How to take that perfect digital
picture of your Tibetan Mastiff
© Lyse Y. Stormont 2005
Please respect the laws of copyright.
All photographs are the property of StormnAngels Tibetan Mastiffs
unless otherwise credited.
A great photograph is a full expression of what one
feels about what is being photographed in the deepest sense,
and is, thereby, a true expression of what one feels
about life in its entirety.
Author: Ansel Adams
Getting that fabulous picture of your dog can be a formidable
challenge but here are some helpful strategies that you can employ
to ensure you capture those perfect memories of your Tibetan Mastiff.
Timing is everything
the best time to take your pet's picture is very important. Unless
you are experienced with using a faster shutter speed for a dog
in motion, success often comes to those who wait. Plan to spend
time with your Tibetan Mastiff when he is relaxed. Look for those
opportunities to snap a few photographs when he is at his most
comfortable, in his natural surroundings and calm. Taking your
dog for a walk before taking out the camera can help release some
of his excess energy.
Photo courtesy of Citadel TMs
Look at things from their point of view
It's always feels good to have our Tibetan Mastiffs look up to
us but it isn't the best of situations when viewed through the
The world may look a little different but getting down to your
TM's level is crucial. A prone position is required if your dog
is on the floor or on your knees if he's lying on the couch or
It's a lot easier on your back if your TM naturally poses on a
deck or picnic table. My 14-year old daughter Aislinn took this
photo and it remains one of my all-time favourites.
Up close and personal
The opportunity for a spectacular headshot is right around the
corner if you're not afraid to move in close. Remember that your
field of focus should be trained on the dog so filling the viewfinder
with more dog and less background is perfectly fine.
Moving in close is especially important for those that own black
We know that the dogs won't do them so the tricks are left to
us. TMs are naturally intelligent and curious but it sometimes
requires some extra work to get that perfect portrait. A second
person with a squeaky toy or treat standing behind the photographer
is one way to get your dog's attention so that he looks to the
Indoors or outdoors
Outside shots tend to make for nicer pictures overall but regardless
which setting you choose both situations present their own special
Photo courtesy of Wendy and Gregory Gdovicak
Reflections of that "devil dog" look with red/gold eyes are often
a problem whenever the flash is used. Hints to help prevent this
dilemma include getting closer to your subject, shooting in brighter
lighting or "bouncing" the flash slightly instead of having it
focused directly on your pet.
Don't Let Anything Come Between You and Your Dog
On sunny days be careful to keep the sun to your back and make
sure that nothing is casting a shadow on your dog. (That's includes
the shadow of the photographer!!) In the case where dogs are penned,
avoid taking pictures through fencing. Either go in with him or
let him out.
Sometimes all that is required for a naturally "posed" picture
of your dog outside is your dog on a very long leash and a second
person. Use a Flexi-lead or join two 6' leashes together if you
must and have your helper stand still and quietly in a familiar
setting where you would like to take the pictures. Let the dog
roam as he thoroughly investigates his restricted area. Don't wait
for him to come toward you but move with him. He may stack himself
just right, sit down or stretch out. Whatever he does, don't forget
to get down to his level!
There is NOTHING like the "alert TM pose." Create or watch for
an opportunity when your dog may go on alert because he hears or
senses something new and interesting. Unusual noises, loud children
playing off in the distance, a person walking across the street,
an unfamiliar dog barking or a car coming down a driveway may bring
an opportunity for that exceptional shot.
Photo courtesy of Citadel TMs
Using color is also a great way to bring out the best in your
Personally I find that faded drab background colors take away
from the naturally typical expression of the TM. I like colours
to pop but never at the expense of the dog. Look for solid colors,
natural backgrounds of outdoor greenery or rocky landscapes that
will contrast and enhance the feral beauty of your dog. For baby
puppies, place them on jewel tone blankets or pieces of material.
Tie a bandana of emerald green, fire engine red or sapphire blue
to add some sparkle to your black Tibetan Mastiff.
Use technology to your advantage
Professional photographers know that it can take rolls and rolls
of film to capture that perfect picture so be patient. The technological
advancements with digital cameras specifically, however, afford
us all the luxury of taking a lot of pictures while keeping the
hobby economical. So go ahead and use up those memory cards at
the highest resolution. By giving yourself lots of opportunities
you benefit from an abundance of picture choices.
Unless it is something very minor I would never encourage anyone
to alter the image of the dog himself. No one wants to change the
dog into something he is not but don't be afraid to use computer
software specifically designed to enhance your pictures. Use image
editing programs like Adobe PhotoShop Elements or Jasc Paint Shop
Pro to crop unwanted background, eliminate red-eye or a dangling
leash, lighten a dark photo or find the perfect background for
Picture "Before", both puppies are wearing collars
Picture "After" with the help of Paint Shop collars
and leashes are gone!
How will you share your efforts?
As you steadily improve your photography skills you'll want to
share the pictures of your loyal companion. One of the greatest
joys of being a Tibetan Mastiff breeder is receiving pictures of
your dog as he matures, so sending a digital update is always appreciated.
Sometimes pictures are the only link a breeder has to individual
dogs s/he places. From that standpoint the pictures become an essential
tool in helping to evaluate the progress of a litter and can be
one small factor in helping to determine the path of a breeding
If you are the creative type consider transforming your pet portraits
into note cards, collages, a portrait or painting. Gift a breeder,
friends or children. Create your own place on the web or employ
another to do it for you.
While capturing the spirit of the Tibetan Mastiff with your digital
camera can be a challenge, a little bit of planning and a lot of
patience will take you far. But don't forget the number one rule
of photography and that is to have fun. Sometimes the best pictures
are the candid ones that make us laugh long after puppies and young
dogs are grown. See the world through your dog's eyes and learn
about his true character as you go through the years together.
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