So, I recently got a puppy, I've never had a puppy before and boy was I in for a shock. As I write this, I’ve had him for 4 weeks and I haven’t had a full night's sleep since! (it’s literally like having kids! I have a stair gate too!) Being a photographer, it was a must that I got my camera out to take some cute puppy photos whilst he is still small, therefore I thought I’d share some tips from what I learnt on how to photograph a puppy and introduce my 13 week old Jack Russell Puppy, Eddie!
Now, if you are thinking how is photographing puppies different to photographing dogs, then you've obviously never had a puppy. There's the mature dog who will happily sit or recall on command, and then there is the puppy, who'd rather run around like crazy! One animal is quiet, well-trained, and easier to capture with your camera, the other one is always on the move, doesn't know the meaning of the word ‘sit’, and thinks the lens is a chew!
Right so where to start. Well think about the location, an enclosed space is the best choice, this way you know they are secure and can’t run off. A garden normally works best as it gives you greenery as a backdrop. Secondly, you’re going to need some help, so I’d recommend finding at least one helper if not two to help get your puppies attention and just be that extra pair of hands when needed.
So, even though photographing puppies is different to photographing dogs, there are some similarities, firstly animals always look more captivating in photographs that are taken from eye level. This is particularly true for puppy photographs because puppies are so small.
It's easy to fall into the trap of photographing them from above because you have to get so very low to the ground in order to find yourself at eye level. That's going to mean laying down on the grass, and because your puppy isn't very well trained yet, they may think it’s a fun game and jump on you, (as you can see below Eddie was only too happy to demonstrate this!). But to save you getting too messy I would recommend getting something to lie on.
Once you're down there on the ground, you're probably going to have a hard time keeping your puppy out of your face, so it's going to be helpful to have a helper who can distract him. And a helper is useful for more than just a distraction. The helper can also help keep your puppy’s attention, and can help you set up shots while you are otherwise occupied with your camera.
Next have multiple toys and treats to get their attention. One thing I have learnt with having a puppy is that they have a small attention span, so when they get bored of one toy or treat, you can distract them with another one. Also, toys will help you get fun and compelling photographs, that show the energetic side to your puppy and even add a touch of humour to your photos. However, it can get frustrating trying to keep them in frame and not right in your face so my advice would be to use the play time at the start of the photoshoot to tire them out and have your camera on hand to get these fun playful shots. Then once they have calmed down (as puppies tire easy) you can focus on trying to position them in a certain way or with a prop. Once they have really tired you can then move to cute sleepy shots. What could be cuter than a photo of a sleeping puppy? And sleeping puppies are much easier to photograph than wild, crazy, ball chasing puppies. I can say this from experience as I got these festive snaps, whilst Eddie was having a nap under the Christmas Tree.
The cardinal rule of photographing puppies is to lower your expectations. You're not going to be able to tell your puppy to stop running around or to sit or to lie down or to not chew on your shoe. Chances are, your puppy is probably still peeing where they shouldn’t. That doesn't make him a very cooperative photographic subject, so you will eliminate your own frustration if you just don't have any expectations that you'll be able to guide to the photo shoot in much more than a general direction. Instead, just follow your puppy around and know that they are going to do is cute, photographable things. Knowing the puppy's personality is going to help, some puppies like to climb on and through things and other puppies don't, so choose your props according to what you know they will be happy to and enjoy doing.
Just as with photographing toddlers, photographing puppies requires patience, and a lot of it. Continuous shooting mode is also useful here, to make sure you don’t miss any of that action. Not all of the photos are going to be winners, and you're likely going to experience some frustration over the course of the shoot, which may or may not be associated with giant nose prints on the end of your lens. Pay attention to your puppy's mood and try to predict what they might do next. With enough patience, though, you’ll be able to capture some wonderful moments, after all, your subject is very cute and you’ll be certain to get some adorable shots after an hour or two of shooting. But you can make life easier and ask me to take your puppy photo shoot for you. You know your puppy most and you can keep their attention whilst I get those all-important photos for you to look back on and remember how small they were, how much they’ve changed and how much it hurt when they nibbled your fingers. So what did I get after chasing Eddie round the garden, well some very cute puppy photos!