog and a cat, a dog and a frog, or a grasshopper... and wait until something occurs. Once again, do not think that a photograph is enough, take at least a whole film.

7) the light :
Most of the time, the light of winter in Europe, from November to February, is rather bad to take excellent photo portraits. Without sun, you will take dull images... and the sun of winter is too sharp, engraving the image very strongly between shade and light. The ideal light is a sun very slightly veiled, making it possible to have very contrasted colors, but with deep values even in the shadows.
No flash
In interior, never use a flash light. In addition to the red eyes, the flash will crush the prospect and will remove the relief. If you want to take photo portraits inside, take a halogenous spot of exterior, fix it on the balcony, it will replace the sun. Ii is so that I took the photographs for this dog portrait on a really rainy december day.

Do not use colored spots, and do not place the lamps too close to your pet. The light is more interesting, when it comes from the side rather than facing.If you have several rolls of film, try different lights: sideways, facing or backside in "against the light". If you have a strong light (natural or artificial),reflected on a wall or a white ground, you will get great effects. The more you will multiply the angles, the more you increase your chances to have interesting snapshots.
8) Focus :
In a dog photo portrait portrait, the most interesting element is the eye. The glance of course but also the reflection of the light on the eye and the expression of the eyebrows. Make initially the point on the eye and then again and again on the eye. If you focus on the eye, the breast piece will be fuzzy and the back and the tail will be illegible nebulas. If you intend to commission me a portrait of your pet dog, every 3 snapshots, change the focus to get details of the breast or the back. I would need many informations to paint for you a hyper-realistic portrait.
If your camera has an auto-focus system, disconnect it. A Professional never works with that.

A professional photographer with the most sophisticated apparatuses, could find a lot to say against these advices of enlightened amateur. I can speak only about my experiments. Nevertheless, my budget in photo development largely exceeds 2000 Euros per annum and in the heap, I take some photographs of very beautiful quality.
I hope these tips and tricks will allow you to take real good portraits of your pet. E-mail them to me.