In the excitement (chaos?) of bringing home a new puppy, it’s easy to forget to take pictures. But there is nothing quite as captivating as photos of your puppy. And by the way, I’m writing about dogs, but these tips will work for any new pet.
You may want to assign one member of your family to take the shots or you can take turns. Whichever you choose, it really helps to make a shot list. That way, you’ll end up with a variety of photos that tell a story.
Here are five themes to help you plan.
Show their size
New puppies are like human babies. You think they will stay small, but they don’t! So, grab some photos of your puppy that show how small he or she is.
This photo of our grand-dog, Napoleon, is a perfect example. He’s now six years old and over 30 pounds. (He won’t discuss the exact weight. 🤣 ) But, how big was he when he joined our family? A little bigger than a Nike shoe but not tall enough to reach my husband’s knee. That means so much more than weight, doesn’t it?
Show their curiosity
This shot of Napoleon shows both his size and his curiosity. He wanted to know what was at the top of the steps. (It was a bright orange pumpkin.) He wasn’t big enough to climb them, but that didn’t stop him from trying.
Don’t forget to add a human element
The first photo I showed of Napoleon also included my husband. Only his leg and foot were in the photo, but that was enough to imply a human and a relationship. When you are shooting photos of your puppy, you don’t have to include the whole person.
This photo is of Napoleon’s little brother, Enzo, with my daughter-in-law. (I’m grateful to both my son and daughter-in-law for sharing these two French bulldogs with us so I can stalk them for my blog. 😉)
You can feel the attachment between them. When she holds him, Enzo just melts. And, again, this also will remind her of how small he was.
Show their innocence
In this photo of puppy Enzo, he is sitting peacefully and looking around. He looks so small compared to the height of the grass and the size of the leaves around him. He has no idea what my husband and the other dogs in the background are planning. Of course, this tranquility doesn’t last long.
Highlight their playfulness and bravery
Puppies don’t stay still for long, especially if there are other dogs around to play with.
Enzo also has a cousin: our dog Kenzie. Kenzie and now-grown-up Napoleon like to play a game that we call “Steal the Toy”. One of them will grab a toy and tease the other dog with it. It doesn’t take long for the two of them to be racing around, chasing one another. The next step is that they both end up holding onto the same toy with their mouths. The final step is a wrestling move, where they try to throw each other off balance to secure the toy for themselves.
It took a lot of shots to get this one of little Enzo trying to be part of the game. He did manage to get his mouth onto the ball briefly! Heavyweight Napoleon won in the end.
The best camera for the job
While your iPhone will get some great photos of your puppy, a DSLR or mirrorless camera will give you much more control and latitude. Being able to zoom in using a long lens really helps in your role as a paparazzo or paparazza. You can capture the action without disrupting it.
A camera will allow you to use a low aperture number like f/4.0- f/5,6. Along with zooming in, this will help you blur out the background to make your subject pop and also get a faster shutter speed.
To help you plan your shoot, I’ve included the camera settings in the photo captions. In general, I always take multiple shots of the scene, using Continuous Shooting Mode. If the dogs or people are in the sun and backlit, I also bump up my Exposure Compensation.
Process your photos to complete the story
After I’ve spent time shooting photos of the puppy, I have one more step I take.
If you’ve been following me for a while, you’ll know that I shoot in RAW and process my photos in Adobe Lightroom Classic.
For these photos, using the Texture slider really helped show Enzo’s wrinkly forehead and his soft fur. Also, I was able to increase the exposure on his head in the last photo using the Adjustment Brush. In real life, he was shaded by the big dogs. But for the story, he needed to be the subject, so he needed to be brighter than the other dogs.
My trick for this in Lightroom is to increase the exposure too much but only where I paint with the Adjustment Brush. Then, I reduce the exposure for the entire photo in the Basic Panel. This results in Enzo being brighter than his fellow dogs. He pops.
In this particular photo, I increased the exposure on Enzo almost a full stop (+.95) with the Adjustment Brush. Then, I reduced the overall exposure in the Basic Panel by a quarter of a stop. (-25)
Now it’s your turn
These candid photos that you shoot will make a great photo book. Be sure to include the story of your new puppy. You might also want to frame one of the shots or even make it into a coffee mug, the perfect gift for an animal lover! (I just solved your Christmas shopping problems!)
Finally, these photos of your puppy might make great additions to a stock portfolio. The one of Napoleon and the step is one of my popular photos on iStock/Getty and Adobe Stock.
Do you print your photos or put them in a photo book or on a coffee mug? Let me know in the comments which photo service you prefer!
Check out these blog posts:
Are you so busy chasing your new puppy around that you can’t even imagine taking photos? You can Google “pet photographers near me” to find one to hire.
If you live in New Jersey, give my friend and dog photographer, Lisa Feury, a call. She makes house calls and will come to your home to record your new family member’s antics! You can find her website here. Tell her I sent you!