National Dog Photography Day is apparently a thing (July 26th), and while we generally don’t cave to (and often roll our eyes at) the hashtag holidays, we do love pictures of dogs. We also know how hard it can be to capture that perfect image. So, we were inspired to honor this particular “holiday” by sharing some expert advice.
Photography has always been a big part of our brand. Very early on, we did some photo shoots with our friend Joanna Totolici, a very talented NYC photographer who primarily works in fashion and also shoots weddings; however, her lifelong passion for dogs inspired her to start doing canine photography between bigger jobs. After some early packaging design fails, we decided to feature our own dogs, Connor and Sharkita, on our boxes using some of her beautiful portraits. When we introduced our Lamb Recipe, Joanna’s adorable rescue havanese Boris became our third spokespup. We regularly feature images from the many shoots we have done with Joanna on our instagram account.
Thanks, Joanna, for generously sharing your favorite tips for taking your best photos of your best friends and for letting us use your beautiful images for this piece!
It’s All About The Light
The word photography literally means drawing with light, so make sure you have plenty to work with. Natural daylight is always best, so try to work outdoors or near a window. The time of day also matters A LOT. You may already know about magic hour (also called golden hour) referring to the hour before sunset or after sunrise, when everything is bathed in a golden glow. These are the perfect times to shoot. Avoid working in the middle of the day with bright overhead lighting and harsh shadows. If you must shoot midday, try to position your pup in a shadow near the edge, as the brighter light will bounce in a bit and can create some nice effects.
Working indoors? Don’t mix warm and cool lighting types, if you’re using light from a window, don’t add an incandescent light. Avoid fluorescents if you can. I have cursed many a retail establishment for this unfortunate choice in their dressing room. If the lighting is unflattering for you, it is unflattering for your dog. No matter what type of lighting you are using, photograph your dog facing the lighting source. If the lighting is behind your pup, they will be backlit, appear darker, and their features will be harder to discern. Did you buy a ring light or something similar for those Zoom meetings during the pandemic? Try it out with your dog photos.
You can have the best equipment and practices in the world, but at the end of the day the quality of your pictures is equally dependent on happy cooperative models. As they say, a tired dog is a happy dog, so make sure your pup has gone on a nice walk or had a good play date ahead of time (don’t overdo it though, unless you want a sleeping dog).
90’s supermodel Linda Evangelista once infamously said (of her and fellow star Christy Turlington) that “we don’t wake up for less than $10,000 a day.” While canine models may not need that kind of compensation, don’t expect them to work for free either. A treat or squeaky toy positioned near the camera and lots of rewards will help you get those million dollar looks. If you want a cute head tilt or quizzical expression, try making a novel high-pitched noise or do your best cat imitation. Once you start shooting, keep going, you never know when that perfect moment will happen. Since the advent of digital photography, worrying about wasting expensive film and developing fees is a thing of the past.
Some dogs are total naturals and love having their photos taken. Others may be a little camera shy or even downright fearful. Be sure to look out for signs that your pups may be unhappy, such as: looking away, licking their chops or panting with a curled tongue. Even the most fearful dogs can come around with a proper positive reinforcement-based desensitization protocol. This helpful guide goes over the basics and even has a section for camera shyness. If you put in the effort, even the most reticent dogs can find their inner diva.
Unless you are deliberately setting a scene or are shooting in a beautiful location, make sure the background is clean and not too distracting. You want the focus to be your adorable dog, not your whole living room, pile of laundry, or tangled electronic cables. If you want to create a clean white background, foam core from a craft store can work wonders. You can also get silly with yearbook-style backdrops—think lasers.
Shooting outside with less control? With a well-behaved subject try a setting like portrait mode with a shallow depth of field. This will blur the background. If things are a little more fast paced or you can't get up close and personal, you can always play around with your images afterwards. Luckily at this point most of our smartphones and Instagram come with easy to use editing tools so you can crop in closely after the fact if need be. Using an actual camera? Here’s a great list of software tools for any level photographer in a range of budgets, from free on up.
Except in very rare cases, we’re taller than our dogs (which is a good thing, imagine if they could reach all of your food). This means that the easiest and most natural way to take a picture is from above. The most captivating photos, however, are usually taken at dog’s eye level. This often means sitting. In every shoot that Joanna has done for us, she’s spent some time lying on her belly on the floor. It can also be easier on your back to have your pup on a piece of furniture.
Show Us Your Pics!
It always makes our day when customers share pics of their pups with us. So as you channel your inner Avedon, please feel free to post images using #evermorepack. We’ll feature our faves. If you’re not into social media, we’re always delighted to receive emails at firstname.lastname@example.org! Thanks again to Joanna for sharing her expertise with us!
Check out Joanna's Fashion IG @joannatotolici
Check out some more of her puppy pics @totophoto.ny
Getting Married? Her wedding work is gorgeous. @joanna.toto
And because we have an excuse (but really who needs and excuse), check out some more doggo photos below