How to Take Great Dog Photos with your iPhone

There are two kinds of dog photos:  impromptu and planned.  Everybody wants to take great, impromptu photos to capture a perfect moment – this is the holy grail of iPhone photography.  The truth is, if you had a My Great Photos library, impromptu photos would probably be less than 5% of the content. The rest of the library – 95% – would consist of the pictures where you did at least little bit of planning, and for which you made maybe a few dollars of investment.  The investment required to take photos well is small and the fun factor is high.  Thus, it is very worth figuring out how to take great dog photos with your iPhone. 

Impromptu shots

How to take good everyday dog photos (these tips work for cats too)

Let’s say your animals are being really cute AT THIS MOMENT.  By any means available, get all the lights on immediately.  If you’re outside, Bravo! Here are some other tips:

  • Put your camera in selfie mode, bend over, put your phone close to the ground, use burst mode to capture the action at doggie-level with your phone upside down.  To use burst mode, hold down the regular button to take a picture but really stand on it. You’ll get a bunch of shots from which you can select the best later.

  • Get on your belly and be part of the action.

  • Move yourself so that you can keep capturing the face(s).  No one wants to see a picture of your dog’s butt.

  • Make some interesting sounds to get your dog attention.  One of my favorites is the electric toothbrush.

Assuming you’ve gotten some good shots, you will want to edit images after-the-fact.  

Planned shots

How to take great dog photos with a little bit of planning (works for cats too)

First, you will want to think about when your dogs are at their cutest.  At our house, it is in the master bathroom.  There is something about the master bath that sends my dogs into high-energy, wrastle-hassle mode.  Either they’re about to be treated to a walk (sneakers) or it must be bedtime (the tub is running).  Whichever, the *we are excited* switch has been flipped and adorable antics are sure to follow.   I know this so – how do I take advantage of this daily opportunity?

Start with the end in mind – how’s the light?

If you have crappy light, you’ll take crappy iphone pictures. (If you have a high-end camera, proceed with the crappy light).  Also, don’t cure the bad light with the flash on your phone.  The flash is not your friend.  Turn it off.  You may be wondering what can I do to improve the light?  

  • Bring in some lamps and set them on the floor at doggie level.

  • Buy a light bar.  You can control the temperature of the light on this and even buy a little tripod for it to control the angle and directness of the light.

Set up the shot – how’s your camera angle?

To best get “in there,” buy one of those short little tripods that has a gripper on the top for your iphone and set it up in the staging area.  While you’re at it, get a Bluetooth remote control that enables you to snap pictures from across the room.  

Optimize your camera settings – how’s your exposure?

If you’re graphically and photographically inclined anyway, you should look into shooting in RAW format.  You will need a third party app to do this – one like Halide Camera, VSCO, Obscura, Manual or ProCamera. You’ll get stronger editing capabilities for your photos after the fact, which can take quickly take them from good to GREAT.

Assuming you’re sticking with the native iPhone camera, next in the setup is learning how to use the AE/AF LOCK feature.  To do it, grab a pillow, towel, or other object that’s of similar value to your dog (if your dog is light, find a light pillow, or the reverse [dark dog, dark pillow], or somewhere in between).  Set up your lights, tripod, and pillow in the area where the action will be taking place. Take a picture of the pillow.  Make sure the yellow square (focus) is on the pillow.  Now tap and hold the yellow square until the words AE/AF LOCK appear.  Adjust the exposure up or down so you’re happy with what you see.

What have you accomplished?  Now you know you’re going to get a good shot.  Let the dogs in and start shooting. 

Do’s and Don’ts

Do – edit your photos after the fact. If you don’t shoot RAW, use some post-production apps to fix the eyes, sharpen, and brighten. There are many to choose from. I like these three which are Mac-friendly.

  • Fotor photo editor

  • Polarr photo editor

  • Snapheal

Do – get some portable stuff you can buy, carry & use easily

  • Tripod for your iPhone

  • Light bar (optionally, with its own tripod)

  • Remote clicker

  • Consider also an add-on iPhone camera lens.  As long as you’re buying accessories, look into a Xenvo or Moment lens or kit.  There are lenses for wide angle and macro shooting which expand your iPhone’s capabilities without taking you into the (expensive) world of DSLR.

Don’t - Use the flash. Just don’t.

Don’t – Pinch to zoom. This will pixelate your photo, not improve it.  Lose the extraneous stuff via judicious post-production cropping later. 

Conclusion 

With these tips, you can truly get very good dog photos with your iPhone.  And, I guarantee that you and your dog(s) will have a considerable amount of fun along the way. Give it a try and send me your feedback and tips here at info@backyardpetsitting.com 

Cathy Davis