Action & Candids

Candids & Action Photos

For the most part, candid photos and action photos still require us to be low to the ground so that we can get that soft for foreground in.

However if you are doing photos of say disc dogs or agility dogs or dogs who are kind of in the air you may then need to lift your camera higher in order to track them so you just follow them up as high as they go. 

So it really depends on the effect you’re going for. By seeing no ground and pointing the camera higher, they will have the sense of being higher… but sometimes having the ground gives us context as to their height!

The photos below are variations of “leaping” photos. For some, the drama comes from perceived height: they are so high we can’t even see the ground.

For a few others, the drama comes from seeing the ground and having that extra layer with the blurry foreground. We get more of a sense of their place in that space and how they’re moving through it. 


Otherwise in general we still need to be trying to keep a sense of the space and of the size of the dog and we can do that by being nice and low.

However we also need to be conscious of not cutting our dogs ears off or having them get too close to the top of the frame which can be quite a challenge in candid shots where they are moving around and you’re trying to track them. 

So just try and keep them more less in the centre of the frame. You may just need to lie on your belly so that you’re forced to stay down low.

Plenty of examples below of different kinds of movement or candid photos.

Head and Shoulders

Head and shoulder portraits obviously don’t require you to be quite as low, but still aim to be no higher than the dog’s eye level – and this is possibly even lower than you would think! 

It’s still worth getting some foreground or surrounding foliage for context and to really place the dog in the scene. Finding a place where you can frame the photo with some leaves, flowers or other bushes can help create the depth we are aiming for in more “artistic” portraits.

Notice how all of these photos feel like you’re looking directly AT, or slightly up at the subject. We have a real sense of being on the dog’s level.

Times to NOT Get Low?

There are a few different “image types” we want to consider when it comes to deciding how low or high to take our photos. In general, we should aim to be quite low – enough that we have a foreground layer of some description, however it may not be enough to apply a blanket rule to all images that one should simply “get down low.”

After all, we can be taking:

  • Portrait photos
  • Candids
  • Action
  • Head/shoulders
  • Puppy-dog-eyes/looking down from above
  • Dog on an object
  • Other creative options

And of course, the exact height and angle of our camera and photo will depend on the height and pose of the dog, the location we’re shooting in, whether there are bushes, leaves, flowers etc in the foreground, or if the space is more open. 

These images needed quite different considerations when it came to the height at which I held the camera. The image to the left needed me to be very low to get any kind of foreground to to the flat, open nature of the snow. The image to the right required me to be higher, and in fact to cut off much of the dog’s legs. To be any lower would have meant half an image full of dark grass, and probably the dog’s face covered by the sparkly tops of the grass. What I’m saying is that by making conscious choices about where we position our camera, our images will make more sense. 

And of course, the type of foreground you have in your image (whether bushy or open) is also a stylistic choice.


Puppy dog eyes/looking down from above

These photos work best with a wider-angle lens, unless you’re really tall – although I have taken them with my 85mm before, but then I’m usually standing on a stump or a hill.

They work best when you aren’t directly overhead of the dog but overhead enough that they’re looking up at you, with a good amount of catchlight in their eyes but not so much that it overwhelms the eye with the reflection of the sky and the trees above, making it turn completely white.

It will just take some experimentation and practise to find the perfect overhead angle for these types of shots.

In these photos, I don’t think it’s necessary to have context or foreground. They work best as the dog alone, though it doesn’t hurt to have some vaguely interesting ground colour/texture to add some visual interest.

Dog on a log/hill/bench/raised surface

A point to be careful of, is having the dog on some kind of raised surface – such as a log, bench, stump, rock and so on. If we get too low in this situation, the dog will have to look down to see us, which blocks the light from the sky from hitting their face (meaning their face is dark) and because of this, they also may not have catchlights in their eyes.

For these shots, you may want to treat them similar to head and shoulders photos – be at eye level to them, or slightly lower. You may not be able to get a foreground layer from the ground because then you’ll just be too low. Having something else in the foreground (leaves, the log itself, the slats of the park bench, bushes) can help add extra depth to your image.

If you are not used to shooting with a low perspective, you may need to be slightly lower than you think! But remember, we probably don’t want our dog looking down! If you want to get them towering over you for artistic effect, have them looking off to the side, or up (like watching a bird) to keep their faces and eyes bright and well lit.

In each of the examples below, I was either NOT on the ground/down extremely low… and/or, if I was, the dog was looking up or up and to the side.