How to Take an Awesome Photo of Your Dogs

Harry Guinness 02-11-2016

If you’ve got one dog, taking a great photo is, if not easy, at least possible. Put them sitting where you want, set up your camera, and snap away hoping to get that perfect pose. The problem is, if you’ve got more than one dog, they’re never going to both look good at the same time. While one is channeling their inner-Zoolander, the other will be sniffing their own butt. Anyone who says professional models are difficult to work with is lying.


With Adobe Photoshop, however, you can fake it. All you need is one good photo of each dog, and you’ll be able to combine them together into an awesome portrait. Let’s look at how.

Some of the techniques in this article are relatively advanced. If you’re just starting out, check out our beginner’s guide to Photoshop A Complete Beginner's Guide to Adobe Photoshop Creative Cloud Do you find yourself overwhelmed by Photoshop? Are you unsure how to perform even the most simple tasks? In this guide, we take a look at the absolute basics of the Adobe software. Read More or take one of these great courses The Best Online Photography Courses for Beginners Are you searching for online photography classes to join? Then take your pick from these excellent lessons. Read More .

Shooting Your Dogs

First off, you need to shoot your dogs. No, not like that. Pick a location and bring them there. It helps if you have an assistant. I took my brother and my two dogs up a mountain but you can pick easier locations like your front room.

On the camera end of things, you’ll need a tripod. You’re going to create a composite (like with the levitation I showed How to Make Someone Float Using Photoshop Everyone dreams of flying and, with Photoshop, you can make it happen. Creating a levitation image is almost a rite of passage for anyone learning to use Photoshop's powerful tools. Read More ) where you cut out and combine more than one image — to make that easy, you need to make sure the camera doesn’t move between each shot.

Background Landscape Image


Set up your camera and focus manually on where you want the dogs to sit. Make sure you’re shooting RAW RAW Files: Why You Should Be Using Them for Your Photos Almost every article featuring advice for people just learning photography stresses one thing: shoot RAW images. Here's why that's good advice. Read More and using your camera in manual mode. Take a background plate then have your assistant position one of the dogs in the frame. It doesn’t matter what the other dog does for now.

Nala the Dog on Landscape Background

Work with the first dog until you get a good exposure and then have your assistant position your second dog and work with it. Don’t worry about your assistant being in the frame, we’ll remove them in Photoshop.

Simba the Dog on Landscape Background


If you’ve got the Photoshop skills, you can even shoot different parts of your dogs separately. I ended up swapping the head from one shot onto the body from another with my dogs. It’s a little easier to get everything perfect in camera but it can prove impossible if your dogs are especially awkward.

1. Importing the Images

Import the images into your Adobe Photoshop Lightroom catalog 3 Reasons All Photographers Should be Using Adobe Lightroom A lot of people aren't quite sure where Lightroom fits into things. It's an image editor… but it's not as good as Photoshop? Here's everything explained. Read More and go through them. You’re looking for the best shot of each dog, as well as the background plate. When you’ve got them, open them as a layer stack in Photoshop by going to Photo > Edit In > Open as Layers in Photoshop…

Files Loaded Into Adobe Photoshop

I used three photos: one of Simba (the white dog), one of the background, and one of Nala (the black dog). I actually used Nala’s face from the frame of Simba because, for some reason, they were both looking at me at the right time. You can see my images above.


2. Setting Up the Document

Before diving in, it’s worth setting everything up so things run smoothly. Select all the layers and go to Edit > Auto-Align Layers. Photoshop will line up everything and get rid of any small differences between each shot.

Go through and name each layer. You can also cut out the objects you’re using. For example, on the Simba layer, I used the Marquee tool (M) to select him and then pressed Command + J (Control + J on a PC) to duplicate it to a new layer. I then deleted the old layer with all the unimportant data.

Organize Layers in Adobe Photoshop

At the end of this process I had four layers:

  • Background
  • Nala Body
  • Nala Head
  • Simba

You’ll probably have a background plate and one layer for each dog. You can also group each dog into its own folder if you’re using more than one layer.

3. Blending the Dogs In

Start with the first dog and add a layer mask. With a nice soft brush, go around the edge and make sure it blends nicely into the background plate. If the layer is too bright or dark, add a Curves layer How to Brighten and Add Contrast to a Photo Using Photoshop Any time you edit an image, you're almost certainly going to need to adjust the overall brightness and contrast. Luckily, Photoshop has some fantastic tools to help you. Read More as a Clipping Mask (hold down Alt or Option and click on the gap between the two layers) and darken it up a little. That’s what I had to do with my Simba layer.

Simba the Dog Brightened Up

Next, repeat the process with the second dog layer. Take your time blending the areas between them. Be really careful and go in with the Brush or Pen tool How To Use Photoshop Pen Tool Read More where ever the dogs overlap with your assistant.

Nala No Head in Adobe Photoshop

Keep adding in dogs until you’re done.

4. Swap the Dog’s Head

By now things should be looking good and this step is entirely optional. For me, I had a great Nala head I wanted to use but the body position was all wrong. If you’re in the same situation, follow along.

To swap a dog’s head, the procedure is the same as the techniques I used last year in the killer doll composite Create a Crazy Killer Doll Image with This Photoshop Tutorial Want to create awesome composite images? We should you how with this easy-to-follow free Photoshop tutorial. Read More and the skull portrait Make a Creepy Facebook Profile Picture with this Free Photoshop Template Halloween is coming up so it's time to change your Facebook profile picture to something spooky. We show you how with a selfie, a skull, and Photoshop. Read More .

Nala Head Swap in Adobe Photoshop

Position the new head where you want it and add a black layer mask. With a brush, work slowly paint white to reveal the new head. Take your time working through everything, going back and forth, and naturally blending the transitions. You can see me do it in the video that accompanies this post. It took me about three tries to get something I was happy with so don’t be worried if you don’t get it right first time.

Nala Head Mask in Adobe Photoshop

Because dogs have fur, this procedure is a lot easier than doing it with a person. You can get away with a lot of mistakes. Once you’re almost there, zoom out and see how it looks from afar. Remember, things that don’t look perfect at 300% will often look great from a few feet away.

5. Finish Off the Image

Now that the composite is made, it’s time to finish off the image. You should do things like:

You can see my final result just below. Go in, and make the image yours.

Finished Shot of Dogs in Adobe Photoshop

Your Turn

If you’ve gone to the effort of making an awesome photo of your dogs, it’s worth doing something with. Go out, get it printed, and give it to someone as a gift.

If you follow along, please share your results in the comments below.

Related topics: Adobe Photoshop, Photography.

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  1. Rosie Parsons
    August 28, 2017 at 6:45 pm

    I absolutely love this tutorial! Mind if I share it with my followers?!