The right way to take nice images of canine

The right way to take nice images of canine
The right way to take nice images of canine

July 27, 2022

Profitable canine photographer Rhian White shares some secrets and techniques for cracking pictures of canine with Geoff Harris

Canines. Many people love them to bits and lots of extra of us acquired these fantastic animal companions through the lockdowns. Not solely is canine pictures vastly rewarding in its personal proper, it might probably additionally kind the idea of a photographic enterprise or worthwhile sideline. However as with all photographic self-discipline, it’s not only a case of pointing your digital camera at Buddy or Bella and blasting away.

To achieve this style you should purchase a variety of skill-sets, together with these from portraiture, motion pictures and even documentary work. You want to have the ability to work quick too, as full of life canine don’t have a tendency to stay round as you fiddle with digital camera settings. One of the crucial completed canine photographers we’ve featured in AP is Devon-based Rhian White, so we thought it was a excessive time for a extra in-depth interview with this grasp of canine-related creativity.

Steep studying curve

It’s a testomony to Rhian’s laborious work and willpower that she is totally self-taught, and as she freely admits, began from a really low information base. “Fourteen years in the past I bought my pug Boo and beloved her a lot – I needed to take images of her completely satisfied, however didn’t know what I used to be doing.

I didn’t perceive the publicity triangle, digital camera settings, or something – simply the way to flip the digital camera on! It was okay on Auto mode if Boo was nonetheless, however something the place she was shifting simply turned a blurry blob.’

two brown dogs

Dexter and Fin. Nikon 17-35mm f/2.8, 1/1000sec at f/6.3, ISO 140

An understanding of the fundamentals of pictures and digital camera settings is just one a part of the equation. ‘At the beginning, I didn’t perceive the motivations of canine, and the way to use gentle,’ she explains. There was a studying curve when it got here to gear too.

‘I eventually bought a Nikon D300s and then a 18-200mm “superzoom” lens, thinking it would cover me for everything I needed – but of course the quality of this lens was not very good. I soon realised that anyone who is serious about dog photography will get a 70-200mm f/2.8 lens.’

Again then there have been hardly any canine pictures movies on-line, workshops or mentoring obtainable, however Rhian caught at it. ‘Buying magazines like AP helped, but what really helped was looking at a picture I liked and trying to work out the settings so I could see what might work in a similar scenario. I also started to ask people in parks and beaches if I could take photos of their dogs to practise. One good aspect of my character is that I never give up.’

Three years later Rhian moved all the way down to Brighton from the north. Whereas searching for a job as a graphic designer, she observed there was a niche out there for canine pictures. ‘Back in 2010 not many people were doing the kind of dog photography I liked – happy, colourful pics of dogs outside. Rather, there were a lot of studio shots. So, I thought there was a gap in the market and built my dog photography business over time.’

dog on the beach

Morgan. Nikon 35mm f/1.4, 1/640sec at f/2, ISO 320

Technical challenges when photographing canine

Rhian has a really clear method to canine pictures and on the coronary heart of that is an understanding of canine psychology. ‘You have to find out what motivates them. Find a location where they feel safe, happy and relaxed. If you have a happy dog, you get happy pictures. Dogs can get distracted by other dogs, people going past on bikes etc, and you need to be aware of this.’

Subsequent up is an appreciation of what motivates the canine. ‘I find they are motivated by balls and toys, food, other dogs, their owner/person, and doing their own thing – for example, sniffing and exploring.’

Rhian additionally finds out as a lot as potential in regards to the canine earlier than the shoot, which allows her to give you concepts. ‘You also need to reflect the dog’s vitality. Some are excited and wish to play, whereas some might be nervous, and you should change your behaviour. I’ll replicate what the canine wish to do with a view to make them really feel comfy, as this implies higher pictures.’

As a part of this method, Rhian not often goes proper in near the canine with a portrait lens at first of their relationship – ‘the dog doesn’t know who I’m and thinks why ought to I play with you.’ As a substitute she prefers to make use of her trusty 70-200mm f/2.8 lens in a extra passive, documentary capability.

three golden retriever dogs running in the sea

Crumble, Scrumpy and Toffee. Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8 at 170mm, 1/1250sec at f/6.3, ISO 200

‘Later on, if the dog allows it, I work in a more interactive way and get up closer using my 35mm or wideangle lens.’

It’s additionally necessary to plan what sort of pictures you’re going to start out off with. ‘I usually start with action shots. The dog leaps out of the car, maybe they are a bit restless after the journey, and they want to run and sniff and play. They don’t often wish to sit nonetheless for a portrait. Spaniels, for instance, received’t appear to expire of vitality even when drained, so perceive the breed.’

Seize the second

Rhian has a variety of methods for getting a full of life canine to remain nonetheless for a portrait, considered one of her favourites being a fake throw of a ball or toy – the canine stops in expectation and in that second you will get a portrait. ‘One other rule of thumb is to tire the canine first, earlier than attempting to do any portraits. At all times work round them.

