Haha, Griff hates getting his picture taken, which is pretty unfortunate for his photographer parents! He tends to run away or pin his ears back when the camera comes out, so treats are usually essential in a good photo. Saying "Walk?" or "Yeah?" (we're not sure why he likes that word) gets his full attention. I'll never get a good 'smile' photo of Griff, but one where his ears are up are always treasured by me :)
The smile ones are elusive. Didi's not scared of the camera but when she sees it she always gets really serious. I think the smiles are for sneaky photos but when you have like, a ridiculous huge black nikon(or flash-monster as the dog probably thinks of it) it's hard to be sneaky!
What makes these good photos: the focus is razor-sharp on the close-up subject, and the background is de-emphasized, out-of-focus (wide aperture, narrow depth-of-field).
My problem is that I'm often photographing my dog against a spectacular background, and I'm tempted to keep them both in focus by shooting telephoto and narrow aperture, wide depth-of-field. I might do better by fuzzing-out the background more. A soft fuzzy background can retain its beauty without distracting from the subject.
GET CLOSE to the subject. Shoot at wide aperture (the "portrait" setting on point-and shoots).
Kodak published a great little book, "How to Take Good Pictures", and the first of its "Top Ten Tips" was: GET CLOSE!
Note also that the lighting here is from the side: it throws shadows on the face, giving 3-dimensionality. This is important. Keep the lighting about 90 degrees to the face for portraits.
Standard procedure is to brandish a treat behind the camera. An assistant is helpful, else you need to shoot one-handed. Balance a piece of bacon on your forehead?
I carry a squeaky from a dead dog toy in my camera bag. You can say "Dinner!" The dog will quickly get wise to these tricks; don't overuse them. Often I just wait, wait, and wait until the dog strikes a pose. You end up with a lot of bored-dog pics.
I set dog-traps on trails: stay the dog, drop back, setup a shot prefocussed on the chosen spot, get ready, say "Come".
Al & Gwynnie have serendipitously learned to recognize "Sit. Stay. Look Pretty." as standard commands.
I've only mastered the "Sit." and "Stay." parts:
For my guys--Porter is the one who enjoys being photographed...Murphy is still learning to put up with the camera nonsense, I will use some words to get them to focus sharply and hopefully not break their sit-stays or stand-stays---the words? Bunny or Birdie--emphasis on the EE sound. I only use them if I really want a good shot with their mouths closed. They will look for 'wildlife' when I use either of those words. It really snaps them to attention--Murphy most times will start to move though so we are working on that.
I think I used one of my words last spring when we found a small patch of snow in Northern Wisconsin that the boys enjoyed, even though it was dirty. Here is a shot from back in May 2008.