This post is part of the Wednesday Blog Hop series orchestrated by Chewy.com and is sponsored content. All opinions remain my own.
I didn’t always take great pictures of my dog out in the wilderness. Quite the contrary. Before Instagram came along, I’d lug my heavy camera around on hikes and trips and take some photos, but my camera would rarely make an appearance. I wanted desperately to improve my photography skills, but I worried I’d come across as annoying asking my group to stop while I took a photo (or several).
Instagram, however, inspired me to get over that fear and, with Sora, and now Laila, as my subjects, I have finally become the photographer I always dreamed I’d be. My photos have won a few contests here and there, including the Blog Paws 2017 Nose-to-Nose award for Best Photo on a Blog. That same photo also graced the cover of the April 2018 issue of Adventure Cycling Magazine. After years of learning and playing with different techniques, I’m happy to share my best tips on how to take great pictures of your dog for Instagram.
How to Take Great Pictures of Your Dog for Instagram
I will start out by first saying that you don’t need to go out and get fancy camera equipment as soon as you finish reading this post. If you’re just starting out or need to save up to buy a new camera, use what you currently have.
While camera quality does matter, it’s not the only factor that goes into getting a good photograph of your dog. Composition and editing also contribute significantly, and I’ll get into those more below.
Because I don’t have buckets of money to spend on camera equipment, I tend to have one or two high-quality lenses. For my Sony, I use the Sony 35mm f/1.8 prime lens and I just love it. I can use it in a variety of settings and capture the majority of scenes I want.
Lighting is Everything
Morning and evening light is best, ideally at sunrise and sunset. Cloudy days are also great for photo shoots because the clouds hide unwanted shadows and harsh light. If you find yourself outside midday and see a photo op, try to shoot in the shade if you can.
Find the spot in your house with the most natural light and use that as your studio. Open all of the blinds and get a sense for when the lighting comes in just right. If your pup is a sun seeker, then place a bed in the sunny spot and he’ll start to go there naturally. If I’m shooting indoors, I almost always shoot by a window or with a significant amount of white in the scene, like bed sheets, for example. Without natural lighting, your indoor photos will come out with a drab yellow hue.
How to Get Your Dog to Pay Attention to the Camera
My advice is to never head out for a photo shoot without valuable treats in hand! I recognize that when Sora and Laila pose for me, they are performing a task, and they must be rewarded for their efforts if I want to continue to ask them to pose for the camera.
When I want a shot of Sora or Laila looking directly at me, I use our “look” command. Our dogs know that “look” means lock eyes with me, so I know that I’ll get them looking into the camera 100% of the time. It also helps to hold a treat by your forehead or use a squeaky toy where you want them to look. And don’t forget to reward them for their efforts!
Get on Your Dog’s Level
I also almost always squat when I take photos of the dog, in order to get on their level. If I stand, then the photograph comes from my perspective and loses intimacy. When I squat to their level, I can show the viewer what my dogs are experiencing from their point of view rather than how I see them.
Even if you have perfect lighting and the photograph of your dog turns out beautifully, post-processing the image—or editing your photo—is always worth it to make it pop. And there’s nothing wrong with editing your photos! All of mine go through post process using either [Lightroom], [Photoshop] or Snapseed if I’m doing it on my phone (available for both iPhone and Android). I taught myself how to use both Lightroom and Photoshop, simply by searching for and watching tutorials on YouTube.
Tell a Story
In order to have a successful Instagram account, focus on the story you want to tell. Our photographs tell the story of our travels and outdoor adventures together. Pick a theme that suits your dog’s personality and stick with that. Play around with different ideas and settings, but once you find something that works, tell that story.
Your story is what will keep your audience coming back to your account. They want to know what you did last weekend, how your pet is doing after a veterinary visit. I have found Instagram to be the most genuine social media community out there. In fact, I have met and become good friends with many Instafriends. Last year, we took a road trip to Arizona to meet a group of Adventure Dog IGers from there. I’ve done group hikes in foreign countries because of IG. I’ve created Mastermind Groups and done joint webinars. Instagram has an incredible community and your story and regular engagement will reap benefits you never expected.
Mimicry is the biggest form of flattery, right? So find some work that you love and recreate it with your own twist. Study Instagram accounts of photographers you admire and incorporate different techniques like style, setting, props, or edits into your own photography. I’m not saying to copy their photos exactly, but gather inspiration from their work and give your own photographs their own flare.
There you have it, folks! These are my best tips for putting you on the path toward taking great pictures of your dog for Instagram!