Many pet owners want good images of their beloved animals, especially dogs, much the same way new parents take pics of their kids. The best cameras for dog photography will let you make great pet portraits.
Photographing dogs and other pets is a combination of portrait photography and sports or action photography.
Sometimes you may be able to get in some poses, other times you’ll need to be ready to take the photo at the right time.
The basics of capturing good dog photos are very similar to sports/action/wildlife and also to portrait photography. Keep reading to see which camera is best for you!
Top 5 Best Cameras For Dog Photography In 2023
1. Canon EOS Rebel T6 Digital SLR Camera with 18-55mm Review
One of Canon’s entry-level EOS DSLRs, the Rebel T6 has features and quality that can be put to good use by photographers at any level of expertise.
Together with the 18-55mm kit lens, this package is very lightweight and relatively compact for a full-featured DSLR. It is also very affordably priced.
Additionally, an APS-C sensor with 18.0MP is at the heart of the camera, delivering superb images while maintaining lower cost and smaller size.
Canon APS-C sensors have a crop factor of 1.6X, differing slightly from the 1.5X crop factor of most other manufacturers that make APS-C cameras.
Furthermore, ISO is extendable all the way to 12,800. Noise is minimal at high ISO levels such as 800 or so but starts to show at around ISO 1600. Even so, the noise level at ISO 1600 is still pretty good.
Since most dog photos will likely be taken in daylight outside or with studio lights inside, there shouldn’t be much reason to go higher than around ISO 800.
Digital Rebel EOS cameras use the Canon EOS EF lens mount, so there are many, many lenses that will fit and function on this camera.
An 18-55mm kit lens is standard. As a kit lens, it is a little slow in maximum aperture, especially at the telephoto end of the lens. It is also not as ruggedly made as Canon’s higher-end lenses, but it is not fragile either.
In fact, it’s a good lens. One of the most important characteristics is its optical quality, which this lens definitely has.
Besides being sharp, it is compact, lightweight, and very budget-friendly. Never look down on a kit lens, they are great tools for their purpose.
In addition to the bright and clear optical viewfinder, the T6 has a large and bright fixed 3” viewscreen.
You can preview image files, access menu items, and controls, and use it in live view mode for video. Video is available in Full HD 1080/30P.
Autofocus is fast and responsive, but you are limited to a relatively small number of focus points, nine.
The nine points cover a wide area of the image view and can be selected individually or as a group. For dog and pet photography, it is often a good idea to use all the focus points when shooting action.
Additionally, the built-in pop-up flash is useful for a limited distance, the dedicated hot shoe allows more sophisticated flashes with loads of power to fit and work automatically.
Furthermore, when considering an entry-level camera, this is one of the best cameras for dog photography.
2. Sony a6500 Mirrorless Camera with 55-210mm Lens Review
Sony has been making mirrorless cameras for a while, both in full-frame format and in APS-C format. The a6500 is a full-featured APS-C interchangeable lens camera with advanced features.
This particular kit comes with a telephoto zoom lens but doesn’t include the normal range kit lens. You might want to add that into this kit in order to round out the lens capabilities.
Mirrorless cameras don’t have the large mirror box that a DSLR requires, so the size and shape of the cameras aren’t limited by being built around a mirror, prism, and finder.
Interestingly, Sony has taken the opportunity with some of their APS-C mirrorless cameras to make them almost minimalist in design. With the a6500, there is no finder hump.
Its eye-level electronic viewfinder is off to the left side of the camera, sitting virtually flush with the rest of the body. Much like the rangefinder cameras of previous eras did.
Furthermore, there is also a bright rear viewscreen that tilts up or down to offer extra versatility in how it gets held. This also lets you shoot at a high or low-level point of view.
Additionally, the 3” rear viewscreen is also used to access camera control menu items.
The sensor is 24.2MP and the maximum ISO is 51200, making this camera extremely versatile for a wide range of uses. The sensor has great low light capabilities and noise is very well controlled.
Autofocus with Sony mirrorless cameras is nothing short of amazing. This camera, for instance, has 425 focus points and can find focus in 0.05 seconds. In the body 5 axis image stabilization works with any lens mounted to the camera.
Even with older classic lenses mounted via a third-party lens mount adapter. This feature alone is what pushes some photographers to Sony mirrorless cameras. It really is quite a beneficial feature.
Having taken over from Minolta and being in design partnerships with manufacturers such as Zeiss, Sony lenses are generally very high quality.
