What’s the Secret to a Great Picture of your English Springer Spaniel?

I’ll admit it. The majority of the pictures on my cell phone and camera are of my dogs. I even find that I can take virtually the same picture over and over because Linus looks so darn cute curled up sleeping and I don’t remember that I already have about 10 other pictures of him curled up and sleeping. Heck, even my Facebook profile picture is of my dog. Does this sound familiar??

We all like to show off pictures of our loved ones, and of course our Springers are no exception! Our dogs are in many ways like our children; for some of us they are the only children that we have. Whether the dog is a permanent or just a temporary member of our family, of course we know how good-looking s/he is, and we want others to see that beauty, too, just as if the dog were a child. We want to show off how proud we are as parents and/or foster parents.

So… what’s the secret to a great picture of your dog?

Here’s the “Top 10” List of Dog Picture Tips courtesy of one of our ESRA Coordinators who took the pictures of my Linus on this blog.

  1. You don’t need an expensive camera but equipment is important.

    Make sure you have your camera batteries charged fully, turn off all date stamp features, and set your camera on the highest resolution possible. Photographs that exceed 3000 x 2000 pixels in size are superb for clarity and alteration. The absolute minimum should be 1600 x 1200. Date stamps detract from the photo for a variety of reasons, too. Phones take an ok pictures but could not be enlarged or printed with much success. Nothing replaces a real camera. Even a simple pocket point-and-shoot digital camera will often deliver photos superior to those of a smartphone.

  2. Location Location Location.

    Springers look beautiful in the great outdoors. Pick a beautiful background. Springers look wonderful just sitting in front of a beautiful pot of pansies or lots of fallen leaves behind them. Even just beautiful green grass is wonderful! The prettiest backgrounds are often those that are soft and lush.

Linus 63.  It’s time to get down on your dog’s level.

Sit down on the ground while you’re taking photos to get the best angle of your dog.

4.  The squeaky toy gets the dog’s attention… and great Springer expressions.

Make noises or have a toy that squeaks that will get the dog’s attention. My favorites are when their head is cocked, or ears perked up when they’ll hear an interesting sound and are curious. In a pinch you could even have something to toss in the air.

Linus 4

5.  Lighting is always much better outdoors and solves the “red eye” problem.

Late afternoon light is best, as it’s very soft. Noon lighting is way too strong and can wash out the dog. Sunny days are always the best vs. cloudy gray days for better lighting. Always make sure the sun is BEHIND you and avoid taking pics in the shade. Shade is nice, especially on a hot day, but not ideal for picture taking

6.  A good time for a retractable leash.

Use a retractable leash (preferably black so it doesn’t show up in the pics). Tie them to a tree or some other fixed object, unless of course you want to get some good “action” shots, then no leash is necessary!

7. Vertical shots maximize the dog to background ratio.

Who knew there was such a ratio?? If you try to take vertical pictures rather than horizontal, however, you will get much more of your dog in your picture and less background aka “dog space”. That is terribly important.

Linus 5  Always accentuate the positive!

Try to focus on your dog’s best feature(s). For example, let’s say you have a dog that is quite a fan of extra snacks and may carry a bit of extra weight, then a full body shot from the side is probably not his best angle. Instead, have them sitting or lying down

9.  Patience is a virtue.

You have to be patient. This is not a 2-minute project. Really spend some time out there with them. To get 2 really good shots, often times you will need to take about 50 pictures. This is the beauty of a digital camera – just delete the bad shots!

10.  Practice, practice, practice, and before you know it, you’ll be shooting just like the pros!

Look at your finished photos, as well as dog photos taken by others, with a critical eye. What looks good, and what could be improved the next time you shoot? What draws your attention, and what distracts from the main subject matter? As you analyze the photos you’ve taken, you will automatically get better at composing the next images you shoot. The very best way to get better at photographing dogs (or children, or sports events, or scenery, or anything else) is to persevere.

Linus 1

What is the best option for care for your Springer Spaniel when you have to travel

I wasn’t sure this was going to be my next topic for the blog but as it happens, I am in the process of interviewing pet sitters for my Springer so it is on my mind.

I was very fortunate for most of my life to live in the town where I was raised with my family so pet care was never too difficult.  I have lots of siblings and as you have may or may not have noticed, my mom has always been a huge fan of my Springers.  If I had to travel for work I had lots of options for pet care while I was gone.  Then I moved to Texas where I knew just about no one and had a job that required I travel about once a month.  I had to figure something out.  My Springers had never been boarded and I was nervous about that because they were about 6 or 7 at the time.  My female developed Cushings disease within a year of moving there and I knew that boarding was not a great option because of the medication that she needed to take on a very strict schedule.

I had a friend form work that helped me initially but it was a long drive for her and really only a temporary solution.

So I decided that I was going to hire a pet sitter to stay in my home.  I was a bit nervous about that but found that there are two different organizations that will allow you to select specific requirements including CPR certification, insurance, overnight visits, etc.

I liked the idea of having someone in my home that was bonded and insured in case something did happen.  Thankfully we only had one incident where this became necessary.  My male Springer was quite clever and typically used his resourcefulness for his own gain and he managed to obtain and eat a whole bottle of his yummy beef flavored arthritis medication.  Naturally there was a vet visit, etc which was covered by my pet sitter’s insurance since he was under her care.  Please don’t think this was her negligence.  She was wonderful and Wembley was amazingly gifted in this area.

I still use pet sitters when I travel but I have also taken my current Springer to a kennel.  I prefer a kennel that has someone on site 24 hours in case there is a problem.  Linus is very adaptable and doesn’t require anything special in terms of medication, etc.

I do believe however that he is most comfortable at home so this week I will be talking to some veterinary students from the University of Illinois about staying with him while I travel for work and vacation.

I quite often take Linus with me but when it’s work travel, that’s not possible.

I like a pet sitter who has experience and canine knowledge.  I like to have someone who will walk him when I’m not home.  They definitely need to be responsible.  Above all, I look for the interaction they have with my dog.  Linus is a lap dog 150% and if they are uncomfortable when him climbing on their lap while we talk, then it’s probably not ideal.  It may not have mattered with my other Springers but I think it’s the best when they both really adore each other.

So, what does everyone do when they travel?  How do you choose a kennel or a pet sitter?  How do you feel if the pet sitter is more of a “cat person”?  Ok. I’m really kidding on that last comment but I would love to have some comments and suggestions to help me with my current search.  Please leave some comments and hopefully you voted above.