Thursday, August 15, 2013

Self Portrait... Kind of (and a how-to)

I find that I have a ton of pictures of my dogs, and very few pictures of me with my dogs. This comes a lot, I think, from the fact that I live alone and so am always the one with the camera.

The other day, I decided to try out using the self timer feature on my camera. I've pretty much never messed with it before. Of course, I forgot my tripod, which made for a very limited use of the timer.

This picture was snapped while I was setting up and focusing the camera, and figuring out how to put it into self timer mode.

Avery Park-7471
A little nervous laying down on brick with me so far away

I was working on putting Koira in a down stay while I set up the camera. This gave me something to focus the camera on as well as eliminating my need to get both myself and my dog into position quickly. Luckily, practicing Rally-O moves such as down and walk around really helped Koira understand that she was supposed to stay in position even as I was moving around.

Here was our first try with me in the picture.

Always At My Feet
"Hi, Mom!"

At the time, I didn't like that she was looking up at me. Looking at the picture now, though, I adore it. In any case, I decided the next time to try tossing a treat towards the camera to see if I could get Koira to look in that direction.

Avery Park-7494
Down stay? What down stay?

And apparently we need to proof our down stays a little more around food... Regardless, while she did stand up, she stayed with me rather than running off after the treat. I even ended up liking the final picture well enough, even if it wasn't my goal.

One last time, I put Koira in a down stay. (I released her from her stay between every one of these shots, by the way, and showered her with cookies for being awesome.) I set up the camera, dashed towards Koira and stepped into position over her. Then I reminded her to stay, tossed a few cookies toward the camera, got them a bit off center because I can't throw, and just let the camera snap the picture.

Avery Park-7497
There is a cookie over there, and I would like to go grab it

The sun even peaked out for this last picture, after it had been hazy and overcast all day. I'm not actually sure if it was high up cloud cover, or if it was smoke drifting up from the fires to the south. Either way, the haze actually made for awesome lighting for photos, which I was loving.

Want to try this yourself? Some how-to instructions and tips are below!

I think it is a great pose for someone who doesn't really want to be in the picture, but wants a photo of themselves with their dog. Or even just a different kind of photo with your dog, even if you aren't camera shy. If you are doing it alone, like I was, make sure your camera has a self timer setting. Mine gives me the option of a multiple exposure self timer where it snaps 6 consecutive pictures rather than a single photo, which I chose to give me a better chance of capturing the right facial expressions. 

If your dog has a solid down-stay, it will be much easier to do this. Put your dog in a down stay where you want the final photo to be taken. I went to a small rose garden in a local park (the same one with the train engine) and chose a place where we would have rose bushes to the sides and behind us, without any distracting people or cars in the background. Ideally, it will be a place your dog is comfortable laying down in- not on gravel, hot pavement, or cold rocks. Koira is used to laying down on brick or cement, but you might chose a grassy place if your dog is reluctant to lay down or stay.

With the dog in a down-stay, set up the camera and focus. I ended up using a small piece of bark to prop the front of the camera up a little bit to get a better framing. A small tripod like a GorillaPod would work well too, probably. Once the camera is in self timer mode, and focused, hit the shutter button, get up, dash over to your dog, and take your position either standing over your dog (like I am in the above photos) or to the side of your dog. Either way would look nice, I think, and it can take a good amount of training for most dogs to be okay with being stood over like this if you haven't previously worked that skill.

I recommend trying this a few times, releasing and rewarding the dog in between each session. You will get various positions and expressions, or even get something like the sun finally peaking out like I did in my last set. 

*Dog posing tip- if possible, get a photo of your dog looking up at you as well as one with your dog looking toward the camera. I ended up loving both of those photos, and they give it a very different feel.

*Human posing tip- don't lock your knees backward! Stand with your knees slightly bent to prevent your legs from looking strange or your pants from bunching weirdly. Stand solidly on both feet so you look balanced.

After taking these photos, I did edit them using Lightroom. Various edits can do a lot to change the quality and feel of a final photo, so make sure you spend time editing as well as photographing if you are wanting the best possible end result. 

Good luck! If you try this, I would LOVE to see your results!

*Would anyone be interested in a technical post about editing photos? I could do one with some of my favorite before and afters, as well as share some of my favorite Lightroom presets to use for dog photos.


  1. Love all the photos! I'm in the same boat living alone and always being behind the camera. But my dogs aren't as well trained. I doubt Beryl would lie down anywhere outside unless it was on her side and on a duvet!! Great tips and I'd love a post processing post. I use Lightroom as well and think it's an amazing programme.

  2. I love all three and thanks for the instructions we might give it a go.

  3. great background and foreground! excellent shots.
    wags, bailey unleashed

  4. I have to force myself to be in a photo! I should try this...if I can figure out the darn self-timer ;-)

  5. I love how those turned out! Definitely going to have to give it a try! Would really enjoy a post on editing. I am awfula t it and can use all the information I can get my hands on!

  6. Thanks so much for joining TNT! I think the photos came out great. You also gave some excellent tips on how to do it. I am not sure brown dawgs wouldn't go for the

  7. Love these! I find that we are never in the photos either, so I might give these a try. And yes to the post-editing post!

  8. Incredible photos, I love the one looking up as well! :-) Thank you for the advice, we don't take many photos together...but I love the idea of a legs and pup shot! We'll definitely be following some of your tips! (Too bad, I don't have the "greatest" down stay...muahaha)!

  9. I love these photos,and they inspired me to try a selfie with a very big Staffie I look after..I thought I'd try to get one of us lying together looking at the went very wrong and I felt like I had been stampeded by a Bull hehehe....I'll keep practicing!