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

Pup & DaffodilsFinding 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

Pup Looks Up




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 lens.






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 bed.

Picnic Table Perch




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

Head Shot



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.




Black Pup






Moving in close is especially important for those that own black dogs.





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 camera.

Indoors or outdoors

Outside shots tend to make for nicer pictures overall but regardless which setting you choose both situations present their own special hazards.

Glowing Eyes

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.

Pup On Leash


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.

Alert TMPhoto courtesy of Citadel TMs


Use color

Using color is also a great way to bring out the best in your Tibetan Mastiff.

Colorful Backdrop



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 your dog.

With Leashes



Picture "Before", both puppies are wearing collars and leashes.








Without Leashes!



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 program.

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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