The 55-210mm kit lens is very sharp, quick focusing, and durable, but it’s not as rugged or fast as the higher-end (thus higher cost) lenses available from Sony.
Besides the lenses, the a6500 has many accessories that fit and work, including external flash units and remote control devices.
3. Nikon D3500 24.2MP DSLR Camera + AF-P DX 18-55mm Review
The D3500 is an entry-level APS-C DSLR with a 24.2MP sensor. Nikon and Sony both have a crop factor of 1.5X with their crop sensors compared to full-frame. It is the most compact DSLR from Nikon, it is also extremely light.
When paired with the two most popular kit lenses, even adding in a small external flash unit and putting it all into a bag, that whole bag of stuff still weighs less than Nikon’s professional-level full-frame camera and normal range zoom lens.
Again, it should be pointed out that being lightweight and entry-level does not mean that the cameras and kit lenses are fragile or toy-like.
They simply don’t have the level of ruggedness and advanced features or insanely high quality that pro-caliber cameras and lenses have.
Entry-level consumer-oriented cameras also don’t have the very high prices pro stuff has. In the hands of a talented photographer, these tools can create superb images.
Furthermore, even with no experience at all, a beginner can get great snapshots from a camera like the D3500.
The D3500 has a 24.2MP APS-C format sensor with ISO all the way up to 25600. Video recording is full HD 1080/60p.
Autofocus is only available with lenses that have a built-in focusing motor, which includes most newer Nikon lenses and all of the kit lenses intended for entry-level cameras.
Image stabilization is included in most new lenses, too. The camera does not have that feature on its own. This anti-shake feature becomes very valuable when taking dog pictures in marginal lighting conditions.
A normal range zoom lens is standard for this camera, 18-55mm. As with most kit lenses, the maximum aperture is somewhat slow, but that accommodates keeping size and weight down.
As noted before, this camera and lens are compact and light, scarcely more than a box of dog biscuits.
The lens is very sharp, has vibration reduction, a built-in focus motor, and focuses very close. The focal length range covers from wide-angle, though normal, to short telephoto.
A 55-200mm or 70-300mm lens is a good addition for more range. These lenses from Nikon are also very sharp and lightweight, and the price fits into reasonable budgets.
This is one of the best cameras for dog photography for beginners, indeed for any type of entry-level photographer.
4. Canon EOS 80D DSLR Camera with EF-S 18-135mm Review
Many photographers consider a camera like this one a prosumer camera due to its advanced features and heavier-duty construction.
In other words, it will definitely satisfy what a photographic enthusiast wants out of a camera and a professional would be comfortable using it under certain circumstances. The higher price and increased weight reflect the advanced nature of the 80D.
It has an APS-C format sensor with 24.2MP and a high ISO of 25600. Camera performance is really very good, with a high frame per second rate of 7fps, built-in Wi-Fi, 45 cross-type AF points, and Full HD 1080 video.
As with many of Canon’s more advanced cameras, the video quality and capability are outstanding. So much so that Canon has even created a special videography kit centered around this camera and the 18-135mm lens.
About the only extra thing needed is an external microphone, though the built-in stereo mic is very good and perfectly adequate for a wide range of video projects.
An action video of your dog playing, working, or doing tricks can be fun to watch and share with friends. Yes, some dogs are working dogs (smiley face).
Plus, Police, military, fire and rescue, and support dogs make excellent subjects for pet portraiture or action photography.
Now for the lens. This lens is still technically a kit lens, but it is one of the best kit lenses for APS-C format cameras.
Its maximum aperture is still a little slow, but it has increased zoom range, is a little heavier than many smaller kit lenses, and focuses very rapidly. Focus noise is very low, too, which really helps out when recording video.
Making use of 45 cross-type focus points, the autofocus capability is amazing. Extremely quick, it also operates very well in lower or difficult lighting conditions. Video AF in live view mode is also very fast and accurate.
A great camera for anyone, this kit is also an excellent choice for photographers wanting to jump into the fantastic world of getting paid for taking pictures and making videos. It is fully capable of light professional duties.
5. Sony Alpha a7IIK Mirrorless Digital Camera with 28-70mm Lens Review
Considered a fully professional level camera, this mirrorless interchangeable lens camera has a full-frame format 24.3MP sensor and in-body 5-axis image stabilization.
The price is remarkably low, too, being in the range of several current APS-C format cameras.
Since it’s a mirrorless camera, and full-frame format, with in-body stabilization, you can use virtually any lens ever made for 35mm SLRs by means of the right adapter.
