Unless you’ve decided to quit your day job and put all your eggs in one basket—that is, the my-dog-is-totally-gonna-be-an-Instagram-celebrity lottery—you probably don’t have the time to take pictures daily of your beloved pooch. Who has the time? More than that, who wants to put in all that effort in keeping a dog clean and camera-ready for some comments and likes online? It all sounds like a chore, but luckily it doesn’t have to be.
Can we guarantee your pup becomes an Instagram star overnight? Well, no. But there are some simple rules to follow to make sure you’re getting the most out of your photorgraphs, whether you’re using your phone’s camera or a real camera. Best of all, you can commit as much or as little time as you want and, with these simple pointers, can achieve some beautiful results.
Ready to Go: If you’ve decided you want to snap some great shots of your pup, be sure they look their best. For us, that usually means a “drool towel” on hand for Archer. If we’re on a trail for a shoot, I usually also have to keep an eye out for mud and water on her, but for the most part it’s a matter of keeping her nose clean from her own drool. Make sure you have the tools you need to keep your pup clean during the shoot, and that they’re 100% ready to go before you even start.
Lighting is Everything: Whether you have the impossible-to-photograph black dog (welcome to my nightmare!) or you plan on using a lot of different props, keep in mind that clarity and lighting is everything for a good photo. In our old house, we had limited natural light and really had to be aware of when our best times were to take photos. For the casual photographer, natural lighting is your friend.
Thou Shalt Not Zoom: Whether it’s on a point-and-shoot camera or on your phone, make a mental note to absolutely never use the zoom. Get closer to your subject if you want a close-up shot, and avoid using that zoom at all costs! Why? Typically, the zoom will result in reduced quality—mainly, it’ll be grainy or even out of focus.
Change Your View: A downward angle from your point-of-view down to your dog can be boring. It’s what we see every day with our own pups. Change your view. Get really low (lay on your belly, even) and take a worm’s eye view shot! Or stand on a chair, get high, and go for the bird’s eye view. Change your angles, and play around! You’ll get some really interesting shots by simply changing your point of view.
Rule of Thirds: The rule of thirds is a big thing in photography, and it’s pretty easy to understand. Actually, Instagram already has this feature built into their app! Ever wonder why, when editing a photo, the screen has two vertical and two horizontal lines? It breaks the image up into 9 squares. The idea is to place your point of interest along one of these intersecting points, or levelling your horizon line along one of the horizontal lines. Using the rule of thirds is a way to enhance the visual interest in your photo by leading the eye.
If you have the luxury of using a more robust camera, like a DSLR (Lucy and I both use different models of Canon DSLR cameras), you have a little more wiggle room to take some really unique, fancy shots.
Depth of Field: It’s a fancy photography term, but in a nutshell, when talking about “depth of field” we mean there is a variation between your subject and the background. The picture doesn’t look flat. You know those nice blurred backgrounds or even “bokeh” style backgrounds? That’s the result of a good lens and some great focus on the subject.
Focus: With your pup, you typically want to ensure the focus is around their nose/eyes. If it’s a close-up, the focus becomes more important and you have to be careful to make sure the clearest piece of the photo is to their eyes—it’s where the most expression comes through.
Collections: It’s time for big-picture thinking. Consider taking a few hours to do a collection of photos. These photos should have the same feel or theme, whether that means use of one or a few props (bandanas, toys, treats, etc.) or lighting (bright or white or dark or colourful!) or just mood (happy, excited, relaxed, etc.). The more you can do at once, and spread out over a set period of time, the more organized and thoughtful your feed will look to visitors.
For us, Collections usually mean props. When we review products, we typically have dozens of Instagram photos (and only a fraction of them are ever seen!). It’s nice to give yourself options.
Style: The Good Dogs & Co. Instagram feed is a little mish-mash of everything—we need it to be, because we cover so much and feature so many other pups! But many dog-specific accounts will veer in one stylistic direction. Check out accounts like Emily Wang’s or A Pup Named Loki for some great inspiration. Once you’ved eked out your own personal style, it’s easy to keep with it.
More than anything, it’s important to have fun. Let your creativity roam, and discover new ways to take great, visually interesting photos. Be true to yourself, and the number of followers you have will continue to grow!