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How to take dog photos

Note: This is a guest post by David Sutton of Sutton Studios. David is a photographer from the Chicago area. His company photographs dogs, cats, horses and other animals, as well as kids and families. Portraits include anything from pets to families to commercial work.

If you want to catch your dog’s spirit in photos, it’s important to understand how the pros work!

These tips will help you capture your pup’s personality so you can get great looking photos.

1. Prep work

If you want to see your dog’s true colors, it’s important to make him or her feel and look their best ahead of time.  Bathe and/or groom your pup a day or two before the photo shoot. If you don’t typically groom your dog, skip this step – you want the dog to look natural.

Take your dog on a walk the morning of the shoot. Nothing too strenuous as you want some high-energy shots, but just a quick walk to start the day off right and insure that your dog is in the best mood possible so his or her personality will shine!

Copyright Notice2. Black and white

Subtracting color can add so much to a photo. I like black and white because it offers an interpretation of the scene rather than a reproduction. Black and white images also look more timeless – like they’re from another era – so your photos will stand the test of time!

Allow for enough time and take a lot of pictures.  Don’t give up after one or two shots. Professionals know to wait and “work the scene.” Sometimes you get your best shots right away but more often they come as the result of making each new shot an improvement on the one you just did. Take dozens of photos, then EDIT!

If you’re using a digital camera, extra frames don’t cost anything but your time. Don’t be afraid to hit DELETE and keep only the strongest images- that’s what the pros do.

3. Set the scene to play

Dogs love to play! It allows them to be free and express themselves. Bring his or her favorite toys and watch their personality come to life. Be sure you have the shot framed and ready so you can snap away once you’ve got the dog’s attention. Treats are also great for keeping your dog focused.

David Sutton photo4. Find your light

Avoid using your on-camera flash, if you can. Your pet’s eyes will reflect the light and come out looking like big green saucers – not looking like the dog you know and love! It’s best to find natural light near a window or outside.

You’ll find the best outdoor lighting early in the day or in late afternoon. If you’re shooting indoors, try using a high ISO film or digital camera setting.

5. Get down!

Go down to your dog’s level on the floor – inhabit his or her world! Photos at this angle give your pet the importance he or she deserves.

Also remember to get in close to capture some terrific personality shots.  Alternately, you can try raising your dog up by putting him or her on a table or stool.  Being eye-to-eye with your subject creates more compelling photos.

David Sutton is a pet and family portrait photographer of Chicago-based Sutton Studios. Visit for more information and to purchase a 2010 Dog Days Calendar – proceeds go directly to help animal welfare agencies!

(Photos taken by Sutton Studios)

Lindsay Stordahl

Sunday 27th of September 2009

Yep. I have that same problem. I'll get a great shot of the dog and there will be a cat licking himself in the background or a candy bar wrapper or something!

Chels and shilo

Sunday 27th of September 2009

Great tips.. one thing that lets me down is not checking to background first for clutter as Im focussed on the dog..

loved this post

Lindsay Stordahl

Tuesday 8th of September 2009

And you take awesome photos!!


Tuesday 8th of September 2009

Good suggestions. I LOVE taking photos of the dogs. It's one of my favorite things! I really like playing around with the black and white and sepia tone pictures.

Lindsay Stordahl

Friday 4th of September 2009

Ha! I've had dogs do that too - run up to me and get too close every time they see the camera.

My cats are good at making a point to stop being cute as soon as they see the camera. They're like, "OK we're done. Outa here!"