Photography Guidelines

Tips and Techniques for Good Photos

Landscape, not portrait

Photo format must be landscape (i.e., the photo is wider than it is tall), not portrait (i.e., taller than it is wide). See photos below for clarification.

Basset Hound in living room.
Wrong orientation: tall rather than wide.
Basset Hound lying on carpet.
Correct orientation: wide rather than tall.

Focus focus focus

Many photos are blurry because the camera moves. Hold the camera steady by using both hands and resting your elbows on your chest. You can even press the camera against your forehead for additional support. You may also use a wall for support. Relax. Don't tense up.

Bright, natural light is best

A photograph is all about light so always think of how the light is striking your subject. Move around so that the sun is behind you and to one side. This front lighting brings out color and the side lighting produces shadow to show texture and form. Flash photography often produces "red eye." If you submit a photograph of your dog with "red eye" we may not use the picture. Graininess is caused by insufficient light, so be sure you have enough. Unless graininess is part of your artistic vision it, too, may cause the photo to be unusable.

High contrast in photos does not reproduce well

The lack of detail in the highlight and shadow areas in the photo below is caused by too much light. If you take photos in bright sunlight you might try moving to the shade and using your flash to fill in shadow. Many cameras have a setting for this. Otherwise, try mornings, late afternoons and overcast days for best light conditions.

Two basset hounds. One in a wagon.
Too high contrast; Not great composition.
Big droopy faced basset hound in a wagon.
Interesting composition; Good contrast.

Submit your best photographs

Remember the photograph must be enlarged to calendar size (approximately 10"X8"). Horizontal format is required for the calendar design. If using a digital camera set it to the highest resolution and to the highest quality compression.


A good photograph consists of only two elements: a foreground and a background. The subject is the central point of interest and is usually placed in the foreground. The second element, background, provides a context. The context makes the subject interesting. Anything that isn't a part of the subject or its context is clutter. The less clutter, the better the photograph.

Keep the background simple

A simple background keeps the focus on your dog. Keep backgrounds light, NOT dark. Make it colorful. Yellows and reds are warm colors and tend to stand out, while blues are cooler and better suit a background.

Get closer

The best shots are simple so move closer to remove clutter from the picture. Fill the viewfinder with your subject to create more impact. You can crop your images later, but for better image quality, crop in the viewfinder.

Two basset hounds lying in a grass.
Dogs too far away; Not centered or well focused.
Two basset hound lying on a porch in the sun.
Subjects closer up; Interesting light/dark contrast.

Follow simple composition rules

Your subject should take up a third or more of your photograph. Remember to include the top of the head, the tail and the paws unless you are deliberately eliminating them for a close-up or other reason. Do not always place the subject in the center. Use the rule of thirds to move the focal point of your picture. Divide the picture into thirds like a tic-tac-toe grid and shift the focal point toward one of these grid points.

Be creative

You may take the greatest shots but if we receive too many of the same type or style, our calendar will be dull. We need variety to produce a great calendar. In addition to the obvious seasonal themes consider using action, humor, good weather and bad weather, unusual locations, famous locations, candid as well as posed. Animals love to move, so take pictures of them on the go. Plan the shot for the action to happen in one spot and focus on that spot.

Keep the horizontal line straight and position it

Pictures look better if all the vertical and horizontal lines are straight and perpendicular. Avoid strong visual lines that bisect your subject. On the other hand, deliberate planned distortion can be effective.

Use your position to get the best shot

Shoot at eye level, as eye-to-eye contact is every bit as engaging with a pet as with a person. So get down on your pet's level to create warm and intimate pictures. You can also bring your pet up by putting him at the top of steps, a picnic table, a hill or a wall while you stand lower. You can get good results by having your dogs stick their heads through the vertical rails of your deck while photographing them from a little below eye level.

Basset hound walking whilst wearing a santa hat.
Taken from above; Not well focused.
Basset hound at the beach wearing sunglasses.
Taken at eye level; Subject centered; Interesting background.

Take lots of pictures

It will increase your chance of capturing just the right moment. Even professional photographers take lots of pictures and think nothing of shooting a whole roll of film just to get that one great shot.


Contact us before you submit your photo.