Suggestions on How to
Photograph a Greyhound
Story and Photos by Robert Stinson
When taking a photo of your wonderful greyhound, most likely you want the best image possible to serve as a lasting memory of your best friend.
The same should be the case when photographing foster greyhounds for their online biographies. A picture almost always draws attention to the written biography. And the more adopters who read the foster bios, the odds get better for a happy adoption.
The following are suggestions on how to take flattering portraits of your greyhounds and foster greys without using high-dollar cameras and lenses. Some of the suggestions might require a small amount of “quality time” between you, your instruction manual and your camera since most cameras have different settings and controls.
It’s Not The OK Corral
Although high noon might be a great time for a shootout at the OK Corral, it’s not OK to shoot a camera that time of day. People squint. Dogs pant. (Note the picture.) Harsh, unflattering shadows are everywhere. Try to shoot in the hours closer to sunset or sunrise. If you’ve got to shoot at noon make it an indoor setting or find some full shade under a pavilion. But – avoid the shade provided by most trees. The resulting picture often will include hotspots – splotchy white patches (unlucky if on the dog’s face) where the sun leaks through the leaves. In spite of common belief to the contrary, it can be a good thing to shoot on an overcast day, particularly if photographing people and dogs.
If you shoot indoors make use of a nice piece of furniture (greyhounds love couches, don’t they?) or a dog bed. Clear the clutter out of the way. You want nothing in the picture to distract from the greyhound’s beautiful face and body. Let the grey settle in on the couch or her favorite bed. If she looks bored make a noise with a squeaky toy. This will likely result in a great facial expression – ears up and head cocked to one side. Move up close or zoom in. Capture the face and body. If possible avoid using a flash. Often a flash results in that eerie, glowing-eyed look. Instead, try positioning the dog so she is illuminated by indirect sunlight from a window or exterior door to avoid harsh shadows. (Indirect sunlight is when the sun is not shining directly through the window or door). The photo shows an example of indirect sunlight and a greyhound feeling perfectly at home on a couch.
Make The Background Blurry
OK. This can seem a little confusing, but stick with me. It’s actually not that hard. A sharply-focused background (trees, people, other dogs, fences, etc.) often distracts from your beautiful greyhound. A blurry background minimizes the effects of clutter and accentuates the graceful lines of your very attractive, perfectly-focused greyhound.
How do you make the background blurry?
1. Try using the "Portrait" setting on your camera if it has one and see if that works. Sometimes this setting on a camera is an icon of a person's head and shoulders.
2. Or, zoom in and shoot with a telephoto setting. This should blur the background and fill the frame with the greyhound’s pretty face – both good things. Try to keep background clutter well in the distance.
The top photo shows a blurred background (there is actually a chain link fence behind the dog). The bottom photo shows an in-focus, distracting background.
Avoid The Wide Angle
The opposite of a telephoto lens, the wide angle lens is great for scenery but not always good for portraits, partly because the distracting background usually comes into sharp focus due to the nature of the lens. Also, the wide angle lens can distort the dog’s body. We’ve all seen the funny greeting cards where the dog’s nose is gigantic and his body is tiny, right? That’s a wide angle lens. It is funny. But it also makes a regal greyhound appear comical. Most potential adopters probably want to see what the dog looks like without distortion. The picture was shot with a wide angle lens and shows a distracting background along with a disproportionally-large head on the greyhound. (Generally speaking, a wide angle is less than 50 millimeters.)
Look Up To Your Greyhound
Avoid aiming the camera down when photographing a dog. It makes the dog look submissive and meek. If you are able, kneel or lie down and shoot at or near eye level with him. If you can’t kneel comfortably, try sitting. In the picture above, Allyanne had dug a trench for herself in the cool sand, so photographing her at eye level required shooting at near ground level.
Consider getting a lightweight tripod – even for a small, lightweight camera or smart phone. Less camera shake makes for a better picture.
The Best Photographic Tool Ever? Patience.
Go out in the back yard with your greyhound on a nice day. Then simply wait with your camera ready. Your greyhound will sniff the camera. Maybe she will paw at you. Don’t pet her just yet though. Be patient. This could take a while. Eventually she will simply find something in the yard more interesting than you and your camera. Perhaps she will find a nice stick to play with. Or maybe a dog toy. Or eventually she’ll just lie in the cool grass thinking back on her life – thinking how happy she is to finally be retired and living in a home as wonderful as yours – thinking how nice it is to finally be at peace.
This is the moment when you start shooting your dog portrait. What prettier picture could you hope for?
A Poem To My Foster Dog
by Diane Morgan
I am the bridge between what was and what can be.
I am the pathway to a new life.
I am made of mush,
Because my heart melted when I saw you,
Matted and sore, limping, depressed,
Lonely, unwanted, afraid to love.
For one little time you are mine.
I will feed you with my own hand;
I will love you with my whole heart.
I will make you whole.
I am made of steel,
Because when the time comes,
When your eyes shine,
And your tail wags with joy-
Then comes the hard part.
