The Leaping Dog



The Leaping Dog

His name is Tucker and he loves to leap for rocks in the river. He is amazing at it. His buddy, the guy throwing the rocks with such mirth, had a moment of sadness. He had never gotten a photograph of Tucker’s magnificent leaps. He had tried, with thousands of images but not one was good enough to post.

Welcome to the tricky niche of Canine portraits. They have so much life, character and well, unpredictability. Squirrel! (Anyone remember UP?) Get it right though and it is amazing.

Here are some techniques you can try to get their best side.

Get that sparkle in their eyes; it’s the home of all their expression.

Like all action shots, play with the speed, freeze them, blur them, partial blur. Show their energy.

Get down low, get up high; most people just stand and shoot. Drop down to the pooches’ level, just above the grass tips. Or get them looking up, all big goofy grins and big eyes.


Be ready to bribe them, use treats that are small but full of aroma. Once they see it in your fingers you will have their attention.

Distractions; balls, squeaky toys, not just one but several. Dogs can get bored quickly. Be careful though, some dogs can get obsessed. Once that happens your options are limited. But strange sounds, sharp noises get their ears up with their eyes intent.

Time of day, like with most environmental portraits, is important. The early morning or late in the afternoon light is the most delightful.


Dogs are pretty habitual, watch how they move, turn; you will be able anticipate their peak moments. Quinn, pictured here, loved the snow. That spin was nearly his trademark.

Have a helper. If someone else is throwing the ball, you can get ahead of them for the best position. Watch for the leaps. The shot of Scout, a border collie, shows that although old, he still goes for his ball with wild abandon.

Don’t forget to photograph them with their owners, go for those moments of interaction, of connection. They are so spontaneous and precious.

Use your lenses effectively. Long lenses get you in close, blurs the background to get them to stand out. In close with a wider angle lens creates playful distortions.


Don’t just go for the full dog, get it tight, look for distinguishing marks.

You will likely burn through your memory cards with the nearly got shots. Edit like mad.

Most of all have fun, enjoy the time with them; dogs love to live in the moment. Live in it with them.

Get a great shot of a dog like Tucker rocketing out of the water will have you being a hero for his buddy every time.

3-Quinn in snow

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