5 tips and tricks for photographing dogs (and other pets)

I took some photos of my dogs Ollie and Mia recently modelling jumpers that I knitted for them. And that got me thinking about the tips and tricks I use when photographing dogs (or other pets) to try to get nice photos. I also have experience photographing foster puppies over the years and while I’m by no means an expert, I’ve built up a few tip and tricks for photographing pets that I find help.

So often when taking quick photos of my dogs, I don’t have my SLR on hand, so I’ve tried to tailor my tips and tricks to using your phone (although I’ve cheated because all of the photos in the  post were taken on my ‘good’ camera).

Dog Jumpers 047 square1. One word – Treats

Before you think about anything else make sure you are armed with a bag of treats. This may be the only way to get your dog or pet to sit still for anything more than 5 seconds. I find holding the treat beside the lens or beside my phone, tricks them into looking directly at the camera. Or as happened when I was photographing the dog jumpers, Ollie looks like he’s staring ponderously into the middle distance, but is instead looking at R who was holding the treats just off camera. If you’re taking an impromptu photo of your dogs, or other pets, and don’t have treats available, grab their favourite (squeaky) toy and wave (or squeak) it beside the phone to get their attention.

Week 4 (143)2. The same rules apply

The same basics that apply to all photography also applies to photographing dogs or pets. Think about your light source, get them near a window or in natural light. Have a quick scan of the background to make sure there is nothing distracting there and remember the rule of thirds. Try to compose the photo so that your pet’s head is at one of the ‘points of power’. Most phone cameras will allow you to view the ‘rule of thirds’ grid as a guide.

Dexter 8 week old Jack Russell foster puppy3. Get down to their level

You have three options here – get down on the ground, lift your dog or pet up by placing them on a couch, bench or rock, or compose the photo so they are meant to be staring up (or down) at you. I’m one of these people how likes to get down on the ground to play with my dogs anyway so I can just grab my phone (which is nearly always in arm’s reach :/ ). But if you’re outside it might be less messy to pop your pet on a bench and hunker down so that you’re face to face.

Foster a puppy, dog, cat or kitten4. It’s all about the eyes

You have to get the eyes in focus, there really is no way around it. This is true for photographing dogs and pets, as well as people. I have a gazillion photos of dogs where the eyes are out of focus and they just don’t have the same wow factor. This can be really difficult to achieve, but you should be able to tap on the screen of your phone to tell it where to focus. This of course only works if you have time before your dog or pet moves again. If you’re using an SLR it can sometimes be difficult to tell if the eyes are in focus until you upload your photos to the computer, so just keep shooting. (Agh, I’ve just noticed that the eyes are not in focus in the shot below, but the runners give such a good sense of scale I don’t care).

Four week old pit bull puppy

5. Natural habitat

When I was photographing Ollie and Mia in their new jumpers I wanted to capture them looking natural, so off we went to the park with my camera and a bag of treats in my pocket. I think this worked better than just plopping them on the couch, or in the back garden. It can be great to get some non-posed photos of dogs and pets too. Some of my favourite photos are of dogs just being dogs, although you’ll have to be quick (and lucky) to get these shots.

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Dog jumper No. 2

Dog Jumpers 050As I said in my recent blog post, I finished two dog jumpers* in the last little while. Here Ollie models Biscuits & Bones Dog Coat by Patons knit using Cascade Yarns 220 on 5.5mm needles. It’s knitted from the top down, seamed from the neck to the belly and then the ribbing is added along the bottom edge and at the arm holes. I love the detailing on this jumper; the cables are designed to look like dog bones. However, I didn’t enjoy the double moss stitch (or whatever it’s called) and it was much slower to complete than the first jumper. Again, this jumper was easy to tailor to the size of my dogs and I think the end product is really cute.

Dog Jumpers 053I really wanted to give these jumpers a proper photo shoot. Dogs in jumpers, it kind of demands a bit of sillyness with the camera. So I packed my camera bag with treats and we headed to St. Enda’s Park for a nice walk. Padraig Pearse, one of the leaders of the Easter Rising in 1916, ran a school on these grounds and the building is now a museum. A previous owner, William Hudson, built follies all over the park. I have so many happy memories of playing on these stone structures as a child. The follies are in the process of being restored at the moment and are a really interesting part of the history of the park.

