By Kevin Parry
Your smartphone is perfect for grabbing those unexpected candid shots of your pup when she suddenly decides to put on a full-blown cute performance. And, unlike a regular camera, chances are you’ll always have your phone with you to capture the moment.
Smartphone cameras have never been better, or easier to use, with just a single click. Unfortunately, a lot of one-click photos taken with a phone suffer from bad exposure, are out of focus, or your dog is halfway out of frame by the time you do that one click.
The good news is, it doesn’t have to be that way. It’s quite easy to take heartwarming snaps with a smartphone, the sort of photos you’ll want to print and frame — that fully capture the unique, lovable personality of your dog.
Follow some of these simple steps and see immediate results in the quality of photos you take.
Turn off the flash
Never use the flash: red eye, urgh. Modern camera phones are much better at shooting in low light these days. Besides, I’m pretty sure your dog doesn’t like that harsh light in his eyes anyway.
Turn shutter sound off
One advantage of a smartphone over a real camera is that you can shoot silently. A dog’s ears are more sensitive than ours, so turn off the shutter sound and you’ll be less likely to distract him, which could spoil the photo.
Turn filter effects off
If you like the vintage look that filters provide, then add them after you have taken a “normal” photo. Vintage filtered images distract from the core subject matter. One day your dog won’t be around anymore, and you’ll get more pleasure by looking at a clear photo of him than you will if he’s surrounded by a steampunk-inspired Victorian vignette.
One click isn’t enough — you’ve got to go big. Hold the phone firmly in one hand and take multiple shots in rapid succession by tapping the camera icon gently. You can easily take 200 photos in less than two minutes. Don’t be disappointed if you only get one great photo — it was a two-minute investment and now you have a great photo!
Focus and exposure
Smartphone cameras are designed to recognize a human face, so they’re not very good at getting a dog’s face into focus automatically. Your camera phone is more likely to focus on his lovely wet nose than on his adorable puppy dog eyes. When we look at a photo of any creature, we instinctively look at its eyes, so they need to be in focus.
There are dozens of free focus/exposure apps that allow you to manually focus (and also expose) your smartphone. Once installed, you can simply glide the focusing icon over your dog’s eyes to get the perfect shot.
Exposure is perhaps the most nuanced step to learn when trying to take better photos. The free focus/exposure app will help light your shot perfectly. Glide the iris icon over the image on your screen. You’ll notice that it goes darker or lighter, depending on where that icon is. Just choose which level of brightness looks best. No more underexposed or overexposed shots, now that you’re in charge.
Shade is your other best friend
If you don’t want to bother selecting your exposure setting manually, don’t worry — there’s a solution for you. Keep an eye out for the times when your dog is happily sitting in the open shade. Under a tree, in a garage, or on a porch are ideal lighting situations for a top-quality one-click photo. It also helps with exposure if the background color is similar to the color of your dog.
A dab of peanut butter
Put a tiny dab of peanut butter on the back of your phone and stick a treat to it. It’s the best way to get your pup to look into the lens. Hit rapid fire when he starts to lick it off and you might capture something hilarious.
Don’t look him in the eyes
By now your dog has learned that when you’re on the computer, tablet, or phone, you’re pretty much unavailable. Use that to your advantage. If you see him doing something cute, set your phone to camera mode before you approach him.
Keep looking down at your phone as you compose the shot. Chances are, your dog will assume you’re still playing Flappy Bird and he won’t stop doing whatever it is he’s doing. Once in position take multiple shots on silent mode. He’ll be none the wiser and you’ll have gotten him in a natural pose.
Get down, boy
Not just him, but you too. The lens of a camera phone is often located at the corner edge. This means you can take a shot from less than an inch off the ground — something impossible with a bulky SLR camera. So get down on the carpet and shoot your dog from below. He’ll be entertained by you sprawled on your belly, and you may get a cuter than usual expression from him.
Remembering just a couple of these tips should help to improve your photos and preserve your treasured memories. Photographers are fond of saying that “the best camera is the one that’s with you.” The same can be said about a dog.
Kevin Parry is a professional photographer who lives in Los Angeles with his wife, two children and the adorable Brody. Kevin adopted Brody from Independent Labrador Retriever Rescue of Southern California.