My dog won't look at the camera - how do I fix this?

July 02, 2021  •  6 Comments

As a pet photographer and even more a ‘dog photographer’ I’ve heard a lot of various things from people about their dogs.  One of the most common things I hear are “My dog won’t look at the camera”.  Another one is “My dog can’t be off leash”.  We work with a lot of dogs that come from the rescue world and as such, we have been exposed to a lot of dogs that know nothing (no commands, and maybe not even the name we are calling them).  So we might have a case where our photography session starts like this.

Dog facing away from cameraDog facing away from cameraDog facing away from camera


When we started working with little Sundae, she didn't like being put up on a swing nor bench.  So the looks we got were scared and I am outta here.  Not good for any dog photographs, much less adoption photographs.  The next step was to find something that she was more comfortable with.  The nice furry blanket worked.  Course, now she isn't looking at the camera.  One step at a time.....patience.....

Sundae was agreeable to being moved into position, so we gently turned her the direction we wanted, found out she loves chicken jerky and now we were on the way to some great photographs.

Dog face portrait looking up at the cameraDog face portrait looking up at the cameraDog face portrait looking up at the camera


There are simple things that we try in order to overcome each of these scenarios.

My dog won't look at the camera

That’s the more difficult of these two things that often we come across as dog photographers.  I’ll be honest, I don’t want to see a video of us working to get a dog to look at least towards the camera.  It might be pretty embarrassing but hey, if that’s what it takes.

There are a variety of things that can be done to help overcome the “My dog won’t look at the camera” situation.

  1. Use a longer lens on your camera allowing the dog to be more comfortable and ‘be a dog’.
  2. Sometimes it is the flash or lighting equipment that makes the dog look elsewhere – go with natural lighting.

What motivates your dog?

If these two things don’t get you anywhere – well, there are other techniques to overcome “My dog won’t look at the camera”.  Let’s find out what motivates your dog.  Usually, we find that one of a few things will motivate a dog – and this helps us to achieve our goal.

  1. Noise – I’ve learned to make a lot of different noises with my voice.  Sometimes my partner brings a harmonica and plays different notes on it.  Squeakers help with some dogs.  However, noises only work if they are noises the dog is curious about, and more importantly hasn’t heard before or has heard infrequently
  2. Food – Does your dog have a strong food (treat/snack) drive?  I know all 3 of mine do and the keyword for them is usually “snack” – Do you want a snack?
  3. Movement – Does your dog follow movement?  Hey, we have been known to do jumping jacks, peek a boo, open doors, close doors, run across the area behind the photographer – I’m sure it’s a comedy show to watch.

At the beginning of our photo session with another rescue named "Charlie Moon Pie" - we took him our of the boarding kennel for a few hours at the University of Tampa - the beginning?  Well, he is 'big eyed' over everything he was seeing - just being out in town was making his day, but not the best photographs yet.  And yes, he was on a leash in all photographs which is removed in post processing - so your dog doesn't have to be the "best dog in the world" and doesn't have to look at the camera.

Dog wide eyed with wonderDog wide eyed with wonderDog wide eyed with wonder at the University of Tampa


After giving Charlie Moon Pie a little time to explore, go potty, and relax - we got him to sit on a bench and look at the camera!

Dog sitting on a benchDog sitting on a benchDog sitting on a bench at the University of Tampa

Course Charlie Moon Pie is just like any other dog - sometimes he will look, sometimes he won't.   Looking into the camera may not always be the best captured image - sometimes personality is more important (or in the case, the other dog that was playing fetch and having fun).

Dog looking away from the cameraDog looking away from the cameraDog looking away from the camera

My dog still won't look at the camera

If none of these things work, then the next thing to do is just take a break.  Maybe getting a little time where your dog can just relax is the ticket.  Often times they are taken to a new place or location, sat down and expected to model – what about checking out the area with all these new smells?  Usually by this time, we can get the dog to at least look close to where the camera is.  Maybe just don’t hide your face with the camera.  It can be quite intimidating and perhaps using “live view” is a better option.  Think about it – all those cell phones photographs aren’t covering up your face – perhaps that is the answer?

If after all these various things have been tried and your dog still won't look at the camera, then it might be time to consider that your dog just isn't going to look at the camera - however, that doesn't mean you can't get great images of your dog, just means you might have to change what you're trying to capture.

In this photograph, Charlie Moon Pie, is looking slightly to the side of the camera, because, well that was more interesting!

Black dog face portraitBlack dog face portraitBlack rescue dog face portrait

Still not exactly looking into the camera, but getting close!

Black dog face portraitBlack dog face portraitBlack dog face portrait with soft green blur behind

We continued to move around the area of our location shoot and found different places that Charlie Moon Pie could hang out and as he got to know us better, realized we had food and water - well, he began to trust us and just plain enjoy the time hanging with us.

Dog sitting and looking directly at the cameraDog sitting and looking directly at the cameraDog sitting and looking directly at the camera

And Yes, he did look directly at the camera for many of the photographs that we captured in this mid-morning outing.  If you're interested in adopting Charlie Moon Pie, please go to Maxx and Me Pet Rescue and fill out an application.

Blogging with Pet Photographers

This is a personal project that I try to participate in each week (as much as possible).  This post is part of a 'blog circle' which is with several other Professional Pet Photographers around the world.  Each week a different theme is provided to the group and we, as pet photographers, interpret the theme in our own way.  Follow the link provided at the end of each of my blogs to the next pet photographer's blog - and when you arrive back at my blog - you've completed the entire circle of blogs for this theme.  For more pet photographers sharing their take on this theme, head over to visit Jemma Martin of JM Photography shares her top secret tips on getting dogs to look at the camera.


Interested in a Pet Photography Session?

If you would like to discuss or book a custom pet portrait session, send an email to [email protected] or give us a call/text Linda at 813-610-2671 in the Tampa Bay area (Hillsborough/Pinellas/Pasco/Polk counties in Florida).  We have flexible rates and packages to fit most everyone’s budget as we believe that having wonderful photographs of your pet is important to so many people.




Tracy Allard(non-registered)
You do such great work for rescue, they're lucky to have you (as is Charlie Moon Pie who I hope has found his furever home by now!)
Great job with Charlie Moon Pie! Beautiful pooch and fingers crossed he's on his way home soon! Beautiful work for adoptables :) Thank you for helping them find forever homes!
Angela Schneider(non-registered)
Charlie Moon Pie needs a happy home today! Oh my, he isn't just gorgeous but he's so full of life and personality. I love the work you do for rescue dogs in Tampa.
Great tips. Sometimes it's hard work especially with those shelter dogs.
Great tips! I hope Charlie Moon Pie finds a home soon. What a cutie!
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