Beautiful dog portraits with natural and studio light
In response to multiple requests from MasteringPortraitPhotography.com subscribers, we’ve created a video showing you how Paul captures his famous dog portraits. Paul’s expertise in canine photography stems from his ten years’ experience as lead photographer for the charity Hearing Dogs for Deaf People. In this role, Paul has taken hundreds of thousands of images of puppies and older dogs, as each of the charity’s hearing animals passes through the charity’s training process.
To add to this, in 2018 Paul was awarded the title of Dog Portrait Photographer of the Year by the Master Photographers Association. So he knows a thing or two about how the topic, and he’s sharing all that knowledge and experience in this video, which is jam-packed with tips and techniques.
We’ll start off photographing a dog, Hebe, in direct sunlight. Paul explains why a low angle is so effective when working with four-legged subjects and shares a great, quick tip for getting a dog to snap his or her mouth shut for a couple of seconds. He also shares (and demonstrates) a few techniques for getting a dog to look straight down your camera.
Not every dog (or every location) is safe and suitable for off-lead photography, so next Paul demonstrates how to position the dog’s lead so that it’s super-easy to edit out in post-production. He’ll also talk about why expression is so important, even when photographing animals.
After that, Paul shows you how to find a patch of sunlight that will create a spotlight effect on your subject, placing them centre-stage between a darker foreground and background.
Then things get active, with a running dog portrait to show a pet at play. Paul talks through the camera’s limitations when shooting a moving subject and what exposure and camera settings he’s found works best for this type of image. You’ll also find out how to emphasise the dog’s motion through the air simply through your choice of camera angle.
Then we head into a studio with a black dog, Dudley, for some portraits lit with flash. We’ll start off with high key images on a white background, and talk through what to consider for if you’re thinking of buying a vinyl sweep for your studio. Paul shares what he’s looking for when setting the power on his studio lights, and what to focus on during the editing process – check out this post-production walk-through when you’re ready to retouch your white background in Photoshop on your own dog portraits.
We’re leaving the best until last, finishing with a tutorial on capturing stunning images of a black dog on a black background. We’ll cover the studio set-up first, then show a DIY solution for a similar effect if you haven’t got a studio.
For each portrait you’ll see Paul’s images straight-out-of-the-camera, with exposure settings and the final edit, too.