Dog Jumpers 047 squareI can’t find much online about the follies, so maybe I’ll have to go back some day with my camera and a notebook for another post. Anyway, in this case the stones made a great backdrop for my knitted jumpers. See Ollie staring off wistfully into the distance? Yeah, he’s really staring at Rossa who is holding the treats just off camera. The glamorous life of a canine model!

* To any US readers, in Ireland we call sweaters jumpers.

Dog jumper No. 1

Dog Jumpers 041I finished two dog jumpers* in the last few months, but because the weather has been seasonably warm (i.e. hot in Summer, which is surprisingly rare in Ireland) I haven’t had the chance to photograph them yet. It really didn’t seem fair to put the dogs in wool jumpers during a heat wave**. The temperature has dropped in the last week or so which meant that I could finally photograph these two jumpers without feeling guilty.

Dog Jumpers 036Mia models the Dog Sweater by Red Heart Design Team knitted in Cascade Yarns 220 on 5 and 5.5mm needles. I loved this top down pattern. It was a really quick, straightforward knit and a great base for experimentation. You just have to look through the finished projects on Ravelry to see what other have done with this pattern. It’s also very easy to measure and tailor the pattern to your dog as you go along. I would definitely knit this one again.

Dog Jumpers 005Now, I know what you’re going to say. She has finally lost her mind knitting jumpers for her dogs. And you may well be right. But I have my reasons.  Both dogs are long haired dogs and as such need to be groomed every 3 months or so. When we get their hair cut they tend to feel the cold and need a bit more warmth for about a week until they aclimatise to their new haircut. Image getting your hair cut very short, you might find that you need a hat. Well, that’s my excuse anyway and I’m sticking to it!

And, here is Ollie modelling his jumper.

* To any US readers, in Ireland we call sweaters jumpers.

** To any non-Irish readers, the temperature reached the mid to late-20s (celsius), which to us is pretty hot.

Nearly there

Colour Affection 056Just a quick update on my Colour Affection shawl. Last night, very late, I finished the three striped section. Phew, those are some looooong rows. I’m now at just under 400 stitches. I would really love to get the boarder finished today but I have some college work to finish so I think that might be a bit ambitious.

Colour Affection 052I’m also finding it really hard to get a realistic rendition of the vivid pink in my photos, so if anyone has any tips please share them with me. I’d be very grateful.

Return to me

Ashby 061In September I went back to college. I had spotted this Ashby pattern ages ago and just couldn’t get it out of my head. I had romantic visions of studying, surrounded by books, with this draped around my shoulders for extra warmth. I am so delighted with the results, I think it’s one of the most beautiful things I have ever knit. Thanks so much to my hubby for taking the photos of me with the shawl and for being so patient while I took more photos in the cold on the beach this afternoon.

Ashby 004It took some time to choose the yarn as I’m all about the smooshy, cosy, soft yarns. But when you need 677m of aran weight yarn the cost of smooshy can quickly add up. I also wanted a solid colour, something neutral, as I’m not a big fan of variegated yarns. I eventually decided on Mirasol Miski (thanks Nadia for helping me choose) and ignoring the price headed home from This Is Knit with 9 skeins (675m) of the softest Llama yarn.

DSC_0482I loved working with this yarn, the colour is so warm and it really is soooooo soft. Stitch definition isn’t great with it though, and I was worried that the manic cabelling on the border section would be lost. (There are 7 different types of cables in this shawl. Bet you didn’t know that!)

Ashby 024The shawl has an unusual construction. You knit the cabled border first, using short rows to turn the 90 degree corner. You then pick up a gazillion stitches along the edges and knit the body of the shawl decreasing four stitches on every right side row. Pretty quickly I felt the shawl was eating into the 9 skeins of yarn I had bought. Ignoring my instinct I kept going but about two thirds of the way through the body I ran out of yarn. I ordered two more skeins of yarn, hoping I wouldn’t need both, but in the end I did need some (but not nearly all) of the 11th skein. Still not thinking about the cost, no sir-ee.

