This Instructable is written as a guide for capturing portraits of your pup. I have been a pet photographer for well over 2 decades so I have a lot of experience photographing large/small, black/white, calm/challenging dogs and cats, and any other combination you can imagine.
Step 1: The Backdrop
-I prefer a solid backdrop because it places all emphasis on the subject thus reducing distractions.
-King size flat bed sheets and/or super sized throws work just fine, but you can also use muslin if you prefer.
-The larger your backdrop, the larger the dogs you can photograph. This also affords you the ability to take action shots.
-For black or really dark-furred pups, I tend to use the red backdrop because it compliments the dark fur so well. To make a bold statement, you can also do black-on-black.
Step 2: Platform
-I use a table that adjusts to three different sizes for a few reasons. Most dogs are not likely to jump off of even the shortest level, but if they do try to jump, I put it up a level. This increased height almost always works especially when I introduce a small treat as an incentive for them to stay and pose for the camera.
-If a pup is too scared to stand on the platform, I simply extend the backdrop all the way to the floor and have them stand on the bottom part of the sheet again encouraging them to stay put with a treat.
-Some pups tend to be fidgety, so to overcome this obstacle, I add a barrier on either side of the pup which I plac under the sheet to conceal it. A black backdrop really comes in handy if you must resort to this method because you can easily edit the "sheet look" out with free editing programs.
Step 3: Lighting
(NOTE: this is not a lighting tutorial; there is so much to learn about the countless ways to light a subject. What I have written here is what I find to be the most simple approach and what I'm most familiar with when photographing dogs and cats.)
-I use a two-strobe set-up whereby I place strobes with umbrellas on either side of the subject. I turn the strobes backwards to reflect the light into the umbrella and onto the subject thus diffusing the light (giving it a more natural, not blown-out look).
-I realize that most people do not have strobes, so of course an on-camera flash will work too.
-If you're using a cellphone, there is editing software available that you can use straight fro your phone. For example, I use Photoshop Fix which is a free app.
Step 4: Adornments
-I use simple embellishments to bring out the pup's features and give the portraits a little variety such as but not limited to: ribbons, bows, bow ties, neck ties (you can attach clip-on ties to their collar too), bandannas, scarves, etc.
-I tend to use minimal props as it distracts for your subject. For example, at Easter time, I will simply add a basket of eggs.
-I make the exception for Halloween as you can see!!!
Step 5: Attention Grabbers
-Strange, high-pitch noises
-Balls/toys (caution: they could make them want to jump down and play)
***And finally, my go-to incentive...beef jerky; it breaks off into tiny pieces and they love the smell. At least 95% of the pups I've photographed over the past 20+ years respond favorably to the beef jerky. The 5% who do not respond to the jerky, tend to not respond to anything; they simply do not fancy having their picture taken.
Step 6: Portrait Samples
Here are a few of the portraits I've taken through the years using the approach I described in this Instructable: 1. Backdrop, 2. Platform, 3. Lighting, 4. Adornments, and 5. Attention grabbers.
BONUS: I shoot from different angles: above, below, left and right profiles, under the chin, isolated body parts (paws, nose, ears, eyes, etc) to capture the whole dog.
****To see more of my work, please visit www.staceywarnkephotography.com.