Dog photography (or phodography) has risen in popularity in recent years, ever since our phones became able to capture beautiful shots of even the fastest whippet. Alexandra Fraser explains why she's determined to capture Wilf's life on film, and how she does this while still letting him be a puppy.
“He’s a puppy, not a product.” My partner says for the tenth time today while I kneel on the floor in front of a completely disinterested, stick-chewing Wilf.
“I just need to get this one shot.” I say, for the twentieth time this week. I click, and another identical picture of Wilf, eyes half closed, stick-in-mouth, joins countless others in my camera roll. Success.
The need to document every aspect of Wilf’s life began the day we brought him home. You see, reader, he was simply just too darn cute to not film. And photograph. And star on his own dedicated Instagram account.
Lately I’ve been doing my best not to be that person at a concert watching the whole set through their phone. Leaving it in my pocket helps me to stay present and make memories, instead of making social media posts. There’s a darker side to being so virtuous – this past Christmas I took exactly zero photographs of my family. Needless to say, I regret.
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‘It’s easy to get frustrated if you’re expecting an Ansel Adams and you get a Jackson Pollock’
With Wilf I don’t want to have any regrets. His aunt Nala went from puppy to slightly-overly-rambunctious dog in about two weeks flat – I came to visit after settling into our house in Winchester to find her doubled in size, her tail wags now lethal to coffee table glasses.
I remember returning from a holiday at age 6 to find my first wonderful dog (a chocolate lab appropriately named Chocolate Eclair, or ‘Claire’ for short) had made a similar transformation. Puppy was no more.
Wilf has been rigorously documented from the first day he was ours. His first four months in his forever home are all there, in my camera roll. This past Christmas I added a wonderful Sony compact to my dog photography arsenal and managed to capture those mid-air running shots that so often grace the pages of Country Life. When I acquired use of a Google Pixel 6 Pro, it was game over.
‘It’s important to readjust your expectations – maybe you won’t get a stunning model shot, but you might get some cute stick-chewing photos, which are just as good’
There probably hasn’t been a single day since Wilf became mine that I haven’t taken at least one pic of his cute little face. That being said, the most important thing has always been Wilf. We don’t take the camera on every walk and we don’t make him pose at every viewpoint.
More often than not, I let him do his thing and only take pictures at points where he’s chosen to pause for a bit (most likely, with a stick). After all, he’s a puppy, not a product.
Top tips for successful dog photography
Get them used to a camera at a young age. Turn off your flash, especially when they’re teeny-tiny, but try to incorporate your camera into training after they’ve learned how to sit. Make them ‘stay’, snap a shot and then reward. This shows them that sitting still for a photograph is a good thing to do, and will result in treatos.
Choose the right tools. It depends what you’re after from your dog photography, but if you want those stunning motion shots then you’re going to want a shutter speed of at least 1/1000 second. If all you want is beautiful posed shots, then your phone is likely good enough – although you’ll probably want one that recognises pets in ‘portrait’ mode.
That being said, the best camera is the one you have on you. I love my Sony for its incredible true-to-life quality, but the Google Pixel is my friend on walks with Wilf. It’s designed to be water resistant, so a little rain wont hurt it, it fits snuggly in my pocket and it’ll capture incredible photographs within seconds of me unlocking it, no programming required.
Know when to stop. Wilf is a gorgeous model, but he’s also just a puppy. If he wont sit for the first few times I try to take a picture, then I stop and let him sniff and play and chase his ball. It’s important to readjust your dog photography expectations – maybe you won’t get a stunning model shot, but you might get some cute stick-chewing photographs, which are just as good.
Have fun! It’s easy to get frustrated if you’re expecting an Ansel Adams and you get a Jackson Pollock. Sometimes it’s worth putting the camera away and just enjoying a lovely walk with your lovely pup.
Put the camera away when they’re … um. Yeah. Leave them a little dignity. Please.
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