Foster Dog Photo tips

By Kelly Loeffler | March 1, 2021 | Minnesota, Pet Photography, Pet Photography Tips


getting better pictures of your foster dog

Questions asked by fosters and pet owners on getting better pictures

You asked for help and I’m here to help the best I can. Every foster dog deserves the best photos for their profile. As well as every pet owner deserves to fill their camera roll (phone or otherwise) with great pictures of their furbaby.

How do you get them to look at the camera?

Funky new noises, squeakers are an easy on, hold it right above the camera or phone

Whistle or make kissy noises. If you really want to have a good Arsenal of noises you can pick up a duck whistle or the party noises like kazoos or duck lips for some epic head tilts.

If noises don’t work treats are a great idea, don’t bring out treats right away try other things first. Bring the treat near the dog and then more it quickly back to your lens. If you have a helper, have them hold the treat and get the dog sitting and then have them more the treat to right above the lens (phone or camera)

Movement is a last ditch effort, jumping jackets. Throwing a ball in the air or throwing a treat toward the camera not the dog. I love movement or toys to get attention but often times it makes the dog move too so I tend to use this as a last resort

Photographing motion? 

Outside on bright days is your best bet if you’re working with auto or a phone. The more light you have to work with the easier it is to stop motion. Knowing the motion also helps. If you are throwing a frisbee or capturing a dog mid jump, know general about where it will happen. This way you can be ready and frame the photo accordingly

Getting them to sit still for a picture?

Having someone to help with photos is your best bet. One person is in charge of getting the dog to stay in one area, and the other is in charge of getting their attention while taking the photo. If the dog is treat motivated use treats to get them seated and then a noise to get their attention. Sometimes the only way to get a dog to not come at the camera person is by leashing them, the person near them (i call this person the handler) can be getting them to sit or stay while holding the lash off frame. Don’t have a helping hand? Leash the dog and tie leash to the tree or use a stack to secure leash to the ground. Remember that leashes that are behind or to the side of a dog are easier to edit out then those that fall in front of the dog.

Getting and keeping their attention?

Keeping a dogs attention has a lot to do with their attention span, getting a dogs attention is discussed above but be ready to grab the shot as many don’t have a long attention span especially if they’ve had little to no training. A tired dog in a familiar place is more likely to have a longer attention span. If I try and get my resident dogs attention in a new place or at the beginning of play time they have a much shorter attention span than if we have been playing in the backyard for awhile or the end of a long walk. Knowing what they like helps. My one dog will sit still for a tasty treat whereas my other is more likely to sit still for a ball. 

Good lighting?

This depends on the location/time of day. On a bright day outside I recommend open shade. You’ll have plenty of light to capture your subject without worrying about shadows.

Inside I recommend a room with big windows putting them facing the window when the sun is bright but not spilling into the room on the floor

Interesting backgrounds for instagram?

Keeping Instagram interesting is definitely a challenge. For those who take pictures of their own dog. I recommend changing the time of day to get different images in the same location. Also playing with angles, straight on and above are often easiest to take but try and shoot up at your dog every once in awhile. Elevate them on a hill or bench and get below them. Try changing up how much your dog fills in the frame. Make them fill the frame, make the background take up 90% of the image. Get a close up of just their eyes and ears. All else fails. Location scout your town and take pictures in every public dog friendly location you can find!

Getting good pictures of black dogs

Good lighting it key here. If you have the capabilities to change your exposure over expose the image just a bit. If you can edit the image the shadows tool is a black dogs best friend. Up the shadows slider (this can be done on a phone, in Instagram or in lightroom) 

Bokeh backgrounds how to?

This is somewhat dependent on your device. iPhone users can us portrait mode to mimic this effect. Making sure your subject isn’t right up against the background is key. For example with twinkling lights don’t have your dog right up against them. Moving them at least 5 feet from the lights and then use the lowest aperture you can. If the dogs sit still i’ve found that phones will do better bokeh when their is less light available, but this is harder to do with a moving subject.

What poses get the best photos for the adoptions? Just face shots? Full body? Action or posed? 

I think a good profile has at least 3 variations of poses/crop ideally a full body standing, full body sitting and then a headshot. I think an adorable headshot gets peoples attention (especially for social media) but then they want to see a full body image to see size, markings, tail etc. Action photos are always fun and are a great addition to any profile but aren’t usually something that gets added. Same with sleeping pictures. Adorable yes but you need a few other views to really grab an adopters attention

How do you get a head tilt? 

Weird noises they’ve never heard. Have you ever yelled like a monkey? Try it in front of your dog next time and see what happens. 

I will note some dogs just don’t do the whole head tilt thing whereas others will practically tilt their head right off

Outdoor pics being dark grainy or only half face in shadow 

Outdoor pictures in dusk or deep shade can become grainy if your camera is compensating for lack of light. The more light you can get the better. Proper exposure is also key, if you have to edit the brightness too much that will add grain to any photo. Otherwise a lens with very low aperture or a camera with high iso capabilities help getting brighter lens grainy photos.

Half shadowed face is based on the direction of the light coming in. If you’re shooting in full sun With no shade I prefer sun directly behind the subject (backlighting) this isn’t always easy on a phone to expose correctly so the other option is the sun behind your back, front lighting the subject. If the sun is 90 degrees to the right or left it’ll leave a harsher more noticeable shadow on your subject.

Any Questions?

If you have a foster dog that needs some updated photos and you need help please never hesitate to ask questions. I want every dog to get the best images so they can get adopted. You can ask me on my instagram or email me at [email protected] to get the quickest answer. Lets get these precious fur babies the pictures they need to get noticed!

Remember ok photos are better than no photos. Get out there and take pictures! Silly photos and sleepy photos still show off the dog more than a scare transport or intake photo. You’d don’t need to be professional to help a dog. Focus is huge make sure the eyes are in focus as much as possible. Backgrounds aren’t as distracting as you think (everyones looking at the dog!) find a place that works for your and your foster and then go from there!

Below are a few examples of foster dogs I photographed this past year through Warrior Dog Rescue

K Schulz Photography is a Minnesota based pet photographer located in Bloomington. If you are a rescue organization looking for better pictures of your foster fur babies, feel free to contact Kelly here.