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How to Photograph Your Dog for Instagram Modeling

by Oh Tiny Heart Family November 13, 2016 0 Comments

"I really want to win this dog photo contest, but I have no idea how to take better pictures of my dog! How do I take good or better photos of my puppy?! Please help!"

We get messages like this all. The. Time.

If you couldn't already tell from our Instagram feed and shop listings, we take photography very seriously here at Oh Tiny Heart. Even our pet accessory modeling contest demands ridiculously high quality and creative photography in order to win. For the average and extremely loving paw parent, our demanding photo standards are nearly impossible to achieve! ... Nearly.

In this blog post, you'll learn how to better frame your puppy photos, light your images, edit your pictures with easy apps, and take better pictures in general.

You're welcome.

How to Photograph Your Dog with a DSLR

D'aww! Who's that handsome pup?! It's Mylo, duh, our rescue puppy from the SPCA.

Here's why this image is great as a dog photo:

  • Mylo and his accessories are clear, sharp, and in focus.
  • The image is very well-lit. It's not so bright that every detail is blown out, and it's not so dark that you can't see the details in his chocolatey fur.
  • The background is simple, so the focus remains on Mylo.

Here's what we did to achieve this photo:

  • We shot this image with our DSLR in RAW (most standard cameras, including your smartphone, shoot in JPG). RAW images are a type of photo that allows you to edit your camera settings on your computer *after* you've already shot the photo.
  • We shot this image in "Aperture Mode" on our DSLR, and dialed our aperture to f/2.8. This gives us the perfect amount of focus on Mylo while blurring our background only slightly to keep our viewer's attention only on our adorable puppy while still keeping our background in focus just enough that we get a sense of where our puppy is located.
  • Our ISO is set to AUTO (we won't go into ISO).
  • Our Exposure Compensation (a setting that tells your camera how bright to make your photo) is set to +1 to keep the image nice and bright (we can always edit this later in post-production).
  • We always take our images into post production using Adobe Lightroom and Adobe Photoshop (software for photo editing you should eventually learn how to use if you want to take your photography seriously). We clean up any eye boogers, edit any flaws on the products he's wearing, remove pieces of trash or weird things in the photo that we don't want to ruin the image, etc. Basically, we Photoshop the crap out of our puppy.
  • We take it a step further when uploading to Instagram and edit our photos again using Instagram's editing tools. We use Instagram editing to sharpen, adjust the "warmth" of the photo so it's more neutral (not too yellow and not too blue), then post!

Phew!
Sounds like a lot of work, right?
That's because it is

We're not saying you need to do all of this to take better photos of your dog, but man does it help!

Here's another example.


D'awwwww! It's so hard to write this post without stopping to just stare at our puppy. We love him so much! The other day, we held him and cried thinking about how much we love him. That's how sappy and in love with him we are. Yeah.

AnywaaaAaaAays ...

Here's why this image is great as a dog photo:

  • Mylo and his toy are clear, sharp, and in focus.
  • The image is very well-lit. It's not so bright that every detail is blown out, and it's not so dark that you can't see the details in his chocolatey fur.
  • The background is simple, so the focus remains on Mylo.

Sound familiar?

Yeah.

That's because every photo you take of your pup (at least to achieve a winning Instagram puppy feed) needs to meet at least the above standards.

Here's what we did to achieve this photo:

  • Image type set to RAW and shot in Aperture mode.
  • ISO on AUTO.
  • Exposure Compensation set to +1.
  • Aperture set to f/1.8! This sets our focus even closer to our camera lens, completely blurring out the background of our photo and letting us focus on what matters up close and personal: Mylo and his sole attention on his fabric scrap toy. We only ever use f/1.8 when we're shooting detail-oriented photos like this. Close-ups of our puppy, small details on his accessories, etc, and don't care about what's going on in the rest of the photo.
  • Post production done in Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop, then even more on Instagram editing.

After you've done the above several times, the actions you take become committed to memory. With practice, you should be able to shoot, edit, and post photos in only 5 to 10 minutes. That's about as long as it takes some of us to choose an Instagram filter (which, by the way, we never do; those filters are terrible)!

