Hibiscus "Tom"

Pet Photography 52 Weeks Project – Week 10 – Depth of Field in Dog Photography

Welcome to Week 10 of the Pet Photography 52 Weeks Project.  This week’s theme is “Depth of Field”.

Highlighting what matters most

As a pet photographer, depth of field is a key factor in the look and feel of my images. When learning photography and how to shoot manually, one of the key things I will aways remember with regards to the aperture of a lens is “the bigger the number, the smaller the hole”.  This helped the understanding click for me as I’d always had difficulty learning the technical aspects of photography until I found the right teacher.  As they say, “when the student is ready, the teacher will appear”. For me that teacher came about by enrolling in a photography workshop back in 2011. You can read more about it here in Week 3 – About The Photographer.

Pet photographers tend to shoot with a low-numbered aperture, typically between 2.8 and 4.  So these are small numbers and hence the lens is wide open at 2.8 on most of my lenses, except for my Sigma 35mm Art Lens which is 1.4 wide open, as is my nifty fifty. One of the reasons for shooting with such a low aperture is due to the fact that we want to isolate the pet from the background to create that gorgeous portrait effect with the dreamy, creamy background like some of my dog portraits below of Yoki the Chocolate Labrador and Pepper the Schnauzer. By isolating the pet form the background, ie. positioning the pet with space between them and the background, the end result is that the pet is sharp and the background is like an oil painting of different colours and textures. This makes the pet “pop” and is very pleasing to the eye. This is what we call a shallow depth of field as we’ve narrowed the depth of the focus in the photo to just the dog.

Another key reason I shoot at a low/wide aperture is to make the most of available light at the time of shooting and the need for a fairly high shutter speed. As the saying goes… “never work with animals or children”. I totally disagree, well, with the animals part of that statement, but I do understand why it is said, as it is certainly challenging to photograph these two. Animals will rarely stay still for a photograph so capturing them at the perfect moment with a great expression, is indeed a skill we take years to perfect with practice and education. Having a high shutter speed of at least 500th of a second is a big factor in capturing a sharp image and capturing the action of a pet, so if the light is lower, the aperture needs to be opened to let that limited light in whilst maintaining the faster shutter speed. Increasing the ISO (light sensitivity) is another option but I try to keep my ISO as low as possible as the higher the ISO, the more noise in the image, and when I print artwork for my clients, I want the highest possible print quality.

Yet another reason for shooting with a low/wide aperture is to blur out undesirable backgrounds in shelter images so that all attention is on the beauty of the animal rather than the environment in which they are living.  By blurring out the background, the eye naturally goes straight to the animal I’m photographing and hopefully attracts the perfect person to adopt them. I’ve included some kitten photos at the shelter below where I’ve shot on 1.8 to blur the shelter environment out.

Oh and that cover image… it’s a beautiful Hibiscus my parents gave to me years ago which still flowers profusely often throughout the year and makes me feel they are around when it is in flower. I used my macro lens to capture this very shallow depth of field highlighting just the upper stamens.  Not a dog granted, but I thought it was a pretty shot to intro this week’s theme 🙂

Kitten at the shelter
Kitten at the shelter

Thank you for reading, I hope you’ve enjoyed this week’s topic.  Please head on over to check out Pet Love Photography, serving Greater Cincinnati, the San Francisco Bay Area, and destinations nationwide. for Susannah’s take on this topic, and continue clicking the link at the bottom of each post until you end up right back here.

Teeny Tiny Dogs and their Stories is here!  It’s going to be a busy 6 months with this and the big move up north. I’ve photographed 7 dogs so far for the book, two of them with this week’s official start, and the other 5 I photographed within the last few weeks due to health issues with one of the dogs in each family, so they were prioritised to be photographed quickly due to their fragile state.

If you would like to book a photography session for your dog please get in touch as I’d love to meet you and will make time in my schedule for you.  If you want to join the pack and be kept up to date with the latest news, please sign up here.

Artboard 1 copy


  1. Angela Schneider on 8 March, 2019 at 11:55 pm

    Great images!

  2. Linda Perdue on 9 March, 2019 at 12:45 am

    Beautiful photographs – I love the one of the kitty with it’s paws wrapped around – I think it would be a little more powerful with a closer crop – but still beautiful! The soft background is very nice on all your photos.

  3. Colleen on 10 March, 2019 at 12:50 am

    A shallow depth of field is a shelter photographers best friend. The Hibiscus photo is amazing.

  4. Tracy Allard on 12 March, 2019 at 11:34 pm

    Great capture of the expression on that Schnauzer; priceless! Gorgeous lighting and DOF on all your images. You really make the cats; personalities shine.

Leave a Comment