In this article, we will share with you some smartphone dog photography tips from the pros that will blow your mind. Some of these are so simple and easy to implement, yet most people don’t know about them!
We’ll go over top tips on how to take the best Instagram photos of your dog. We’ll tell you what props to use where and when, composition techniques for taking pictures, lighting tricks for getting a perfect shot – even editing with presets and apps.
All this information is here in one place – all you need to know to get cute pictures. So whether you’re a pet photographer, a beginner or a pro looking for some extra tips for your next photo session, read on.
We asked professional pet photography experts to reveal their secrets for the perfect photoshoot so you can use their tips and tricks to make the best pet photos ever!
How Can I Take Professional Pictures Of My Dog with a Phone?
The ultimate goal in dog photography is to capture your best friend’s character and personality. Your phone is always in your pocket so you have no excuse that you’ve forgotten your camera!
What Settings On Your Phone To Use When Photographing Pets
Set up your phone camera before you begin.
- turn off your flash (you should be shooting in natural light anyway)
- change the white balance from automatic to daylight or overcast.
- increase your shutter speed and change the aperture to f11 or higher
- turn off any functions such as “HDR” or Live mode
Depending on your smartphone, you may have different camera modes available to experiment with. For portraits an iPhone you can use the “Portrait Mode” or the “Natural Light + Portrait”. This usually works well for dog photography.
On your Android phone, you may have different camera modes available to experiment with such as, “Soft Skin”, “Beautiful skin”, and “Outdoor portrait.” Each of these should be a good starting point for photos of your dog.
Tips on taking action shots: Shoot in burst or continuous mode so that you can get as many photos of your dog as possible from different angles before they move away or stop doing something
Portrait Mode – What is Bokeh?
The lens aperture controls the amount of light that enters your camera into a defined circular-shaped area, producing images known as bokeh.
Bokeh is a lens blur that makes your subject sharp while blurring unimportant background objects.This is especially useful if you are photographing animals with a background that will distract from the subject. Bokeh is achieved with a large aperture size.
Here’s how to get a bokeh effect in dog photography with your phone camera:
- move closer to your dog.
- increase the distance between your dog and the background.
- use a large aperture (smaller number) on your camera. For example, f/1.4 is a larger aperture than f/16.
- use a mobile telephoto lens add on ( like this one from Moment) that will add more blur (bokeh) to the background.
- look for something interesting in the background that will add to the composition of your photo, like Christmas lights, city lights or a colourful flowerbed.
Good Lighting Is Key to Good Dog Photography So Use Natural Light
Natural light is a powerful tool that photographers can harness to create beautiful portraits of your dog. You can use natural light to take all kinds of striking puppy portraits depending on what time of day you shoot your pictures.
How to Take a Dog Portrait Picture With Natural Light
When photographing your dog indoors, make sure there is natural light from an open window or door nearby. A natural, continuous light won’t frighten your dog like a flash, nor cause the evil-looking ‘red-eye’ in your images. Soft, diffused lighting is great for making flattering pet portraits.If you’re taking pictures during a bright, sunny day, try covering the window with a sheet to soften the lighting.
Pro Tip: Ensure that your subject has catchlight, or white reflective parts in the eyes to avoid making them look flat. Capturing the spark in your dog’s eyes will make your photos more alive.
Best Times Of The Day To Take Beautiful Pet Photographs
Sunrise and Sunset – Otherwise Known As Golden Hour
Shoot during these times to take the best dog portraits. The soft light from a sunrise or late afternoon sun will add warmth and texture, which is perfect for pet photography. Plus, your pup’s fur won’t look too shiny in this part of the day because it won’t be reflecting harsh light.
Cloudy Days Are Great
You don’t need a sunny day to take some amazing photos. Clouds provide an even diffused light that will make your dog photograph look more natural.
Only Mad Dogs and Poor Photographers Go Out In The Midday Sun
Never take dog portraits in the midday. Harsh full-on direct sunlight is not your friend so try to avoid it as much as possible. Midday light creates unflattering shadows and will make you and your dog squint. Not a great look for photographs!
Pro Tip: If you take photos in broad daylight, try shooting in a shaded area and play with the shadows for interesting effects.
Use a Bounce Board
No, we’re not talking about something you jump on! A bounce board is a reflector that bounces light back onto your dog to fill in shadows on the face. The key to good dog photos is achieving even, natural light on the subject and making their eyes sparkle.
