Almost every dog parent out there has hundreds if not thousands of photos of their dog on their phone. But are they Instagram worth? Most probably don’t pass the smell test when it comes to quality of pics — photo bombs, blurred images, and couch shots are the norm. But with fall in full swing now is the perfect time to up your dog-photo game and show the world how adorable your pup is.
During autumn, the light is better (the harsh, too-bright days of summer are gone), the vibrant colors of the season make for excellent photo backgrounds, and playing in the leaves is fun for everybody. Plus, you get in enjoy some great bonding time.
To capture high-quality pics of your pooch without splurging on a professional camera, here are a few tips and tricks to take the perfect photo using your phone.
Get Your Phone Ready
With so many different modes, filters, and editing tools, it can be a bit overwhelming, but it doesn’t have to be. Sophie Crew, owner of Sophie Crew Photography and a volunteer dog rescue photographer in San Diego, suggests using portrait mode. “This will naturally give the most focus on your subject while giving the background a bit of blur, which is what will make your image and the colors in the background pop,” she says.
“You should also make sure your phone’s camera lenses are free from finger smudge before you start shooting,” she adds. “So give your phone a quick wipe down to make sure there are no obstructions on your lenses that might blur your shot.”
Another way to avoid blurry photos when shooting with your phone is to always take photos in good light so that your camera or phone can use a fast shutter speed, says Charlene Potts, a professional pet photographer and owner of Paw Prints. “Don’t try to photograph pets in the dark or the automatic mode of your phone will switch to slow exposures, which is a surefire way to get blurry photos,” she says.
Pick the Right Lighting
If possible, aim to shoot right at sunrise or sunset for nice. “Morning fog in the fall can photograph beautifully, but the warm evening light is so gorgeous,” says Potts. “The ‘golden hour’ before sunset can make for some incredible light that comes through trees on the horizon and makes everything almost glow!”
Crew agrees, saying sunset light is her favorite option in the fall, as the sunlight tends to get warmer and really brings out rich, fall colors. “I personally love shooting wide open at sunset to get those fall hues to just blend into a beautiful pop of oranges, yellows and reds in the background of my subjects,” she says.
If sunrise or sunset don’t work, then the ideal weather for those perfect fall shots is an overall sunny day with light cloud cover, according to Crew. “Clouds are great if it’s the middle of the day,” she explains. “A cloudy or overcast sky acts like a giant softbox [like those big lights you see in photo studios], and soft light is very easy to work with.”
Find the Ideal Background
There are plenty of great, colorful options that make for the perfect fall background. So many pumpkin patches and apple picking fields are pet-friendly these days, and Potts believes those kinds of places make gorgeous and unique backgrounds that will really make your photos stand out. But if you are looking for something closer to home, just step outside.
“Of course you can also create a little ‘set’ in your own back yard using hay bales, pumpkins and gourds, or even just leaves,” she says.
In addition, Crew recommends adapting your photo shoot based on your dog’s color. For example, a brown or reddish dog would look better with a contrast-colored ground to shoot on. “Look for lighter, dried grass, a light dirt path or even a large area of lighter colored rocks to create contrast between your dog’s beautiful coloring and your surroundings,” Crew says. “Have a dark or black dog? Use a lighter surrounding. A white or light colored pup? Try placing him in darker surrounds, like near a tree stump or fallen logs.”
Get Down to Your Dog’s Eye Level
The best way to photograph a dog is to get on their level, according to Potts. “During a session, I always take a few perspective shots from above, but the money shots are the ones where you are at eye-level with your pet,” she says.
Don’t be afraid to sit or lay on the ground to get many different angles and then you can choose the best photos once you’re done with your photo shoot.
In the fall, Crew recommends picking a spot that has some fallen leaves on the ground and then get low, trying to shoot from almost a crouched down position so that you can capture those leaves on the ground and your dog’s whole body. “When focusing on your pup, the leaves on the ground closest to you will blur slightly, making those colors frame the bottom of your image,” she explains.
If you can, Crew suggests bringing a friend along for the photo shoot and have them toss some leaves over your dog while you snap away. “This will give the illusion of falling leaves around your pup,” she says.
Work With the Dog You Have
Every dog is different. Some are super hyper and will have a hard time sitting in one place, others will love the posing but might get distracted by people walking by or all the great smells of fall. Be adaptive to your dog’s personality, and don’t force your dog to do something she doesn’t want to do. Bringing a few squeaky toys and a whistle along with some treats can help get your dog’s attention when she starts to get a bit bored.
“An interesting sound will get your dog to look at you, perk up their ears, and if you’re lucky, you might even get a head tilt, making your shots absolute perfection,” Crew says.
Bring Some Fall-Appropriate Props
Adding a few props to your photo shoot can be a great way to enhance the fall “feel” — just make sure the props aren’t too distracting or take the attention away from your dog.
Crew recommends grabbing a handful of those mini pumpkins that you can find at your local grocery store to place around your pup, or, if heading to a pumpkin patch, frame your pup in a way that you capture just your dog, and one, maybe two larger pumpkins in the shot on the same plane.
“I love the look of a fall-themed bandana around your pup’s neck, and if it’s cold, a shot or two with your pup wearing a doggy sweater is so cute,” she says.
These tips can set you up for a successful photo shoot, turning your dog’s unique energy and joyfulness into images you’ll treasure forever.