Furthermore, Sony also makes an excellent line of modern, very high-quality AF lenses for this camera.
Image quality with this sensor is amazing, the digital noise is almost non-existent in lower ISO. The high ISO is 25600.
Plus, autofocus is quick and super accurate with 142 focus points. AF is usable during the video as well as for still photography.
An eye-level EVF lets you hold and use the camera as you would any SLR plus it has a large, tilting rear viewscreen for use in any mode.
A 28-70mm lens is included in this attractively priced kit that is very sharp and extremely well made. It’s a little slow in maximum aperture, but that helps keep size and weight down.
Overall, the bulk and heft of this camera and lens rig are comparable to many smaller format cameras.
A fully capable, truly professional level camera, this kit from Sony just might be the best camera for dog photography.
Best Settings For Dog Photography
There is no one-size-fits-all exposure and focus setting for portrait or action photography, but this should help you get in the ballpark for making great images:
- High ISO – In order to get fast shutter speeds, we usually need to raise one of the other sides of the exposure triangle. Don’t go too high with ISO, as that introduces unwanted noise. Digital noise looks like fast film grain and can degrade image quality in both still and video files. Shooting in daylight or with adequate lighting will help us keep ISO in a manageable range.
- Fast Shutter speed and wide aperture – In order to stop action, a fast shutter speed is necessary. You will have to balance that out with a wider open lens aperture which will limit focus depth, but that is actually desirable in this situation. A faster f-stop lets us employ selective focus techniques.
- Broad area continuous AF – Keeping the AF area broad will allow us to concentrate on following the action of the dog while keeping him or her incorrect focus regardless of exactly where they move inside the image frame. Continuous AF instead of single-shot gives slightly better focus performance with action situations, but there is nothing wrong with using single-shot focus mode.
- RAW instead of JPEG – While recording image files as JPEGs will enable faster writing speeds to your memory cards, RAW gives you more information to process. This can really be beneficial with the mix of photography genres involved in a lot of pet photography.
How to capture great dog photographs
- Maintain some form of control – Treats are a good way to do this. If it’s not your own dog, make sure it is okay to give the dog treats and perhaps what specific kind of treats. Other forms of control may include hand gestures or vocal commands. Please, don’t ever be mean, though, our pets are our friends.
- Regular portrait lighting works – Whatever light setup you normally use for people’s portraits, this will also work well with pets. For the semi-posed pics anyways. For the environmental portraiture, treating the subject like an action subject seems to work well, with or without an on-camera flash.
- Being able to follow motion – Some of the best dog pics are of the pet having fun. Depending on the size of the dog, this can require photography to have action photography as a skill. Shooting at the peak of the action is a good technique to use, instead of always trying to freeze very vast movement.
- Use a higher ISO – But not too high. We want to be able to have fast shutter speeds, so our exposure triangle needs to give us that option. Using a faster lens is great, but they are big, heavy, and tend to cost a lot. Upping the ISO, by a reasonable amount, can give us an edge.
- Set multiple focus points – If we try to only use our central focus point, we could miss out on some good images during our action-based environmental pet portraits.
How I found the best cameras for dog photography
- Sensor – A high-quality sensor is essential in order to deliver the best images. For this photography, an APS-C size sensor is an excellent choice. This format size has very high-resolution sensors and yet is smaller than the full-frame 35mm format. Being a smaller sensor means that the cameras and lenses can be relatively small in size.
- Lenses – Interchangeable lenses are preferred by many photo enthusiasts since they allow for a wide variety of choices. If the camera has a built-in zoom lens, having a fast aperture and a good telephoto range is desirable. Kit lenses are generally sharp, but they have slower maximum apertures.
- Low noise high ISO performance – Since we are often trying to capture some action with dog photography, using a higher ISO can often be a good idea. So, the best cameras for dog photography should have low noise with a reasonably high ISO.
- Moveable viewscreen –A fully articulated screen or at least a tilting screen is nice, but that isn’t always a feature of lower-priced cameras. A tilting or articulated viewscreen allows for shooting from different positions, such as overhead or ground level, which can result in some great final images.
- Autofocus speed and accuracy – Since it is like a sport sometimes and a portrait session other times, rapid and accurate focusing is important in order to get sharp, usable images. The best cameras for dog photography should have rapid and accurate autofocus.
For more information on how to get started with dog/pet photography, these are some really helpful guides that I would recommend checking out! This one has 87 tips on pet photography and this is another on some helpful pet photography techniques.