Each photographer has their own creative style. A very popular style, and the one I usually choose, is to have a blurry or “soft” background with the dog in proper focus. This makes the dog stand out really well and attention is placed on the dog rather than the background. In technical terms this is known as shallow or small depth of field.
Shallow depth of field is used primarily to isolate the subject from its environment.
Deep or large depth of field is just the opposite. Almost all parts of the image are in focus and this provides more context to the surroundings in which you are photographing the dog.
There is more than one way to achieve this beautiful soft background.
Camera lens. Certain camera lenses allow for shooting at a shallower depth of field than others. Most of the professional lenses allow you to open the aperture very wide, which provides for these wonderful soft backgrounds. Kit lenses, the ones that come together with your camera when you purchase it, or point and shoot cameras that don't have interchangeable lenses will not allow for as wide an aperture.
If you have a DSLR camera, set your camera mode to AV (Canon) or A (Nikon / Sony) and open your aperture to the lowest F number you can! This may be F4 or lower. Yes the lowest number is the widest opening. Sounds crazy but that’s the way it works. AV or A mode determines whether all the photograph is in focus or only part of it.
So if you are working with a point and shoot camera and would like to achieve a soft background what else can you do? This brings us to number 3.
Place your pet far away from the background. The further your pet is from the background, the more blurry the background will become. At the same time move yourself closer to your pet. This is important! Even with a wide aperture, if the dog is close to the background it will not be as blurry as if he is far from the background. Look at the 2 images below
In the first image the fence is is in focus and very noticeable. In the second image the dog is standing further from the fence and so it is blurred. This is even though I was using the same aperture for both images.
4. If your camera has a portrait mode, use that setting which is designed to achieve a softer background
Now it is time to try your skills at pet photography with a soft background! Let me know in the comments how you do!
If I can do anything to help you with beautiful pet portraits that you will be proud to display in your home, or in an album, please contact me for a free consultation in the Toronto or South Florida areas.
For more information on depth of field visit the blog of: Jo Lyons Photography, the down-to-earth dog loving photographer for cherished dogs of Sydney, Central Coast, Newcastle and the Great Lakes Region of NSW more valuable information on dog photography and depth of field.