Doggy Photo Tips

I LOVE having my photo taken. For some reason whenever my mama points her camera at me, I know to open my mouth to give her my best smile. My brother Hops, on the other hand, thinks smiling on command is just silly. He likes to squirm around and show his serious face most of the time, which is why we were so excited when we saw this picture:

Look at that smile! Look at that sit! Who could have taken such a pawesome picture? 

It would be the one and only Tara Lynn, pet photographer extraordinaire and owner of InBetween the Blinks Photography. We sat down with her to get some inside tips and tricks on how to get the very best photos of your furry pals.

Barley: Hello, Ms. Tara! Tell us about InBetween the Blinks and how it all started.

Tara: It’s sort of a long story, but I’ll boil it down as bet as I can! I started InBetween the Blinks Photography because of my dog Baxter. My husband and I drove nearly three hours to adopt him after seeing his photo on I wanted to give other animals that same chance and started volunteering as a novice photographer at a shelter in Charleston, South Carolina in 2008. I wanted to take better photographs, purchased my first DSRL camera and everything grew from there! I now volunteer with the SPCA of Wake County and photograph local dogs with their families! I strive to capture the moments we often miss in the blink of an eye and the magic inbetween.

Barley: We love all the photos we see from the SPCA of Wake County that you've done. Those are some adorable pups. Do you have adorable dogs of your own? What are their names?

Tara: Baxter just turned seven years old! He is a beagle/lab mix. Lily is three years old and most likely a boxer/bulldog mix. I found her as a puppy sleeping on a bench in downtown Raleigh in 2012.

Barley: Talk about rescuing! Now, let's get into why we're here. As I mentioned before, my brother Hops can be very squirmy and doesn't always want to show his cute face when taking pictures. How do you get dogs to look at the camera?

Tara: Treats and squeakers are my best friend! Every now and then though I do get a dog that has no interest in the camera. I make funny noises and also have mom or dad stand behind me and say a trigger word if it doesn’t get the dog too excited (like “walk” or “car ride”). For some dogs I even toss a stick over my head. If all else fails, I just let them roam around and put a little more distance between the dog and myself and take advantage of my zoom lens! It’s great to get a few great shots of each pup looking at the camera, but I do love the variety of different angles of the dogs so all of the shots don’t look the same.

Barley: What about lighting?

Tara: It is best to avoid direct sunlight. It produces harsh shadows and you’re often squinting your eyes. The best lighting is “open shade.” Think about your house at 4p.m. Most likely there is going to be one side of your house that will have shade next to it. This is a great place to take photos in terms of lighting because the shade is providing soft even lighting for your subjects. The hour before sunset is known as the “golden hour.” The light is nice and warm and is almost always beautiful. This is when I always schedule my sessions!

Barley: Both my brother and I are black dogs and sometimes it's hard to see our faces in photos. Do you have any tips for taking photos of black dogs so that you can see their features?

Tara: The best tip for photographing black or dark colored dogs is to choose your background or location wisely. If you are using a cell phone or don’t have an editing program, try to find a medium in color/light background. The easiest example is to say what not to do. You would want to avoid photographing a black dog against a white or light colored wall/sidewalk. The camera will have a hard time with the stark contrast and the background will be overblown. If you photograph a black dog in the grass, the contrast won’t be as dramatic and the camera will have an easier time deciding the proper exposure settings. Many iphones now allow you to tap part of the image you are going to photograph and a “sun” will appear. This allows you to tell the camera what part of the image you want it to expose properly. In this case, tap on your dog so it can expose for the dark coat color. You may have to tap a few different places to get the right exposure.

Barley: What if you have kids that are both human and furry – how do you get them all in one great shot?

Tara: Hehe. This is always a challenge!! If your dogs can and will sit and stay, this will be your best bet. Trying having the kids sit down in the grass or on a chair with the dog(s) near by. With a treat or some sort of motivation for your pup, have him/her sit or laydown. Take two quick steps back and snap snap snap! If your dog is better behaved than the kids, have the dog sit and stay and then bring in the kiddos! Think of ways to “contain” them! Perhaps the kids and dogs can all fit on the couch or the bed. Have them cuddle up and try for the “perfect” shot with everybody looking. But make sure to appreciate the “real life” photos and real moments you capture as well!

Barley: Finally, what are your top three tips for pet parents who want to take great photos of their fur-kids?


  1. Watch your background and location: Remove any distracting things from the background to keep your focus on your subjects. The more distance you can put between you and your background, the more blurred the background will appear making the subject of your focus the star. Sometimes all it takes is a few steps to the left or right to cover up anything that might be distracting in the background.
  2. Fill up the Frame! So often there is a lot of negative space in our photos. We’re taking a photo with friends at a family picnic or dad holding his new baby and then have to crop the photo later because we were too far away. As my mentor told me, “when you think you’re close enough, take a few more steps forward.”
  3. My other big tip is mentioned above when talking about photographing black dogs and looking for even lighting!

Thanks to Tara for these great tips! For more information on Tara and her photography business, visit

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