How to Photograph Dogs: What Is Aperture and How Can It Improve Your Pet Photos?

Updated on February 6, 2018
A shutter speed of 1/1000 sec and an aperture at f/ 5.6 keeps this dog's face in perfect focus, whereas the background has been blurred...
A shutter speed of 1/1000 sec and an aperture at f/ 5.6 keeps this dog's face in perfect focus, whereas the background has been blurred... | Source

How to Adjust Aperture to Improve dog Photography

Taking dog photos is not easy at the best of times, and I imagine there are many budding photographers also trying to get a handle on the settings while wiping dog drool off the lens and making sure the tripod doesn't tip over.

To help you out, here are some camera basics and how they apply to dog photography. Lets start with aperture and the aperture-priority setting!

What is aperture?

Without getting all too technical, aperture controls how much light strikes the image sensor. The ins and outs of camera body parts has always bored me to tears, and to be honest, all you need to know is that the aperture is basically the opening that lets light into the camera.

It can be big or small and is represented by a series of f- numbers. Annoyingly, the smaller the f- number, the bigger the aperture (opening), and the bigger the f-number, the smaller the opening, and therefore the less light.

You'll hear seasoned photographers talk about 'opening up the lens', or 'stopping down the lens'. All that means is they let more or less light into the camera. Check out the examples in my cheat sheet below.

Source

What Do I Need to Know?

The best thing about aperture is that it controls the depth of field. As soon as you get the hang of it, you can use it to create some funky creative effects, blur out a cluttered background, or creating a cool foreground blur.

The easiest way to learn about how to use aperture for creative effects is to set your camera to the 'Aperture Priority Setting' and shoot away. Yes, if you go to photography school you get to learn how to do all of this on the manual setting, but I like shortcuts!

All SLR cameras look different, but essentially you're looking for something called 'Aperture Priority.' On my Nikon D7000, this setting is indicated by the letter A. I'd recommend you refer to your manual to work out how to change the f-number.

Source

Aperture Setting Examples

Portrait Perfect

Set the Aperture to a low number between 1-5, and try to focus on your dog's eyes. Upload the photo to your PC and see where the blur ended up. Depending on what lens you've used, how far away from your dog you were standing and what the overall light conditions were a couple of things might have happened with the focus point and the depth of field.
Ideally, your dog's eyes and face are in perfect focus and the background is nicely blurred out - congrats, you've just shot a perfect portrait!

Perhaps your dog's eyes are in focus, but his nose and ears are blurred out - this could happen with a really small aperture number and as long as the actual focus ended up where you intended, its a technique you can use to create some really creative compositions with foreground and background blur.

Perhaps your dog's nose is in focus but his eyes are blurry? Then you've probably focused on his nose, and because of the narrow depth of field his eyes have been blurred. Try again and focus on his eyes, or dial up your f-number.

Of course you could also use this technique to really highlight what is special about your dog - try focusing on his name tag, that funny shaped dot on his ear or his gigantic paws and you could end up with some really personal doggie portraits.

The eye is in focus, but the narrow depth of field has blurred out the dog's nose and the background at 1/320 sec and f/2.8
The eye is in focus, but the narrow depth of field has blurred out the dog's nose and the background at 1/320 sec and f/2.8 | Source
1/50 sec and f/13 - giving this image a bigger depth of field, meaning its in focus front to back
1/50 sec and f/13 - giving this image a bigger depth of field, meaning its in focus front to back | Source

Using Aperture to Combat Background Clutter

Aperture can also be used to blur out unwanted clutter in the background - no more laundry and kids toys in your shots! Check out the examples photos in this article.

Sharp all the way
Set the Aperture to a high number - from 7 and above. This should land you with a very wide depth of field, in other words your photos should be sharp back to front. Traditionally this is a setting used by landscape photographers but as a dog photographer you might want to use a higher f-number for photos of dogs playing, running, or lounging in the shade with their pals.
In low light conditions, or with fast moving pooches, you might still find that you end up with a little blur where you don't want it - but that's a whole new lesson all together.

Compact Cameras

If you don't have a fancy D-SLR camera, you can still achieve some of these results. For a small aperture number, look for an automatic setting called 'portrait'. Its usually indicated by an icon looking like a lady wearing a big hat and it's a setting that should blur out the background nicely. For a big aperture number look for a setting called 'landscape', usually indicated by an icon looking like a mountain.

Have you used Aperture to create a stunning doggie portrait, or a creative dog pic, intentionally or not? Tell me about it!

The puppies are sharp in the foreground, whereas the bigger running dog in the background has been blurred out at ashutter speed of 1/500 sec and an aperture f/4.8
The puppies are sharp in the foreground, whereas the bigger running dog in the background has been blurred out at ashutter speed of 1/500 sec and an aperture f/4.8 | Source

Questions & Answers

    Comments

      0 of 8192 characters used
      Post Comment

      • profile image

        Traci 

        3 years ago

        I know that this is an older post but I just had to tell you how helpful it was. I am trying to improve the photos I take of my foster dogs. Great info and explained in a useful way.

      • profile image

        efren ene l0pez 

        3 years ago

        interesting and useful at all are your articles on how to inprove photography.thanks for the tips on how to use aperture to create real good pictures.

      • CarNoobz profile image

        CarNoobz 

        5 years ago from USA

        Another great way to get that nice blurred background is to simply use a longer lens. A 200 mm lens at f/5.6 and shooting from farther away can look just as good if not better than an 18 mm wide angle lens at f/ 2.8.

        Also, I've found that using a macro of any focal length can make a difference too. I have a Sigma 18-50 mm macro, and it blurs out the background really well, especially when shooting only inches away from the subject.

        But of course, nothing beats a fast 50 mm or 85 mm at f/1 or 1.8.

        Great tips!

      • Linda Bliss profile imageAUTHOR

        Linda Liebrand 

        5 years ago from San Francisco

        Thanks for reading my hub about dog photography Peggy. Aperture priority is my favourite setting as it gives such creative control of your d-slr.

      • sallybea profile image

        Sally Gulbrandsen 

        5 years ago from Norfolk

        Interesting and informative hub with some lovely images, thanks for sharing

      • Peggy W profile image

        Peggy Woods 

        5 years ago from Houston, Texas

        I need to use the portrait setting more. Thanks for the demo with your cute dog as subject matter. The blurring of the background can be a real plus in many instances as you demonstrated. Up, useful and interesting votes and will share with my followers. Thanks for the camera training tips.

      working

      This website uses cookies

      As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, feltmagnet.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

      For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://feltmagnet.com/privacy-policy#gdpr

      Show Details
      Necessary
      HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
      LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
      Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
      AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
      HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
      HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
      Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
      CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
      Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
      Features
      Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
      Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
      Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
      Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
      Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
      VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
      PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
      Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
      MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
      Marketing
      Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
      Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
      Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
      Statistics
      Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
      ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
      Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)