Then you should take into consideration the place you need them to remain nonetheless. In case you suppose they’d look good on a log, for instance, work out lens selection, composition, settings and so on beforehand. When I’m prepared, I work quick, quite than retaining the canine ready whereas I attempt to determine all of it out.

two pugs

Betsy and Lilo. 14-24mm f/2.8 at 14mm, 1/640sec at f/4.5, ISO 200

Taking too lengthy to get arrange is without doubt one of the most simple errors in canine pictures, because the canine will get bored. Individuals put the images first and the canine second. It have to be the opposite approach spherical.’

If a canine is just not good at staying nonetheless, Rhian can even use ‘high-value treats’, similar to a snack. ‘We never make a dog do anything they don’t wish to do, however they quickly work out the sport in case you give them what they need – at all times throughout the realm of what’s secure for the canine to do and what they need.’

The significance of sunshine

One other core element of Rhian’s method is an understanding of sunshine and the way to use it. ‘You have to make sure the light is good, otherwise it doesn’t matter about your gear or settings. I typically exit a few hours earlier than sundown and attempt to keep away from the brightest a part of the day, which might be difficult exposure-wise.’

Relying on the circumstances, for motion pictures, Rhian’s start line is 1/one thousandth sec or thereabouts, with a wider aperture and decrease ISO setting. ‘I desire blurred-out backgrounds however typically the background is attention-grabbing and also you wish to maintain element. I decide primarily based on the placement.

Typically, I like wider apertures and I work out shutter velocity primarily based on this and the velocity of the canine – a whippet will transfer a lot sooner than a pug, for instance. When photographing a number of canine I’ve to convey the aperture down.

dogs portrait

Missy Moo. Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8 at 200mm, 1/1000sec at f/2.8, ISO 200

‘Unless they are exactly the same distance from you, running together, it’s straightforward to get one in focus and one out. So I convey the aperture down and attempt to get canine collectively as a lot as I can. By way of extra static portraits, my start line is aperture and the quantity of background blur, then my composition and so forth.’

Whereas Rhian primarily makes use of pure gentle, she does typically use a flashgun with a diffuser, primarily along with her 14-24mm wideangle lens. ‘Sometimes I have used off-camera flash but it can end up being quite a complicated set-up with dogs. By the time you are ready, everyone’s most likely drained and the sunshine goes.

A wideangle lens with a hotshoe flash makes it simpler to get the canine the place you need, or observe them round. I take advantage of a primary outdated flash, so that you don’t want to spend so much. You may as well use gentle bins, though, whereas steady gentle with a lightweight field may very well be simpler, it’d distract or fear the canine. I prefer to maintain every little thing small, easy and intimate.’

In the case of focusing, Rhian favours steady AF utilizing back-button focusing so she will observe motion, though she’s going to change to handbook focus if acceptable. ‘I always focus on the head and eyes – you can get away with a lot if eyes are in focus, unless the dog is side on. If using my 70-200mm lens I generally use the middle focus point as I find this easier for staying sharp.’

dog silhouette

Molly. 70-200 f/2.8 at 90mm, 1/800sec at f/5, ISO 250

The most important problem capturing canine

Rhian reckons the toughest job is capturing a number of canine who’re all in favour of various things. ‘It may be a problem when the shopper has a number of canine and desires all of them collectively in a shot. A number of canine working collectively is especially laborious, and I discover 4 or 5 nigh unattainable except working side-on.

I’ve been identified to Photoshop canine portraits collectively. You possibly can’t pressure the canine to do one thing they don’t wish to do, and if the canine are completely satisfied and the shopper completely satisfied, I don’t see an issue with this. Ideally you get the picture proper in digital camera however my job is to get the shoppers a picture they like and by no means to upset the canine. I not often put canine on results in get the shot except in an emergency. I attempt to get them drained and attempt to work with their motivations in appropriate location.’

Rhian’s Prime Suggestions for photographing canine

1. Get your priorities proper

one little and big dogs

Nigel and Margaret

At all times put the canine first, it doesn’t matter what. Individuals take far too lengthy establishing for taking pictures or taking the pictures. If the canine is sitting there for 5 minutes when you take the picture, it would get bored. It’s good to maintain them motivated and engaged.

2. Suppose like a canine

two pugs

Is that this enjoyable, is it attention-grabbing, is it too sizzling? Put your self within the mind-set of the canine. The canine at all times comes first and I by no means get them to do something they don’t wish to do. Solely after that, take into consideration the sunshine and the digital camera settings and so forth.

3. Guide labour

dog on hind legs


In the case of settings, it’s at all times higher to shoot in handbook mode. I’d solely advocate utilizing aperture or shutter precedence in case you are completely caught. Doing my course will enable you go from auto to handbook settings, and this can make an enormous distinction to your hit price.

