Aki Yamaguchi Photography

Capture the Angels

Capturing Happy Faces

I’m not going to write about technical stuff on how to take good photographs because I’m still learning about it every day. But as someone who works with dogs and dog behaviors, I can share a few things to those trying to capture happier pictures of your dogs. I consider the majority of my dog pictures to be “happy” ones. (Even though “happy” is subjective”…) And in some cases I ask them to offer certain behaviors to make the pictures look “sad” “relaxed” or “freaky” to match the theme I’m going for. In order to capture those happy faces, you can 1. capture the happy moment, 2. make them happy 3. teach them behaviors to look happy. When I have my camera, my Border Collie already knows it’s a happy time, because she always get rewarded at the end or during the shoot. (Side note for the marker trainer: the shutter noise became another clicker to her) But to enhance the happy look I ask them things like “Cock your head” “Open mouth” “Move your tail” “Extend your neck” “Raise your ears” etc. Those are not my exact cues, but I say certain words to get those behaviors as I press the shutter.

With a new dog with less behaviors installed, I first get to know the dog and study his behaviors. When does he open his mouth? What makes his ears go up and get his eyes to catch the light? I do not like flattened ears and whale eyes (unless they are focused and intense) because they often mean nervousness. With my current foster I learned that he stops breathing (not out of fear, but out of curiosity) and closes his mouth when my camera shutter makes the mechanical noise. So with him I take two continuous shots when I do indoor shoot. In the first picture his mouth is usually closed, but in the second one he breathes air out and I usually get a beautiful open mouth with a half tongue. The pictures below weren’t taken as a set but you see what the tongue/open mouth can do. FinnSidebySide

Since he is looking for a home, getting an attractive and sweet face is extremely important. With high energy dogs, I give them light exercise before the shoot. That releases the happy chemical in them and it usually helps you getting the open mouth with a tongue. The look we like to call “smile”. Too much exercise will give you that long arrowed tongue, wider mouth, closed eyes and chin up, which are appropriate if you are trying to get the “tired dogs are happy dogs” shot.



And make sure you use some type of reward system, like treats and toys, so that your dog learns to love being photographed.

2 comments on “Capturing Happy Faces

  1. mickcgorman
    November 7, 2013

    But how do you stop your dog acting as though you are stealing his soul? 😀
    My Border Collie tries to hide his face as soon as he sees a camera, it didn’t take him long to learn that phones and tablets are also the enemy!
    I have managed to get some lovely pictures of him though.
    My late Golden Retriever loved to pose for pictures.
    I love your pictures. 🙂

    • bwbc
      November 15, 2013

      Thanks Mick for a nice comment 🙂
      I’ve seen many dogs that do that, including a few of my foster dogs. I had to get them used to being around the camera on a table first, paired up with treats and play. Held it in my chest without pressing shutter…then I was finally able to take pictures after several days. A big camera on a person can be pretty scary!

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This entry was posted on May 24, 2013 by in Recent Posts and tagged , , , , , .
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