Ashby 062When it was finally finished I soaked the shawl and laid it out to dry but didn’t pin it as I didn’t want the stitches stretched as you might with lace. The final measurement is 34 inches high at the spine with a wingspan of 73 inches, so slightly larger than the pattern suggested. And I love it. I’ll snuggle up to this shawl for many winters to come I hope.

What a year

The last few weeks have made me realised the power that the media and the general feeling of doom and gloom in the air can have on us (recession-this and cuts-that etc.). It would be very easy for me to look back on the last year and forget all the wonderful things that happened to me. In fact, until I really started to think about it I would have said the last year was pretty bad, because that’s what I keep hearing over and over again.

half a dream away-9403

Image Credit: Halfadreamaway.com

But 2012 has been an amazing year for me. First of all I married the love of my life last April. Married life so far has been pretty good, it feels very much the same as before, but also quite different too. It feels like we’re more of a team now, more secure – like being wrapped in a warm blanket, it’s us against the world. But day to day little changes.

Week 5 428The summer wasn’t so good, the weather was a bit crap and I had some crap going on with my job. But the extra time off meant I was able to foster some puppies which I blogged about. I fell hook, line and sinker for these two beauties, and while it took some time to find them the perfect forever homes, I was delighted that they had both found really great homes in time for Christmas. We’ve even fostered other puppies since but I’ve managed to guard my heart a bit better with those puppies.

Books 013And all the shit over the summer lead me to reassess my career and career options and in September I found myself back in a University lecture theatre. I’m currently studying for a Masters in Library and Information Studies and loving every minute of it. I feel like I’ve found myself all over again, and while I’ve been busier and more stressed than I had been for a long time I can also say that I’m the happiest I can remember.

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Image Credit: Halfadreamaway.com

So 2012, you were pretty epic. I have the most amazing family in my husband and our two furbabies, as well as my wider family and friends. I’ve got back into photography, have continues to improve my knitting and still enjoy volunteering with the DSPCA. It’s been a great year and now I’m excited to see what 2013 brings.

New outside studio

I’ve always loved brickwork. I know, what an odd thing to say. But the texture and the colour variation in exposed brickwork have always appealed to me. When I was doing the Project Photography workshop I started to think about our back wall. When we moved into our house it was pink. Yes, our back wall was pink and I swore it would be the first thing we changed. Well you can guess what happened – nothing, we never got around to painting it.

Outdoor studioSo when I suggested painting it white a few weeks ago R gladly obliged. And now I have a fabulous outdoor studio for photographing my knitting. It provides a clean, white background while still retaining some texture and interest. Whoop. So of course I got straight to work photographing my two latest project, a cowl for me and a cowl for R. We’re all set for winter in this house.

The first is my Seagreen cowl, the pattern is the Slushie Cowl from This Is Knit. I used two balls of Debbie Bliss Rialto in Aqua and about half a ball of Debbie Bliss Angel in Jade. I love the mixture of textures and colours in this cowl, I can’t wait to wear it. The texture is created with a simple but effective mixture of knit and purl rows and the contrasting texture of the two yarns. LOVE. IT. I blocked it when finished, but this flattened the texture a bit too much for my liking, so I’ve unblocked it, so to speak, since taking the photo above.

Next up is R’s April in Paris cowl. This was knit with yarn bought on our honeymoon in Paris, La Droguerie Baby Douceur. This is 100% baby alpaca and is DIVINE. Using the magic that is Ravelry Pattern Browser I searched for suitable cowl patterns based on yarn weight and yardage and R chose his favourite. This was knit with 10mm needles and knit up in about 3 days, the fastest I’ve ever finished a single project. Seriously, why don’t I always knit with 10mm needles? If you click through to the Ravelry project page above you can see a photo of R trying his hand at modelling.