If you only have a smartphone to shoot with, don't worry. We've got you covered there, too. 

How to Photograph Your Dog with a Smartphone 

Mylo Sleeping on Couch


Just look at that little puppy tunmy! 

Here's why this image is great as a dog photo:

  • Mylo is clear, sharp, and in focus.
  • The image is very well-lit. It's not so bright that every detail is blown out, and it's not so dark that you can't see the details in his chocolatey fur.
  • The background is simple, so the focus remains on Mylo.

Noticing a theme here?

We shot this photo using the back camera on our iPhone 6 Plus. iPhones and Android phones have some of the best photo capabilities on the market. But the best camera in the world isn't going to take the best pictures if you don't know how to take a proper photo! 

Here's what we did to achieve this photo:

  • We shot this photo in front of a big, open window, using only natural light as our lightsource. Natural light is the best lighting for photos, and it's free.
  • We uploaded this photo to iOS app TouchRetouch, then removed any stray hairs, fur, or dirt on the couch.
  • When uploading this shot to Instagram, we sharpened the image with Instagram's editing tools, brought up the shadows to even out the photo, and dialed up the contrast a little bit to add some darkness to Mylo's fur against our white couch. We also pulled the highlights down so our couch texture could still be seen instead of blown out with the lighting.

Boom! A beautiful, well-lit, sharp photo. 

You can even take awesome selfies with your smartphone using the above principles!

See this example: 


We used the exact same photo editing technique to take this photo with our front-facing camera on our iPhone 6+. That is: we shot in front of a big, open window with natural light, edited and lightly retouched our photo using the apps we mentioned above, then sharpened and brought up shadows, contrast, and highlights with the Instagram app before posting. 

Voila! A sharp, well-lit, totally focused photo with our little family completely in focus.

But it doesn't stop there.

To have a great feed, you need variety

Choosing the Best Photos for your Instagram Feed

Just because you took a great photo doesn't mean you should take the same photo every single time. How boring would it be if every photo you posted of your dog was a close-up of his face? It's like, yeah. We get it. We know what your dog's face looks like. Show us something new! 

You want your Instagram feed to completely show off your ability to photograph your pup in varied settings. Close-ups of your dog, portrait-style photos of your dog in front of blank walls, photos of your dog making silly expressions, photos of your dog doing silly things -- no one wants to see the same photo over. And over. And over. And over.

Switch it up!

Instagram users can judge a feed they want to follow forever based on the first three photos they see on an account's feed grid. Knowing this, which feed seems like it would be interesting to follow over a long period of time?

This? 

Mylo the Model


Or this?

Best Feed


Just because you've taken several amazing photos of your dog in one setting does not mean you should post those photos one right after the other forever and ever until we die from boredom. You want to show off the range of photos you're able to take! Outdoors in bright natural lighting, indoors on cute furniture in bright, natural lighting, on your floor, in front of a building, in the woods, in a park -- whatever!

Change up your puppy's accessories, background, expression, zoom (whether it's a close up, crop, or full-body shot), amount of empty space in the frame around your puppy (whether your puppy fills the whole shot, or whether you're completely zoomed out so you can see more of the landscape) -- you have tons of different options for puppy photos. Explore them with your feed! All the best puppy accounts do.

When choosing models for Oh Tiny Heart, we look at your account's ability to take lots of varied, well-lit, sharp, and creative photos over time. If it appears you take great photos but only shoot pictures of your puppy's face, we probably won't choose you because we know that if we send you an accessory to model for us, we'll only get back one type of picture, and that's it. No variety. No new settings. Just that same boring photo over, and over, and over.

If you're still struggling with your Instagram feed, don't be afraid to ask for feedback on how you can improve! You'd be surprised at how eager the Internet is to give its opinion on basically anything. 

And remember: practice makes perfect.

We didn't start off knowing how to take great photos or knowing exactly how to edit them. We learned it over time! No one taught us how to do it. We did our research, we fiddled with our cameras, and we learned. And if we can do it? You can, too.

Good luck!




Oh Tiny Heart Family
Oh Tiny Heart Family

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