How to take better Instagram photos of your dog

If you were to look through the camera roll on my phone, you’ll mostly see a lot of food, drinks, friend and family gatherings, screenshots of things that humor me, and my dog.

Any guess as to which subject is the most elusive target to shoot?

This is Max. He is no doubt the world’s greatest companion, but for the most part he’s a blur in a majority of photos taken of him. So when I get a good shot of him, I’m telling everyone!

The theme of Happy Medium’s upcoming Social Media Day 2014 is “No Filter Needed.” Below, I’ve compiled the best tips to help you take better Instagram photos of your dog, no filter needed.

Rule of Thirds

This is a basic photography composition principle in which your image should be divided by nine equal parts by two equally spaced horizontal and vertical lines, a tic tac toe grid if you will.

The point of the Rule of Thirds is to discourage shooting the subject or focal point in the center of the frame. Everything important in the photo should fall along the tic tac toe grid.

Instagram has a built in grid that you can use while taking photos to practice getting better at framing shots.

This photo of Max and I at Water Works Park is a good example of Rule of Thirds framing. If I had shot this image with him in the dead center, it would have still been a cute photo, sure, but paying attention to your surroundings will help you set up a better shot.

Turn off your flash

Flash is the enemy. Never use your flash again! The only time you should ever use a flash is if you are in a completely dark area and there is absolutely no way you could capture necessary evidence.

If there is some lighting to work with but not great, still, leave your flash off. Using your flash on your dog will give them those green alien eyes, rendering your image not shareable to anyone but your Mom.

It takes a bit of experimenting with your camera angles in relation to your light source but try to position your dog (if your pup is cooperative) so the light faces them. You can later go back and use some editing tools to sharpen and brighten up the image.

This photo was taken with no flash, but I did use some Instagram filters to lighten it up a bit. Instagram filters are essentially template photo settings that you can overlay on your photos. You can achieve more sophisticated edits on your own if you are familiar with custom photo editing tools until you’re happy with it.

Do Not Zoom

Get in there! But never use the zoom function, just get closer. Digital zoom really ruins photos. You can always crop the image later to zoom in, which performs the exact same function. Never zoom and shoot, just stop it now if you do. Once you snap a photo, you can always crop in, but you can’t crop back out.

If your dog is far away sometimes you can’t get closer because he’ll move and the moment will be lost. Instead take the photo where you stand, paying close attention to the environment around him (Rule of Thirds!) and set up the shot.

If I had taken one step closer, Max would have taken off running and the moment would have been gone. Zooming in before taking the photo would have ruined the image clarity. With Instagram I cropped to position the image so that it would look nice within a square aspect.

Don’t Hold Your Breath

Especially in low light situations, a steady hand is critical. It can make the difference between a crisp or blurry shot.

Snipers or sharp shooters are trained to squeeze the trigger while exhaling to ensure accuracy of their shot. When you hold your breath, your body tenses up and shaky hands result. Just breathe. Exhale as you press the shutter button.

Sounds pretty basic, but you are already trying to get a shot of your dog looking cute in unfavorable or unstable camera conditions and your first instinct is to quickly snap the photo before the moment is gone. Relax, breathe and eliminate the shaky hands!

Sneak Attack

Dogs, like humans, act differently when they know they are being photographed. There’s a good chance your dog will look away, move, walk away, try to get you to play with them, etc.

German Shepherds are showboaters with their stance, but if I were to call his name to look at me, there’s a good chance he will come running. Because he assumes when I call his name, I am calling him to come to me. Most of the time, I am.

Even if your dog is chill as can be, don’t give them the opportunity or satisfaction of sabotaging your photo. They know what they are doing.

No Humans

Of course, this isn’t a hard fast rule. I read a blog last year about an adorable dog named Kupo. Kupo, is a public figure in Palo Alto, California and has over a million likes on Facebook. His owner, Julie Zhuo was the first intern at Facebook in 2006, and now she’s director of product design. She’s pretty interesting.

Back to her dog. She wrote that adding toys, other dogs, cats, new settings, etc are great things to increase the likelihood of people liking your dog photo. But not humans.

Right now you’re thinking, her dog blog is all about developing an online persona for her Internet famous dog, so this wouldn’t necessarily apply to photos of me and my dog. Or does it?

I went back through all my Instagram photos, and the photos of just Max got many more likes than any photos of him and me.

First of all, getting someone else to take a well-timed, perfectly framed, non-shaky hands photo of both Max and me looking the way I want it to is a myth. But I have one photo I adore of the two of us.

And still, it didn’t get as many likes as any other photo of just him, even ones where he didn’t look as cute or the camera conditions were just meh.

I may have used Instagram filters on every single one of these photos, but if you follow the tips I outlined above, you will get much better mobile photos of your precious pup that you will be happy with, no filter needed.

Instagram marketing for brands has seen some major growth in recent months, so be sure to bring your burning questions to us.