What do you think of my new outdoor studio??

Dog days in Dún Laoghaire

Dun Laoghaire pierWith the help of Julie, Siobhan and Twitter I bought a new lens for my camera over the weekend. It’s a 50mm f/1.8D AF lens and I loves it. So we headed out to Dun Laoghaire with the dogs and the lens (attached to my camera) today and I had some fun.

Ollie having fun in Dun Laoghaire pierI still don’t really know what I’m doing technically and I definitely overdid the blurry background a bit on some shots, but I got some that I’m really pleased with. Ollie loves them :-)

I’m not sure if this is the east or the west pier, it’s the one on the left as you face the sea and it’s a lot quieter than the other pier. It’s a really lovely walk for the humans and full of lots of different smells for the dogs. Mia was a little too interested in what was over the edge for our liking though.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Oh look at the blurry, I love the blurry. Although I really need to learn when enough is enough. And I love rust. Isn’t the colour amazing against the green.

All this walking and sniffing is thirsty work. This is also one of the few photos where the dogs were still enough for me to actually take a photo. But they enjoyed themselves and that’s the main thing.

Project photography

So I love photography and I love knitting. On Saturday I had the opportunity to combine the two in a Project Photography workshop at my LYS This Is Knit. It was a good mix of the tecnical and practical. We spent the morning going through staging and lighting and then camera settings. I already had some understanding of ISO, aperture, shutter speed and white balance, but every time these concepts are explained to me I seem to grasp them a bit better.

After lunch we went to St. Stephen’s Green to put what we had learned into practice. The weather was conspiring against us, but we made the most of it, sheltering in the bandstand. This also made for some nice staging.

The first project I brought with me was the Hourglass Throw.  I used 14 balls of Debbie Bliss Cashmerino Aran that I had bought to knit a jumper with. I never made it past the neckline of the jumper so now it’s a blanket. This is a gift for an aunt. It was a lovely knit, and the pattern repeat was nearly just about long enough that I didn’t loose my mind.

I was worried that it would only stretch to a lap blanket, but when I blocked it it really grew. I’d say it grew by about 50%, the magic of blocking. I forgot to measure it pre-blocking, but post blocking it’s 100cm x 110cm. It’s 8 pattern repeats wide (166 stitches) by 7 pattern repeats long. I basically knit until I ran out of yarn.

The second project was a Clara dress that I knit for a friend’s daughter. I love the shape of skirt and the leaf detail at the neckline. It was a joy to knit.

I was a bit worried that the breeze would blow the dress into the pond but thankfully that didn’t happen. I’m really happy with these photos but I also know I can do better. I’m currently working on two baby cardigans (which are also gifts but are not purple) so I’ll have to play around with the camera a bit more when they’re done.

I often find myself photographing details and I like the pretty blurry backgrounds like in the photo below, so the two photographers running the workshop may or may not have persuaded me to buy a new lens that will help achieve that. It may or may not be winging itself to me right now, so I’ll post some photos when I’ve had a good play with it.

A photography crush

Today I am going to tell you about a photographer that I admire. I discovered her work through Ravelry when I clicked through to her blog. I was blown away. In fact I even sent her a rather embarrassed message on Ravelry telling her how much I loved her photos.

Julie showcases her work at halfadreamaway and has a way with light that I will forever be in awe of. When she offered to shoot our wedding I nearly bit her hand off. We went to Masseys Wood in the Dublin Mountains last weekend to take some photos of us and the dogs as well as some photos of the shawl I knitted for the wedding.

If you’re looking for something to do of a weekend I highly recommend a trip to the Dublin Mountains. So close by, so beautiful and so forgotten about by many. Masseys Wood is also quite flat compared to some of the walks which is why I particularly like it.

Anyway, without further ado here are the *beautiful* photos of my Ballybeg shawl. They really need no blurb, they speak for themselves.

 

Ballybeg shawl

 

 

See what I mean about the light? So go take a look at Julie’s fantabulos blog, where Ollie and Mia have even featured. Go now. Right now. Off you go. But come back then please.