I absolutely LOVE Instagram and shamefully admit, I probably (definitely) spend way too much time on it.
One of the reasons why I can't get enough of Instagram is because I love taking photos. For as long as I can remember, I've been holding a camera. Those disposable cameras from the '90s were my jam. I remember as a kid running to the photo store with my mom to get our film developed only to find maybe five good photos in the entire roll?
While I can proudly say that my photos have come a long way since the '90s, I'm by no means a pro. I just really love taking pictures. Nowadays, most of my photos are of my dachshund, Rocket and I've created an Instagram account entirely dedicated to him.
Somewhere around 2016, I realized that I could turn my Instagram account into a business and thus my blog was born, and my Instagram started to grow.
I love the flexibility that having my own biz gives me. I can work on my blog from anywhere in the world or just stay at home in my pj's all day if I want 🙂
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Whether you want to take better photos for your own enjoyment or want to build a business as I did, here are 5 ways to take Instagram-worthy photos of your dog.
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You don't need an expensive camera to take great photos. You just have to know how to use what you have. Cell phone cameras have come a long way so if you don't own a point and shoot or DSLR camera, you can still take great photos. If you are using a cell phone, proper lighting and editing are a must. I'll discuss this in the next section.
If you really want to up your game, you can invest in a DSLR camera. Growing my business was a priority, so a DSLR was worth it. I'll let you in on a little secret though- my DSLR is entry level, and any amateur can use it!
Behold the Canon EOS Rebel T6. You can get the camera, two lenses, tripod, memory cards and a flash in a bundle for under $400.00! My husband bought this bundle for me a couple of years ago, and it's the best gift I have ever received. I use it almost every day. This baby has taken thousands of photos and does not disappoint 🙂
Lighting is one of the essential elements for taking a great photo. No one besides you wants to look at a dark, grainy picture of your dog no matter how adorable they are. Most of my photos on my Instagram feed are shot indoors, but I frequently post outdoor photos on my IG Stories.
You'll want to start with the best natural lighting possible. If you are shooting indoors, find a room with ample natural light. Experiment by shooting at different times of the day until you achieve ideal lighting.
If you are shooting outdoors, avoid direct sunlight if possible. Your pictures will look harsh, and you will have hot spots.
The best time of day to take outdoor pics is the period shortly after sunrise (if you can manage to get up that early) or before sunset. The daylight is redder and softer than when the sun is high in the sky. This is know as the golden hour.
Another option is to buy a professional lighting kit. With an artificial lighting kit, you never have to worry about hunting down the perfect light. You can easily adjust the equipment to fit your needs whether shooting photos or videos.
I converted our guest bedroom into a home photo studio (sorry guests.) I use this lighting kit and love it because not only does it include all of the lighting equipment I need, it also comes with three different backdrops to give my photos an extra stamp of professional. The lighting kit is great for taking photos of Rocket as well as for images on my blog. Keep in mind, although a lighting kit does not disappoint, it does take up a bit of space.
3. Training Your Dog For Photos
If you want to take great photos of your dog, training them to be a “model” will yield benefits. Basic commands like “sit”, “lie down” and “stay” are all you really need. I also taught Rocket to stand and roll over which makes for some pretty cute photos.
You want your dog as still as possible when shooting so that your photos come out crisp and sharp. If you have a good camera, you can get action shots as well, as long as you have a fast shutter speed.
It's also important to get your pup to look directly at the camera. For Rocket, that means TREATS! Every single time I take a photo of him, I have treats on deck. If your dog isn't treat motivated, try their favorite toy.
I have the camera in one hand and hold the treats next to the camera in the other. Sometimes I will use a tripod to make life easier. My camera can get heavy, so I use this tripod to not only steady my shots, but free up my hands. A tripod is necessary if you want to be in the shot as well. Put your camera on a timer and go pose with your pup!
When I do a photo shoot with Rocket, I go through a lot of treats. To help maintain his weight, I break the treats into tiny pieces so he doesn't put on the pounds. You can also try cutting carrots up into bite-size pieces.
4. Taking Photos Of Your Dog
This is the fun part! I love taking photos of Rocket because every picture is different. It gives me a chance to capture his personality, expressions and tell his story.
Before you start shooting, look over your dog carefully. Check to make sure there isn't any gunk in their eyes and brush off their fur to remove any unwanted particles. You don't realize how much this stuff shows up until you actually see the photo.
Once your lighting is right, start shooting! I take all of my photos in bulk to save time. I will have different props, like blankets or outfits in a pile ready to go. I'll spend about an hour shooting hundreds of photos. That way, I'm not scrambling every day to take a good photo.
Remember: Don't forget about candid shots. Not every photo needs to be posed.
To get a variety of different expressions, move a treat slowly so your dog can follow it with their eyes. As you do this, snap a bunch of photos. Try many different directions and angles for diversity.
Another shot that I love to take is holding a treat close to Rocket's nose so that he comes towards the camera to sniff it. Then I tell him to “stay” and take a picture. Close up dog nose, anyone?
Using an array of props is always a great way to keep your photos from looking too flat and boring. Try using blankets with fun patterns, pillows, bow ties, hats, or anything that will help bring your photos to life and tell your story.
One of my favorite photos to take is of Rocket peeking out from under a blanket. To do this, I place a blanket over his head, so one eye is covered. Then, I hold a treat close to his nose so he “pops” out a little. Again, move the treat in different directions for a variety of cute photos!
Another tip is to try shooting from different angles. Take photos of your dog from above, really low down looking up at them and from behind them.
The other day, Rocket was on our bed, and I was lying on the floor doing crunches. As I was doing this, Rocket leaned over the edge of the bed to look down at me. I immediately grabbed my camera (who needs to do crunches, anyway) and laid down on the floor again. I never thought about shooting from this angle, but the photos turned out really fun! Sometimes you get great shots when you least expect it.
Fun Photo Idea: If you want to get a photo of your dog with their tongue out, feed them peanut butter! As soon as they start licking their lips, start snapping!
Remember to have patience while shooting. I take many, many photos of Rocket before I get a good one. You want to enjoy the time you are spending with your dog. If you are having fun, so will your pup.
To give your photos that professional feel, editing is a must. It's essential to use a photo editor that you understand. My go-to editor is PicMonkey because it is straightforward to use and is quite powerful. It's perfect for making lighting and color adjustments as well as designing graphics for my blog.
The other editing program I use is Adobe Lightroom. If you check out my Instagram, you will see that my photos have the same look to them. The colors and filters are all very similar to give my feed a consistent and recognizable “look.”
I do this by making presets in Lightroom. Lightroom is a bit more advanced than PicMonkey, so if you are new to editing, Lightroom may seem quite complicated. That being said, I love everything I can do with this program.