You can buy a reflector from amazon or just use a large sheet of white paper. Even tin foil can work wrapped on a sheet of cardboard. Oh, and make sure you have someone with you to hold it!
Pro Tip: A reflector will make it easy for you to photograph black dogs because it will remove harsh shadows.(expertphotography.com)
Background Analysis – Check What’s In The Frame!
It’s so easy to get carried away and focusing only on your dog. But you need to take a careful look at what’s in the background. We’ve all seen the office shots with the person with the plant growing out of their head. Well, it’s the same for your dog photos.
If you’re looking for beautiful indoor photos of your dog, make sure the background is as clean and clutter-free as possible. Do you really want to see that empty crisp packet on the table in the photos of your dog?
When shooting outside, watch out for telegraph poles, trees, bright coloured objects like red poo bins, which are all terribly distracting and will ruin a great shot. Move yourself so they are out of view then you can compose your photo.
Chose a backdrop that contrasts with the colour of your dog so they will stand out.
Pro Tip: Tree trunks, logs, gates, benches, brickwork, and doorways all make great backdrops or frames for dog photography. (photoblog.com)
Composition Ideas for Pet Photography Poses and Props
Everybody is used to seeing images of dogs from the photographer’s elevated perspective, so take time to get down on their level. This may not always be easy, but it can make for a more compelling image when framed correctly and tidily composed.
The Dog’s Eye View of the World
For the best result, take a low-angle shot that captures your dog in its natural habitat. Depending on what breed of dog you have, you may need to crouch or lie on the ground to get an eye-to-eye shot. I have spent a lot of time laying in the snow and mud to get shots. But it’s worth it.
Pro Tip: Get down on your belly and let the dog crawl over you, then take a picture from below to create an adorable point of view shot.
Photos taken from your dog’s eye level are best for catching your pup’s expressive face and helping tell an interesting story. Don’t be surprised if your phone camera gets booped, remember to keep a handkerchief in your pocket so you can wipe it clean.
Instead of trying to pose your pet all the time, look for inspiration in its natural poses.
If your animal is a lazy cat, show them yawning. If they are playful in nature, you can capture pictures of them performing their favourite trick for the best images.
Focus on what makes your dog unique and try and capture that.
Joe Nutkins, Professional Dog Trainer share’s this tip:
“Having something for dogs to put front paws up on can help with getting a better angle for a photo, especially with fluffy dogs or dogs wearing a bandana or bow tie. For other pets like birds, hamsters etc, using a small platform or perch can make it easier to work on your own positioning for taking the photos as you can bring yourself lower than your pet plus having a platform can really help them stay still for longer.
Props can also help with a cutesie look, such as our dogs laying down with one paw on an item or crossing paws with a silk flower between the paws etc. It can give your dog or other pet something to focus on so they are more comfortable holding the position for longer.“
How do I make my dog smile for pictures?
Did you know that you can actually train your dog to smile?
- Begin when your dog is calm.Gently lift up your dogs lips from either side of their mouth with your fingers from above. Have a treat ready in your other hand.
- Say, “Smile,” in a happy voice and give your dog the treat at the same time. Repeat this several times.
- Play a game with your dog’s favourite toy like fetch or tug. When the game is over, ask your dog to smile, and reward them when they do. Repeat several times.
Framing Your Shot
Just like using interesting backdrops, you can use things like tree branches or windows to frame your dog in the shot.
It is a good idea to take some different types of pictures, like one where your subject is in the foreground and another where they are in the background.When composing photographs of your dog, be sure to change up the composition and use different angles or poses.
Important – The Closest Eye Must Be In Focus
It’s all about the eyes with dog photography. This is similar to human photos, and you can use the eyes to create a sense of depth or emotion. Use a wide aperture on the portrait mode on your iPhone( under the f). Try f/2.8 or lower to enhance this feeling!
Make Sure You Look at The Camera Too
Nigel Ord-Smith, specialist Dog Portrait Photographer from Lincolnshire offers this advice.
“If you’re being photographed by someone else an important thing to remember is to ensure that you look at the camera.
So many people are overly-concerned with getting their dog to look at the camera that often at the precise moment their dog is looking towards the camera, best gnashers on display in the perfect doggie smile, they are looking down or sideways to see where their dog is looking!
