Friday, September 03, 2010

Snap a Masterpiece - Tips from Lori Fusaro

Photographer Lori Fusaro hit us all upside the head with her special brand of photography last spring when she spent a day doing a photo marathon fundraiser at the barn. It was awesome. Check it. She feeds us regularly on BR's facebook page with her art (O that gorgeous Gabby lass - Right) and of course she jumped right into submitting her stuff to the newly launched My Dog is Family Thingy

Since she's got such a knack, we asked if she could share some tips with everyone who might be working to get a great shot for the calendar contest. I'm going to re-read this one a few times for some ideas for foster dog photos. I hope it inspires a slew of masterpieces in your corners. Thank you Lori - We love you!

Rover Is Ready For His Close-Up. Are You?

You want to get some gorgeous shots of your dog, your cat, your turtle, but every time you try, the shots come out blurry or your beloved friend looks possessed with ugly red eyes. So what is an animal lover to do? I’ve put together some tried and true tips that will help you get the best photos.

First, take it slow, be prepared and put aside at least an hour to photograph your pooch. He probably has no idea what that horrible thing is that flashes bright light in his face every single time he looks at it. I’d go running with my tail between my legs too. Bring out your camera, set in on the table and let the dog sniff it and investigate when you aren’t using it. Don’t worry, he won’t hurt it.


Natural light is by far the very best; so when you plan your shoot, bring your dog’s favorite chair (or even the couch) over to the window, so you can get that wonderful sun shining through the windows. Don’t worry about making a mess; you never want to get the whole room in the photo anyway. This is about your dog, not the living room.

We all have things we love about our pets. I love Enzo’s super long whiskers, Francis’ big fat belly and how he sits like a human and I’m obsessed with dog tongues in general. So guess what I’m going to be sure to photograph? All those things that make me smile. After all, photos are meant to stir up emotions and memories. Zoom in on those things you love. Grab your camera when the cat is curled up asleep or cleaning his face. Capture all those little endearing qualities about your best friend.


Take off your dog’s pinch collar, harness and leash! Nothing looks worse than a cute pup with all that apparatus. Even better, get a fancy collar. We’re going for pretty here, not necessarily functional. And remember safety first. If you aren’t in a house or fenced in backyard, always keep your dog on a leash, but use a simple leash that matches the collar. Nothing beats a second pair of hands, especially if you are new to handling a camera. So enlist a friend to help you.

If you absolutely have to use flash, you’re sunk. Just kidding. If you have one that you attach to your camera, point the light bulb portion at the ceiling. This is called “bouncing” the light and it will make a much nicer photo with soft, even light. If you only have the flash that is built into your camera, take a piece of wax paper and tape a piece over the entire flash bulb. This mimics a “diffuser” and again the light will not be so harsh and the shadows will be much softer.


Another really cool thing to do is get down on his level. The hardest part about being on the ground will be him wanting to come investigate you! If your dog is good with commands, make him sit or lie down and stay. Use a zoom lens to get in really close on his face. I love those kinds of shots. Try different angles and don’t be afraid to get creative.

Does your dog love agility? Hiking? The dog park? By all means bring your camera. You’ll want your ISO at 400 and your shutter speed should be as high as you can get it. On a bright sunny day you can set the shutter at 1000, probably higher. (Check your camera manual to see how to do that. It sounds complicated, but really its super easy.) And another thing about shooting outside? Shade is your friend. Not to mention your dog’s friend too. How much fun do you have when the sun is streaming in your eyes…with no sunglasses?


Pay attention to your backgrounds. Simple is always best. Green grass or a sandy beach really make your dog pop off the page. And if possible, keep your dog about 10 feet from any walls or harsh backgrounds. The further away the subject is, the blurrier the background will be and again, will make your pup stand out. And get rid of all patterned blankets, beds and throws. The busyness just takes away from your pet.

Treats and toys are a must to have on hand. Plus my secret weapon. Use those special treats your dog will do anything for. Or, give your dog a nice bone to chew on and then when you are ready to take the shot, squeak a toy and watch what happens. The most adorable quizzical look! With an even more adorable head cocked to one side. The equivalent for cats? Catnip of course. And my secret weapon? Peanut butter. Give your dog a mouthful of that and he will sit still while he tries to eat it. And it makes for some amazing tongue shots. - Lori Fusaro

8 comments:

Pibble said...

Thank you so much for sharing these tips. The wax paper over the fixed flash - priceless!

Vee said...

These are great tips! And with the wax paper maybe I won't be so scared to use my point and shoot anymore!

Jay said...

These are some great tips. I caught on t the getting down low part by just viewing your photo gallery, but I'm afraid my arthritic knees won't let me do that. :(

PBOforlife said...

Thanks for the great tips! I'm going to be trying these out this week. :)

Alice's Human Female said...

Great advice! One question: do you have any special tips on making black dogs look their best in photographs?

Puppies in New York said...

Hey Donna, i like your photography very much. Your tips are very useful for the photography lovers and as usual i have bookmarked your post.

LilliGirl said...

Tagged you guys with an award on my site. Hopefully my friends will be dropping by. :)

Lori said...

@Alice- black dogs are SO hard, aren't they? They are the exception to the sun rule. If you put them in more direct light, it will showcase their black fur. But it will be much harder because they will get hot and the sun will be in their eyes.