Before I get to the real tips and tricks, I should mention that I've only seriously gotten into photography since I got Nola, so for about a year and a half.
All but one of the photos in this post and 96% of the ones in other posts are shot with a Nikon d3100, 18-55mm lens.
The equipment you use in photography is very important! This is one of the few times where bigger and more expensive is better. That's not to say you can't take incredible photos with a more modest camera or even a phone (up until January of this year all of the photos on this blog were taken with my iPhone 3s), but it's a lot more difficult then using a nice camera. So if you're serious about wanting good photos, I'd suggest investing in a good quality camera. I personally prefer Nikon over Canon, but that's just me. Also invest in a camera bag and cleaning kit.
Learn your camera settings:
It's incredibly boring at first, but take the time to learn about your camera settings. Most importantly, ISO, shutter speed and aperture. Once you master those you can move on to white balance and such.
I don't do too much editing to my photos, beside erasing out the info on Nola's tags and turning photos black and white. Still, it's important to know your way around editing. I suggest Photobucket, it's free and user friendly. And for my fellow Mac users, get familiar with iPhoto's editing system.
Inspiration and Passion:
Ask yourself two things. One, what inspires you? And two, how do you feel when you take a good picture?
What inspires me? Many things, and I think that's a very good thing in photography. You don't want your photos to run together.
I'm inspired by Nola, music, reading, art, light, beauty, my family, experience, quotes and life in general.
When you're taking pictures, try and bring a bit of what inspires you into each photo you take. It sounds difficult (if not impossible) at first, but you soon fall into the habit of making the photos you take your own. It doesn't have to be some big, glaring thing that everyone notices in every picture. Just a little something that says you, to yourself as well as others who know you.
How do I feel when I take a good photo? When I hit the review button on my camera and see a truly good photo, it is the best feeling in the world. I'm not sure if I can put it into words, but I'll try. It's a moment that's completely your own. You took this picture, it's a result of your creativity, your determination and your passion. It's the most prideful moment, and at the same time the most humbling. It's humbling because you captured something so beautiful, so fleeting and something that isn't yours. Photography is different from other forms of art that way; you never truly OWN what you took. You were presented a moment and you captured it, but it's never completely yours.
Photography, to me anyways, is a very raw, emotional form of art. Every picture I take I put a bit of myself into.
Take some time to find out exactly how you feel when you take a good picture, and go from there. Do you immediately want to show it off? Or are you like me and want to take a few minutes to enjoy the rush of success? This will set the tone of how you perceive photography.
I would also choose a quote, song or piece of art work as your go to inspiration. My go to quote is ''Creativity is intelligence having fun"- Albert Einstein
The Rules (or lack of):
One of the things I love best about photography is that every single "rule" can be broken and you can still end up with an incredibly shot. Think of them more as guidelines, and remember that rules are meant to be broken.
Okay, now that I got all the big stuff out of the way I'll show you the real tricks.
Focus on the eyes, not the nose. After all, the eyes are the windows into the soul. For example, the two photos below. One is focused on Nola's nose, the other on her eyes. Which is more appealing and captivating? Also, the first on is taken under a shady tree with my ISO set low. The second my ISO is set higher, and makes all the difference. Sorry to anyone who's confused, but photography is a technical art at times, and I don't know how to describe it in plain English :).
|Focused on the nose; low ISO|
|Focused on the eyes; higher ISO|
Pick up on other colors. In the above second photo, you can see the blue sky reflected in Nola's eyes, as well as the blue of her harness and leash. The blue being interspersed throughout the photo adds visual interest, and make each bit of blue more vibrant then if it was by itself.
|Picking up the pink from her tongue, collar and the chair|
Play up your dog's color. Have either the backdrop, harness, collar, leash or clothing be a color that compliments the dog. Nola's rich red brown coat looks beautiful accompanied by her sky blue harness and leash, and bring out tones you don't see if she's not wearing them.
Show what makes your dog unique. Be it a behavior or marking, show what makes your dog different. For example, Nola has a beautiful widows peak on her brow. It makes her face so special and expressive, and looks stunning in B&W. I like to emphases it by taking close ups of her face.
|Nola's beautiful, unique widows peak|
Don't have a camera ham? Use treats or toys! Nola grew up with a camera shoved in her face all the time, and as a result she adores the camera and poses by herself 90% of the time. She's naturally photogenic too, so that helps a lot. If your pup isn't so sure of the camera, use treats and toys to get their attention and make photo shoots a happy experience.
Be flexible, literally! When photographing dogs, you need to get down on their level. And let me tell you, having a Dachshund and being 5' 7" and lanky, that's quite a feat for me!
Most pictures of dogs you see are from a standing point of view, with the dog looking up at the camera. Sometimes this looks good, but most of the time it's boring. Get on their level or lower, or go for a high angle like in the photo below.
|On her level|
|From slightly above|
|From her level. Again with picking up colors.|
|From her level.|
Photograph the dog in parts, as well as as a whole. Love the wet nose of your furbaby? Zoom in on just it! Same goes for paws, tail, collar, tags, ect. These little bits and pieces can be just as (if not more) beautiful and artistic as a full body shot.
Pay attention to your background. If you look through the viewfinder and see your dog against a messy or ugly background, move! Go for clean and interesting backgrounds such as a beach, a field, a chair or a plain backdrop of concrete of fabric. Let the dog take center stage.
|Plain background of our cement patio floor|
|Plain background of my quilt. Notice Nola's perfectly evil face|
|Plain grass, Nola center stage|
Play with light and shadows. Position your dog so that the light's softly framing her face, or so that she's dappled by shade.
|Perfect lighting, shows every feature clearly and even shows the dust. This kind of lighting you have to work fast with!|
|Taken with my iPhone 3s|
|Half in light, half in shadow.|
Incorporate yourself into some of the photos of your dog. Doesn't have to be one where you're holding your wriggling pup and
AVOID THE FLASH AT ALL COSTS!!!!!!!!!!!!! Dogs + flash= bad photos. Avoid the flash at all costs! Use natural lighting if possible, and if not use some form of defuser to make the flash less harsh. Plus, the flash scares some dogs!
And remember, it takes 100s of tries to get that one, stunning picture. In a single shoot I can take up to 300 pictures, and have 50 good ones and 5 stunning ones. Don't get discouraged!
Two really good photography books that explain it all in plain English:
Beyond Snapshots: How to take that fancy DSLR camera off "auto" and start shooting like a pro
Expressive Photography: The Shutter Sisters Guide to Shooting from the Heart
I hope that wasn't too terribly confusing! There you have it, the tips and tricks I use. Hope you enjoyed em!
If you have any questions, ask them below and I'll get back to you!