As a keen photographer and dog lover, it's only natural that I should have combined the two passions. Over the years I've taken many MANY photos of dogs and have had some really lovely comments from people. Looking at the Internet, I often see photos that others have taken of their dogs and I think "Oh, if only they had done x ... that would have been a great photo!".
So here, dog lovers, are my top tips for getting the basics right:
1 Don't worry about the camera
You really don't need to spend hundreds, or thousands of pounds, on buying equipment. Any camera can give you good results, but more gear does allow you to get more creative.
For example, you might struggle to get good action shots with a phone or a compact camera, but static portraits should be fine.
2 Light fantastic!
Wherever possible, use lots and lots of natural light. Flash can not only make your dog's eyes look like headlights, but it can also frighten timid animals. It will also give unflattering reflections off shiny fur. If you can't go outside, use a room well lit by a large window.
3 The eyes have it
Keep those eyes in focus. As humans, we are programmed to always seek the eyes in a face, and eyes are full of expression. It's the part of the photo that draws you in and the first thing people notice if they're not completely sharp. To really bring a photo to life, try and get a 'catch light' in the eyes - a small reflection.
4 Timing is everything
What kind of photo do you want? If you're using a mobile phone to take a static portrait, pick a time when your dog is sleepy - it's just woken up or you've come back from a long walk. If you're going for something more dynamic, choose a time when your dog is bouncing around, full of energy. Also remember to keep the session short so your dog doesn't get bored and frustrated.
5 Get on down
Move down to your dog's level and get them from a dog's eye view. Shoot from their eye level or just below. This doesn't have to mean getting on the floor - your dog could be up on a bench or windowsill, if they're allowed!
6 Helping hands
If you can find an assistant, this can make life an awful lot easier. They can be used to distract your dog from the camera, get them to look at the camera using food or toys, or even calmly stroke your dog to keep it in position while you set up for a formal portrait.
You know your dog better than anyone else and capturing a moment that shows this character will make the photo even more meaningful. Show a lazy dog yawning or an energetic one playing a game.
8 Check the background
Close up portrait shots of dogs are wonderful - you can really get a feel for their character. But if you're going for a wider photo, remember to look carefully at what's in the background. Is there someone wearing a bright red jacket? Wait until they've moved. Does your dog appear to have a tree growing out of their head? Try shooting from a different angle.
Take the time so that you and your dog enjoy the session. Take lots of different approaches, angles and compositions. Worry about the results later, once your dog has got bored with posing.
10 Break the rules!
Almost all rules can be ignored ... as long as you know why you're ignoring them!