My advice is to get yourself in position with your dog, cuddle in if appropriate, and let whoever is taking the pictures concentrate on getting your dog to look towards the camera and relax and look that way yourself.
It’s obviously trickier if you’re taking a selfie or remotely firing your camera or phone to take a self portrait of you and your dog, but if you can get someone to help to get your dog looking in the right direction, you’re free to make sure you are too!“
How Do You Take Cute Pictures Of Dogs ?
You’ll have a much easier time getting your pet to pose if they’re in their own environment, such as your garden, or on a familiar piece of furniture in the house. Think about what type of dog you have and where they might feel most comfortable – that will dictate your shooting location.
“For some pets having a camera or phone pointed at them can cause anxiety and they either look away or actually take themselves elsewhere.” says Joe Nutkins, Professional Dog Trainer.
“To keep trying to take the photo is more likely to result in photos of your pet looking worried and with their head low down, but stopping trying to take a photo and spending some time working on their worry can make a huge difference!
Turn off your phone sound – not as easy with a camera. But not having the sounds of the shutter closing on your phone can help a nervous pet straight away.
Try holding up your phone or camera while you look away, then put it away very soon after so it’s not there for long. For some pets seeing the camera or phone pointing at them can appear like they are being stared at or their space is invaded, plus when we are also looking at them it can be intimidating so holding just the device can help reduce the intensity
Linking the phone or camera being held up for a moment with rolling treats to your pet can link the camera with positivity from the treats. Keep sessions short, and you’ll find your dog or other pet starts seeing the phone or camera and getting excited about it being there as it means rewards! “
- The wet dog shake. Use burst mode and capture your dog mid-shake!
- Reach for the treat. Get down to their level and snap a pic as they’re reaching up high for that yummy doggy treat.
- Licking peanut butter from their face.
- Underwater shots (you have to try this but PLEASE make sure your phone is completely waterproof!)
- Catching a treat ( use burst mode!)
- Throw a dog disc ( frisbee)
- Urban shots – take your dog into town and find a great bit of graffiti as a backdrop.
- Two dogs? Try a kissing dog shot. Put peanut butter on one and let the other lick it off.
- Bath time – Great opportunity for soggy, bubbly dog photos.
- Upside down dogs. These shots will never cease to be funny!
Tips For Getting Your Dog’s Attention
Dogs get bored quickly, so you need to be quick when photographing them. One of the most important skills to learn in photographing dogs is getting their attention.
#1 The Right Mindset
Rowan Williams of Pooch & Pineapple, Sheffield shares her secret.
“Get your dog zoned in on you and in the right mindset before you start. I start every shoot by doing a couple of training class exercises to get the dog focussed on me. They need to know that when they pay attention to you, good things are going to happen!
You can play a game of ‘food from heaven’ – slowly lower your hand holding a high value treat from way up high, and if they keep their bottom on the floor, keep moving down to their mouth to reward. Bottom goes up, hand goes up. This will help them to focus and will calm their excitable impulses.
When you feel that your dog is settled and they’re in the right mindset for modelling, start taking snaps! “
#2 Get them to be still
If you struggle to get your dogs’ attention, here are some tricks: first of all, make them do something quiet and once you’re ready (camera aimed) call their name. Click the shutter button as soon as your pet is looking in your direction, and you’ll have the best chance of getting a photo-worthy moment.
Once they’re interested, new pictures happen pretty easily. Just don’t break their focus or give them reason to move. Avoid sudden movements or eye contact with the dog as you take pictures. If your pet happens to move or play while you’re photographing them, shoot continuously in burst mode for a better chance at an action shot.
Jade, owner of Zola’s Pawtraits, based in Warrington, Cheshire’s secret to getting attention is hilarious!
“Our pets quickly become bored of their name and stop reacting after a while, so it’s time to get creative. I’ve made some crazy noises during my photoshoots to get those adorable head tilts. My go-to noise is a monkey noise! Your best ape impression is guaranteed to get their attention!“
#3 Use a treat as a lure
When shooting a dog from the front, you can use their natural ability to follow and look at something by waving a treat such as liver or cheese under its nose.
Pro Tip: For a ball-crazy pup, try tossing the desired toy or ball just short of where they are looking. This give you that perfect opportunity to capture an action shot.
#4 Treat your dog like a model
You need to ‘pay’ your dog for their co-operation so break out the treats after each burst of photos. If you don’t offer your model regular rewards, their attention may start to wane, and they may not want to participate in the shoot any longer.