I will let you go -- not without a tear,
But without regret.
For you are safe forever,
A new dog needs me now.
A Glimpse Inside
The Greyhound Mind
By Amanda Tobey
This breed has never been asked to do anything for itself, make any decisions or answer any questions. It has been waited on, paw and tail. The only prohibition in a racing Greyhound's life is not to get into a fight--or eat “certain stuff” in the turn out pen.
Let us review a little. For the first 18 months of your life, from weaning until you go away for schooling, you eat, grow and run around and play with your siblings. When you go away to begin your racing career, you get your own "apartment," in a large housing development. It’s a noisy place most of the time, and usually the radio is playing. No one is allowed in your bed but you, and when you are in there, no one can touch you, and no one even approaches without plenty of warning.
Someone hears a vehicle drive up, or the kennel door being unlocked. The light switches are flipped on. The loud mouths in residence (and there always are some) begin to bark or howl. You are wide awake by the time the human opens your door to turn you out. A Greyhound has never been touched while he was asleep. You eat when you are fed, usually on a strict schedule, at the same time every day, and usually in the same order. No one asks if you are hungry or what you want to eat. You are never told not to eat any food within your reach. No one ever touches your bowl while you are eating. You are not to be disturbed because it is important you clean your plate.
You are not asked if you have to "go outside." You are placed in turn out pen and it isn't long before you get the idea of what you are supposed to do while you are out there. Therefore, being outside means elimination, every time.
Unless you really get out of hand, you may chase, rough house and put your feet on everyone and everything else. The only humans you know are the "waiters" who feed you, and the "restroom attendants" who turn you out to go to the bathroom. Respect people? Surely you jest.
No one comes into or goes out of your kennel without your knowledge. You are all seeing, all knowing. There are no surprises, day in and day out. The only thing it is ever hoped you will do is win, place or show, and that you don't have much control over. It is in your blood, it is in your heart, it is in your fate – or it is not.
And when it is not, then suddenly you are expected to be a civilized person in a fur coat. But people don't realize you may not even speak English. Some of you don't even know your names, because you didn't need to. You were not asked or told to do anything as an individual; you were always part of the "condo association,” the sorority or fraternity and everyone did everything together, as a group or pack. The only time you did anything as an individual is when you schooled or raced, and even then, You Were Not Alone.
Suddenly, after life at the track, the greyhound is expected to behave himself in places he's never been taught how to act. He is expected to take responsibility for saying when he needs to go outside, to come when he is called, not to get on some or all of the furniture, and to not eat food off counters and tables. He is dropped in a world that is unfamiliar, and totally without warning, at that.
Almost everything he does is wrong. Suddenly he is a minority. There may be no other greyhounds or dogs in the home, and there may even be furry little fast-moving things that suddenly he is not allowed to chase.
Now he is just a pet. He is unemployed, in a place where people expect him to know the rules and the schedule, even when there aren't any. (How many times have you heard someone say, “He won't ‘tell me’ when he has to go out.” What kind of schedule is that?) Have you heard the joke about the dog who says "My name is No-No Bad-Dog. What's yours?” Only it’s a little too true to be funny.
All the protective barriers are gone. There is no more warning before something happens. There is no more strength in numbers. He wakes up with a monster human face two inches from his. (With some people's breath, this could scare Godzilla.) Why should he not believe that this someone for lunch? Anyone, especially ladies, must consider how you would react if someone you barely knew crawled up on you or hovered over you while you were asleep?
Now he is left alone, for the first time in his life, in a strange place, with no idea of what will happen or how long it will be before someone comes to him again. If he is not crated, he may go through open doors, screens or windows, or over fences, desperately seeking something familiar, something with which to reconnect his life. If he does get free, he will find the familiarity, within himself: the adrenaline high, the wind in his ears, the blood pulsing and racing though his heart once again--until he crashes into a car.
Often, the first contact with his new family is punishment, something he's never had before, something he doesn't understand now, especially in the middle of the rest of the chaos. And worst of all, what are the most common human reactions to misbehavior? We live in a violent society, where the answer to any irritation is a slap, punch, kick, whip, or rub your nose in it. Under these circumstances, sometimes I think any successful adoption is a miracle.
He is, in effect, expected to have all the manners of at least a six-year old child. But, how many of you would leave an unfamiliar six-year old human alone and loose in your home for hours at a time and not expect to find who knows what when you got back? Consider that if you did, you could be brought up on charges of child abuse, neglect and endangerment. Yet, people do this to Greyhounds and this is often the reason for so many returns.
How many dogs have been returned because they did not know how to tell the adopter when they had to go out? How many for jumping on people, getting on furniture, counter surfing, separation anxiety, or defensive actions due to being startled or hurt (a/k/a growling or biting)? So, let's understand: Sometimes it is the dog's fault he cannot fit in, but usually it is not. He is not equipped with the social skills of a six-year old human. But you can help him by understanding his perspective and trying to walk in his paw prints.