News flash: celebrity dogs, from toothy Tuna to bear-like Boo, have conquered the Internet. In fact, they have managed to trump what was once widely regarded as the Internet’s mascot: cats. The proof: Dogs are googled twice as often as cats, and crush YouTube with approximately 18 million videos – five million more than their feline counterparts. On social media, 5,600 dog-related Facebook pages and 240,000 tweets go live every day.
According to researchers at Manhattanville College in New York, dog owners are also happier than cat owners. Furthermore, neuroscientist Paul Zak has “proven” that dogs love their owners more than cats, so it’s no wonder that 36.5 percent of Americans own a dog. After all, the human-canine relationship is loving and deep-rooted. So, naturally, you’ll want to immortalize it in a photograph and post it to Instagram. These 10 tips will help you easily capture your dog’s tail-wagging, tongue-hanging, drool-dripping charm.
1. Use the right gear
You’ll need proper gear to shoot subjects who move around quickly and unpredictably. Use a high framing rate, effective noise control and generous burst capacity at high ISOs. The Canon 5D Mark III is great for its 6 fps framing rate, and at 2.07 lbs, it’s light enough to carry around.
Lenses will vary depending on the setting and desired look of the shoot. Fast zooms like the Canon 16–35mm f/2.8L is great for in-close work, while Canon’s 70–200mm f/2.8L works well for longer shots. The Canon 50mm f/1.2L is also great for capturing stunning dog portraits as it allows indoor existing light photos in incredibly dark locations, and catches focus in low light. Shooting it wide open, the lens is incredibly fast.
2. Keep your dog’s coat glossy.
The average dog, according to Miller’s Anatomy, has roughly 1,500 hairs per square inch of skin. To capture an Instagram-worthy photo of your pooch, you’ll want to keep its fur in tip-top shape. The majority of dull coats are the result of poor nutrition due to by-products like wheat, corn and soy in dog food that can cause allergies. Make sure that your kibble nibbler is on a high protein, low-preservative diet to ensure a nice, shiny coat.
Furthermore, you’ll want to make sure that you bathe your dog with shampoo and a natural conditioner, like coconut milk, at least once a month. You should also brush its coat every other day. This stimulates your dog’s skin and hair follicles increasing oil production, which is what makes a dog’s fur shiny. Furthermore, you can get your dog looking glossy by adding an egg, tuna, sardines, salmon, or a teaspoon of oil (vegetable, sunflower, flaxseed, olive, coconut or safflower) to its food. If your dog still has a dull coat, though, schedule a veterinary check-up. It could have chronic kidney disease, thyroid issues or parasites that are sucking out the key nutrients needed for healthy fur.
2. Get your pooch to grin.
Are you ready to get an ear-to-ear grin from your canine cutie? Sprint around your backyard, living room or block. If your dog is in a low-energy mood, toss squeaky toys or tennis balls to them. You can also pull out some rope or an old sock and play a quick game of tug-a-war. Afterwards, bring your panting dog to the spot where you want to photograph it. It’ll have an aww-inducing, tongue-hanging smile.
3. Use noise to get your pup’s attention.
Since most puppies don’t know their names, calling for them rarely works. Instead, you’ll want to use a squeaky toy during your puppy’s photo op. Their big eyes will look up at you, their ears will perk perk and they may even give you an adorable head tilt.
However, older dogs will usually respond to their names, high-pitched noises or just the sound of your voice. But if you’re still having trouble getting your dog to look straight into the camera, try BarkCam. This dog-version of Instagram emits sounds such as a cat meowing, a treat bag rustling or a doorbell ringing when you press the shutter button. Plus, you can enhance the photos with stickers, text and filters.
4. Go for simple and colorful backgrounds.
A clutter-free background, blank wall, handmade quilt, or eye-matching toy will make your dog’s portrait pop. Of course, if you’re snapping pictures of an energetic puppy on location, you probably won’t be able to choose your background. If you’re shooting your picture with a standard lens, you’ll want to stand 6-12 inches away from your dog so it fills the frame. You’ll also want to use a shallow depth of field and an aperture of 2.8 or wider,so your photo’s background blurs, drawing all of the attention to your furry subject.
5. Bribe your pooch with treats.
Good old-fashioned bribery is one way to turn your hound into a Grade-A model. Simply assemble a stash of high-quality treats, then toss one of the morsels onto the floor. Your puppy may spend some time exploring its environment for more treats. That’s fine; be patient. Toss your dog two or three more treats and make sure that your camera is ready. As your dog glances at you for another treat, aim, shoot and capture the cuteness.
6. Get on your dog’s eye level.
When you take photos of dogs from too high a vantage point, they look puny and insignificant. You can soften the master-follower hierarchy by sitting or laying on the ground and snapping pictures at their eye level. You’ll capture their warm, saucer-like eyes up close. Bonus: according to one Japanese research team, looking into your dog’s eyes will boost your oxytocin levels, which make you happy.
7. Snap photos of your dog on the run.
If your dog’s energy level is too high, let it run free and capture the action. Turn your camera to sports mode or use a fast shutter speed (1/500 or above). You can also tailor your outside environment to your dog’s personality and energy level. For example, you could fill a kiddie pool with water, turn on the sprinklers or pile up some leaves. Let your dog go wild and capture their bull-dozing antics.
8. Put puppies in a container.
If you’re trying to capture a picture of your energetic puppy, put it inside of a container (a laundry basket, a flower pot, a cardboard box) and attract its attention with a squeaky toy. You’ll have time to shoot several pictures before the puppy is actually able to crawl out.
9. Capture your dog’s personality.
Is your dog best buds with a feisty feline, a fidgety bird or a quick-footed bunny? Then click and share a picture of your dynamic duo. Is your furball a “scaredy cat?” Then shoot pictures of it under a blanket, inside of a cabinet or crouching behind your couch. You can also take pictures of your pooch’s most adorable parts (tufted paws, stubby tail, button nose, pointed ears) from a variety of angles. Then you can group the photos together in a picture block or composite.
10. Include a story with your photo.
Powerful pet portraits can go viral by themselves, but your odds improve if you include stories with your pictures. For example, a @lupinthefurred photo garnered 80,000 likes on the Dogs of Instagram feed because the photographer shared his dog’s breed, age and origin story. So, tell those funny anecdotes from your dog’s rescue, birthday party, waterslide adventure or Netflix binge, and watch the likes roll in.