Take Photos Using Burst Mode to Capture Moments
Burst mode is perfect for taking both legendary and funny photos of dogs. Active dogs are unpredictable, and it’s difficult to know how they’re going to look during the shoot.
Instead of waiting for the perfect moment, take spontaneous images. Burst mode is a function typically available on smartphones that will help you take lots of pictures within seconds. This helps you capture all those different angles and expressions that you might otherwise miss.
Want to learn more? Then why not take this course in pet photography on Udemy.
Best Camera Apps for your Smartphone
If you want to take your smartphone photography up a notch, you can download more complex apps that will give you greater control over your phone camera.
One of the most popular apps is called “Camera+“. Camera+ offers a range of features that you don’t find on other camera applications. These include giving control over different lenses, adding filters to photos and adjusting the brightness for more even lighting in your images.
You can also experiment with slow shutter speeds, which will give you an artistic effect by capturing movement in the water, light trails or even a blurred photo.
Another app we like is Moment. Their app is designed to work with their top of the range glass lens adapters for your smartphone. These will add telephoto, macro, fisheye and anamorphic capabilities to your humble phone for some really professional and amazing shots.
Editing Photos Using Apps and Presets
Photography Editing Apps for Smartphones
There are a lot of different photography apps that can be used to edit your dog photos. The best ones, however, are the most popular like Snapseed, VSCO Cam and Camera+.
VSCO Cam is an editing app for iPhone and Android phones. It’s very user-friendly with many inbuilt filters which you can use on your photos .
Camera+ is another great app for editing photos. It has a lot of features which aren’t available on VSCO Cam and Snapseed like curves adjustments or a histogram.
Experiment with different tools until you find one that you like best!
What are Lightroom Presets and Why Do I Need Them?
Lightroom is a photo editing software that can be downloaded on your phone or computer.
Lightroom presets allow you to change the tone of your image and edit it quickly. A Lightroom preset is a set of instructions that tell Photoshop how to modify color, contrast, brightness, etc. There are many different types of lightroom presets, but they all have one thing in common: They take your photo and make it look a certain way with just one click.
The app comes with pre-installed preset effects which you can use to enhance the look of your dog photos . For example, there are presets for black and white, vintage-style pictures or some other retro feel. These presets make it easy to get creative
Free Lightroom presets are available in the Adobe Lightroom CC app which you can download on your phone, or you can buy specially created presets from online stores. They’re quick and easy to install and make a huge difference to your photos! Here’s my top 10 list of presets for pet photos on Etsy.
This is our favourite preset for Dog Lovers for amazing summer shots.
If you want to learn how to use Lightroom in more detail then this is an excellent course:
Hashtags are a minefield but here are our top 8 for your dog photos:
1. Use #dogsofinstagram to share your favorite dog photos. It is the most popular hashtag for dog photos on Instagram. It has over 18 million posts and is followed by 72,000 people!
2. Share pictures of your dog in a funny pose with the hashtag #funnydogs
3. Tag @dogsofinstgram for a chance to be featured on their Instagram page with over 4.8million followers.
4. If you want to get more likes, use hashtags like #cute, #adorable, and #puppylove.
Try more specific hashtags like #nationaldogphotographyday to be featured on their pet awareness day
Or if you have an anxious dog, try #dogsinyellow, or #yellowarmy
So, what pet photography tips have you learned?
Do you have any funny dog pictures to share with us. Let’s laugh together. Tell me some of your best tricks. What is your favourite hashtag for getting more likes and followers? Connect with us on Instagram and Facebook and share your snaps.
Big shout out and thanks to our contributors:
Pooch & Pineapple Dog Photography – Rowan Williams
Pooch & Pineapple is a dog photographer for dog lovers, creating natural photos that are packed with personality. Founder Rowan Williams has been a professional photographer since 2015 and lives in Sheffield with her two rescue dogs.
Nigel Ord-Smith Dog Photography
Experienced, multi award-winning, specialist dog photographer, offering location portrait sessions in beautiful woodlands near Woodhall Spa in Lincolnshire, and from mid 2021 at our new home studio in Timberland, Lincolnshire.
Zola Pawtraits – Jade
I’m Jade and I’m a studio pet photographer and owner of Zola’s Pawtraits, based in Warrington, Cheshire. I create quirky and colourful portraits of pets that captures their unique personality.