How to choose the best background for dog photos?

Let’s talk about background.

We all know that dogs cannot pose. But we can add energy and emotion to their photos by choosing the right kind of background. In this article I show you how you can pay more attention to the background and create beautiful photos of your dog.

Planning makes perfect. Just as you don’t want to compromise light you don’t want to compromise background either. Good background can highlight your subject beautifully. Take time to find the perfect spot!

Number one – Make sure your background is clean. Try to photograph in a place where there aren’t too many young trees messing with your frame. The same applies to lamp posts, traffic signs, people, buildings, fences… You name it! Make it clean. Use symmetry to your advantage, use leading lines, use your vision. I know it’s there.

What was I thinking? Well, sometimes the dog knows the moves better than you.

Nice frame! Unfortunately nice ain’t enough, folks. I can see this as a gorgeous image without all those sticks on the back.

If there were a contest for photographers who merge dogs with backgrounds I’d probably win the first prize.

Here we go, this one’s better. Be careful with the colors!

Number two – Space is your strongest ally. If you are like me, you like that blur. Shallow depth of field really highlights the dog. To gain very nice bokeh – the blurred background – you need a lot of space (or a lens suitable for portraiture but that’s another story). Remember that the distance between you and your subject and your subject and the background effects the blur. To make it trickier, your aperture and focal length effects this too.

This image was captured using very shallow depth of field (Nikkor 85/1.4G @ 1.4).

Sometimes you cannot use very big apertures because you need to get more than one pair of eyes focused. Choose a location where the background is very far from your subject or photograph on a field or on a hill where the background stays the same.

Number three – A field or a hill or a pile of wood. Let one element rule your frame! Your subject stands out beautifully when you use very studio like locations. Try using white walls, green walls, snow, rock or a lake/sea on a cloudy day as your background. Experiment with the distance and color.

Remember, safety comes always first.

Try different color combinations. When you have good light black on black looks amazing!

As does white on white. Keep your horizons straight, people!

Number four – Be careful with the light. If safety comes first, then light comes second. Even on the background! Make sure you zoom your background with your special Photographer’s Eyes. Your background shouldn’t be brighter than your subject. This is a great rule of thumb: photograph in the shadow, to the shadows. With good lighting you can guide the viewer’s eye.

Look, how cute sunshine! Oh wait, there are dogs in the frame, too.

Number five – Don’t forget the foreground, it can make the difference. Foreground is something we photographers use all the time. Sometimes we leave a lot of space on the foreground. Sometimes we photograph through a bush. Kneel down to the dog’s level to see if there is something interesting that would look good in the frame.

The tension between the cones on the foreground and the sweetest puppy is tangible.

Can you find an interesting foreground for your frame?

Here’s a recap.

Look for a clean background and use space as your ally. Experiment with different things like light and color. Let one element rule in your photos. When you’ve find a great place to photograph, try to add something interesting to the foreground.

I have created a Newsletter for you who wants to learn more about dog photography. I’ll include tips and tricks along with some downloadables. I send the newsletter out once a month (or once every two months) and it’s fully in English.



I want to learn more about dog photography.