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On assignment: Puppy photos just part of the job

Seven-month-old German Shepherd/hound mix Stella loves all that springtime brings: sticks, bunnies to chase and worms to eat.
Seven-month-old German Shepherd/hound mix Stella loves all that springtime brings: sticks, bunnies to chase and worms to eat. adrey@centredaily.com

Puppies. I knew this topic was going to come up sooner or later.

At the end of last summer and into the fall I had an assignment with dogs almost every week.

Dogs enjoying ice cream, dogs swimming, kids reading to dogs, litters of dogs being rescued, dogs dressed up for Halloween ...

Photographing our furry four-legged friends always puts a big smile on my face, and I think I end up petting and playing more than photographing. How was I there over an hour with only a few photos? Oh right, they’re too cuddly to constantly have a camera up to my face.

After my new happiness from all these puppies, I found myself at a Centre County PAWS open house on a Sunday afternoon filling out the paperwork to bring home my own best friend. Since I got Stella in December, my phone memory has quickly filled with photos of her.

This week I finally pulled out my camera, on National Puppy Day, to capture Stella in some higher quality images. She’s 7 months old, and sitting still doesn’t happen much — especially when we are outside, surrounded by sticks.

Here’s what I’ve learned from all these adorable assignments:

▪ You need a lot of light, because you’re going to need the fastest shutter speed you can get. Puppies move quickly and aren’t as easy to judge as someone blowing out candles on a birthday cake. Freezing them in action with a fast shutter gets you the ears flapping as they run and the water flying as they shake to dry off.

▪ A wide lens can help. Dogs find this thing you hold up to your face that clicks really interesting and have a tendency to run up to see what it is. The wider the lens is, the better chance you can still focus to get the incoming excitement. A nose smudge to your lens is expected.

▪ Get on their level. Kneel, lie in the grass, and capture more than just them looking up at you — although those photos of sulky eyes usually melt everyone’s heart.

▪ And you need to be ready to laugh. You need to make the subject of your photographs comfortable — and with puppies that might involve throwing a ball and some tummy rubs.

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