It has been a couple of weeks with our new Labrador puppy and we are having a blast. One thing I wanted to make sure to do was to take a bunch of puppy pictures. First Labrador puppies grow exponentially; sometimes they will look bigger from day to day. If you miss a couple of days you have memories that are gone. Second with our last puppy fourteen years ago we were shooting film and lost a roll to the processors. They were all of the puppy photos we took that we could not get back and we had waited till he was older to develop.
I shoot with a digital SLR (shoot through lens) that is patterned after the older film 35mm cameras with interchangeable lenses although it takes photos on digital film cards. I will be referring to some more advanced features that can be accomplished using these cameras in this article. Note if you have a question post a comment and I’ll try to answer quickly.
Most of these tips can be translated to a point and shoot but if you are serious about photography you will want to get a digital SLR. There are many entry level cameras that are quite reasonable. Here’s tip number one, you can get great buys on auction sites on used equipment. All pro and semi pro photographers want to shoot with the best and newest equipment, if they can afford it. The technology changes yearly which translates to some incredible buys for a consumer if you shop around. To illustrate I just auctioned off a four year old Nikon D100 body for just over $200 (cost me $1400 new and was in great shape when I sold it). My last word on equipment is the creativity to be explored with a SLR that you can set to manual. Not only can you achieve creative photos but you can learn so much more about how to make great photos by forcing yourself to shoot in manual mode. You will learn photography rather than just take pictures.
Shooting digital is the best as I can put in an 8 gig card and have close to 500 shots in the best format and more if I want to shoot at a lower quality setting. Something I am learning very quickly is you need to shoot a lot of photos with a puppy. They are fast as lightning and do not pose for you to get your camera settings correct. I wrote an article on dog photography but most of the rules are different when dealing with a puppy.
Wear the puppy down first. You do not need a puppy that is jumping around unless that’s the type of shot you are going for. These shots need a very fast shutter speed possibly 500 or better. In order to shoot that fast you will need lots of light or a higher ISO setting. Lots of light means harsh shadows and a higher ISO setting will lead to more digital noise (colored dots you can see when you enlarge a photo). So run that pup around the yard a bunch before you start to shoot. They will be more still for you when you do photograph.
As I mentioned earlier shoot lots of photos. The shot may look great on that small screen on the back of the camera but you will be surprised as to how many will be out of focus once you look at them on a computer. I no longer rely on the on-camera screen to judge anything other than exposure and composition. I learned the hard way the day we picked our new puppy up from the breeders. I was so excited I did not check the settings on my camera and came back with 60 percent out of focus photos. There are some photos I will never get back. I learned my lesson and now shoot in what’s called continuous mode which will shoot shots one after another while you have the shutter button pressed. Almost all digital SLR cameras come with this feature; you should learn to use it. BTW this was the first time I had used this feature on my camera.
The autofocus on some cameras will allow you to switch to active mode. It locks on a subject and constantly tries to stay in focus on that subject. This in conjunction with continuous shooting will give you a good selection of good shots. You will get some out of focus, just take more shots. The second day we had our puppy I looked at the first batch and saw how many were out of focus that I shot about 400 in one sitting. I got some great puppy pictures of that little rascal and have continued to shoot a bunch in each session which I do every couple of days.
Shoot on overcast days. Most people, me included, think that you need the sun shining to take great photos. Bright sun means harsh light and casts hard shadows which when shooting people portraits can lead to very unflattering photos. You will need light to be able to shoot at higher shutter speeds but you can solve that problem by setting the ISO on the camera up. I like to shoot with ISO 100 which gives the best resolution but I can go up to 400 ISO and not see very much difference in small prints or if I put the photos on the web.
If you can afford it buy a hot shoe flash. This is a separate flash unit that can fit on top of the camera in the hot shoe or can be used off camera. I know your camera has a flash on it but believe me when I say it is virtually useless in producing a good photo. The positioning is horrible in providing proper lighting. A hot shoe flash will allow you to set the shutter speed to 250 getting those shots before they move as well as producing some very interesting effects. In advanced settings you can get the best light by doing what’s called flash bracketing which allows you to set the strength of the flash lower or higher to get more of a natural light.
All the other tips from my article on dog photography will work well with pups. Get in close (unless you are shooting with a wide angle lens), get to the level of the dog for a good perspective, and fill the frame.
Remember shoot lots of puppy dogs pictures she’ll grow before you know it and then you will have all dog pictures. A professional photographer only shows their best work so delete or store the out of focus photographs elsewhere and only show your friends the best. Get yourself a digital SLR with a fairly large digital film card so you can put a bunch of photos on there. Play some before the shoot. A puppy that no longer has that frantic energy bursts will be more cooperative when the shutter is pressed. Good luck with your photography and your best friend.