4. Again-button focus

wet dog


For focusing I take advantage of again button focusing with steady AF, as this implies you may observe shifting canine rapidly and successfully. I’ll typically use handbook focus for trickier conditions, so it’s value turning on any handbook focusing aids in your digital camera.

5. Take into consideration the sunshine

dog with tennis ball


Shoot when the sunshine is finest, not when it’s the most handy time for you. Shoot in the midst of the day in the summertime, and you will get very laborious shadows or run the chance of overexposure – the canine will quickly get sizzling too, and your pictures will endure.

6. Take alongside treats

dogs photographer with small dog

Take one thing that motivates the canine, similar to high-value treats or their favorite ball or toy – that approach you should use what they wish to get them to play, run or stand nonetheless, relying on what the canine desires to do. William, above, was chasing Rhian to get his ball again!

Rhian’s Dog pictures package checklist

Nikon D5 DSLR

Fourteen years in the past I went into Jessops and so they advisable the Nikon D70s. I’m nonetheless pleased with the Nikon system, so I see no cause to alter – the AF and low-light efficiency are nice for my wants. I additionally desire DSLR optical viewfinders, however would possibly think about altering to mirrorless sooner or later sooner or later.

Nikkor 14-24mm f/2.8 lens

This wideangle lens is my fourth and I really like the truth that it’s good and quick at f/2.8. The broader finish may be very helpful for getting the canine in context and I typically use it with flash. The one downside is, the lens is kind of bulbous, so I can’t defend it with a filter. When engaged on seashores with canine working round kicking up sand and stones, I’m very cautious!

Nikkor 35mm f/1.4 lens

This 35mm is good for canine portraits. I can maintain my hand out with a deal with to draw the canine whereas bringing the digital camera again far sufficient to get a pleasant portrait. With a 50mm this is able to be far more awkward, so the 35mm is extra versatile and I discover the quick most aperture good for the sort of photographs I prefer to take.

Nikkor 70-200mm f/2.8

This quick, high quality lens is my mainstay for motion pictures. The focal size is ideal for canine – you may zoom out if they’re nervous or zoom proper in to 200mm for a portrait with good background blur. A 300mm lens would imply I’m taking pictures too far-off – I’ve to have the ability to talk with everybody, together with the canine!

Adobe Photoshop and Lightroom

Lightroom may be very useful for batch processing uncooked recordsdata. The most recent improve allows you to choose each sky and topic and is an actual game-changer. I do a common edit then I do extra exact work on chosen photographs, citing shadows or boosting colors. I solely use Photoshop when I’ve to take away topics or add them to a picture.

The right way to begin your personal Dog Images enterprise

What suggestions does Rhian have for individuals desirous to take the additional step and arrange a canine pictures enterprise? ‘Work on your SEO so customers can easily find you on Google, but before that, realise that your biggest marketing tool is your photographs. If they are not up to scratch, it doesn’t matter about your website positioning or social media expertise. You by no means cease studying and I attempt to make any new shoot my finest ever.’

Rhian is sceptical about investing in social media advertising and marketing. ‘I have found it expensive and you can waste money and time. It’s now a lot more durable to achieve out to prospects on social media in contrast to a couple years in the past, so take a look at free methods to boost your profile – however by no means work at no cost, as individuals received’t respect you.

It’s necessary to be practical, too. Though I used to be ready to make use of the lockdowns to work on my on-line course and appeal to new college students, in addition to engaged on video classes, you should have a plan B in case you’re compelled to not work once more. I work as a joiner too, making cupboards and picture frames for shoppers – fortuitously I actually take pleasure in this as effectively!’

Studying from Rhian – take a canine pictures course

Rhian has written an intensive 20-lesson course on mastering the artwork of photographing canine within the open air. ‘It’s completely every little thing I do know, from selecting an appropriate location, motivating canine, lighting, portraits, motion pictures plus post-production in Lightroom and Photoshop. It’s very detailed and contains quite a lot of 1-1 assist from myself, so it’s actually for people who find themselves critical about taking higher photographs of canine, however it’s accessible and written so that everybody, together with full learners, can become involved.’

Rhian has additionally just lately launched an additional lesson on photographing black canine. ‘Many of my customers and students have black dogs and really struggle to get good images. This extra lesson specifically addresses the problems that they have.’ For more information about Rhian’s course, see

Rhian White

Rhian is a long-established ‘real life’ canine photographer and in addition runs a profitable on-line course. See extra about her at and Instagram:@rhianwhitephotography

We hope this text has impressed you, so do ship us your finest canine photographs ( or get in contact with us through Fb or Twitter.

Want extra steering on photographing pets? Take a look at our pet photography guide here.

Elke Vogelsang also shares how she got into dog photography here.

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