Dog Posing Made Easy

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by Margaret Bryant, Texas School Instructor

When it comes to posing people, there are some “rules” that photographers usually follow. Examples of the rules are: don’t crop into a joint, do not pose people’s heads in a row, put people on different levels, and so on. But when it comes to posing dogs, they are usually just thrown into the shot without any thought about posing. If the dog will sit, then the pose is sitting, and if there are two dogs, the two dogs are usually sitting and facing the camera with their crotches exposed… Boring.

There are lots of variations to posing dogs that photographers are missing and posing two or more dogs gets even more interesting. So let’s start with the basics. We are going to assume that most dogs will do these poses.

First there is SIT. A dog sitting facing the camera is a crotch shot. Rotate the dog’s body slightly (or you move) so the dog’s front leg covers his/her private parts. This accomplishes two things: keeping the genitalia from becoming the focal point of the image and seeing more of the dog’s shape because his/her body is rotated ever so slightly. I find it a much more pleasing image when I can see the shape of the dog’s body. Rotating the dog a little more into a ¾ position in relation to the camera is almost ideal. In fact, it is one of my favorite poses. You can vary this by doing a sitting profile to the left and a sitting profile to the right. The last variation is sitting with the dog’s back facing the camera. You may say, “Why would I photograph a dog from the back?” If the dog is a Rhodesian Ridgeback or another breed that has an interesting tail or back, the owner is going to want to see that.

The number two basic pose is STAND. Again, a ¾ position works great to show the dog’s shape. But there is also straight on, left/right profile, and from the back (tails again).

Number three is DOWN. There are two ways for a dog to lie on the floor: DOWN and SETTLE. DOWN is when the dog is lying down and with its feet underneath. It is a formal pose. In a SETTLE pose, the back legs are off to the side. It is a more relaxed position. Most dogs have a preference to which hip they lie on. When a dog is lying, you will want the dog’s body rotated so you can easily see all four legs, especially the back legs. Like the other poses, you can do the pose straight on, ¾, or profile to the left or right. When the dog is on the floor, I usually don’t photograph the dog from the back, because there is usually little to be seen.

To recap, with the basics and variations we have:
SIT- front, ¾, left profile, right profile, back
STAND- front, ¾, left profile, right profile, back
DOWN- front, ¾, left profile, right profile,
SETTLE, ¾, left profile, right profile

So, with just the three basic positions, we have 21 variations to pose a dog. Who said they don’t have any ideas how to pose a dog?

Now, let’s say you have two dogs. There are six basic combinations to pose two dogs. The six basic combinations are:
Sit/sit, Stand/stand, Down/down, Sit/stand, Sit/down, and Stand/down.

Of course, the combinations are increased by switching which dog is doing which pose. For example, sit/stand becomes stand/sit. I prefer the two dogs doing different things, but you can have them doing the same thing. With 6 basic combinations for two dogs, and all the possible variations on each basic pose, we have a lot of ways to pose two dogs together. And we haven’t even introduced props like a chair into the combinations!

The next time you run out of ideas how to pose a dog (with or without people), remember that there are many, MANY possibilities, only limited by your imagination and the ability of the dog!

Margaret Bryant is an award-winning photographer who specializes in photographing dogs and their people. Her style is simple, original and authentic and often shows the humor and whimsy of dogs. Starting her business in 1998, Margaret has specialized in dogs and their humans from the very start. Margaret gives back to animal community by raising cash for rescues groups and local spay neuter clinics with her Bow WOW Sessions. She will be teaching a class on “Dog and Pet Photography: Sit, Stay, Learn,” at Texas School 2020. Learn more about Margaret at www.bryantdogphotography.com or her class at www.TexasSchool.org.