Want to get the perfect pup backdrop? These killer locations and hot tips will elevate your pet’s photos.
Like every dog parent out there, the team at OMD! love taking snaps of our beloved furry BFFs to show off to friends, family and a whole bunch of random dog accounts on Instagram.
But getting that perfect pooch photo can be a little more challenging than simply pressing the shutter button. Elements like choosing the right backdrop, exposure and the right time of day to take photos are things that every budding photographer should consider ahead of each shoot.
And with British Columbia rated among the world’s most beautiful destinations, why not get out there and start snapping everything from the mountains to your favourite spot in your local park?
We’ve teamed up with Allan Florendo, the brains and business behind ArtFoto - a Port Moody photography business that aims to capture the special bond between pets and families - to share his favourite spots around the Lower Mainland for dog photoshoots, as well as tips to help you get that perfect snap of your four-legged friend.
1. Rocky Point Park
An unexpected pick for the top spot on this list, Florendo says around 80% of his photoshoots take place at Rocky Point Park in Port Moody, which sits along the edge of the Burrard Inlet.
“Rocky Point Park is definitely my number one place,” Florendo says. “It’s got water, some interesting trails, a rail track, a quaint bridge and cool trees. In fall, the colours the leaves create are just beautiful. When I see the dogs there, they’re just having fun and that’s really what I want to capture. There’s not a lot of people there either. There’s just so many secret spots there, it’s hard to shoot everything!”
Nailing down a secret spot is hard for Florendo, but he settles on sections of the Shoreline Trail - an easy and accessible route that wraps around the most Eastern section of the Burrard Inlet - which offers stunning views over marshes, beach and mountains, as well taking walkers near a rail track that he often shoots at. Florendo suggests investigating along the trail to untap the many secret nooks along the way.
Does he have any tips on the best time to go? “Outdoor lighting is very important. You’ll want to have soft lighting, and you’ll achieve that first thing in the morning around 7am or 8am. The shadows are also sideways which is what you want to achieve, especially if we go inside the trails.
“With some trees, the sunlight gets diffused and it creates a really soft light. Late afternoon also works, but morning is my favourite. Not a lot of people go there quite so early.”
2. Stanley Park
Known as Vancouver’s emerald jewel, it’s no surprise that Stanley Park makes Florendo’s list of his favourite places to shoot in the Lower Mainland. With the sea wall, beaches, the Lions Gate Bridge and over 27km of trails to explore, Stanley Park serves as the perfect backdrop for any photoshoot.
“It has a mixture of everything, there’s some really interesting spots there. Fall is my favourite season to visit, the colours are so vibrant. It’s also a great place to do shoots as it is really accessible for my clients. There are no heavy trails and we can go straight from the car park down a small trail to start shooting.”
Given that Stanley Park is heavily trafficked by walkers, cyclists and cars, you’d think that there wouldn’t be any secret spots left. However, Florendo says he’s managed to find a quiet spot that’s close to the totem poles - a very popular area of the park with tourists - but anyone keen to find it just needs to investigate the trees nearby. According to him, it’s a bit of a “treasure hunt”, but worth the reward.
Florendo adds Stanley Park Pavilion is another favourite spot of his. “There's a big amphitheatre there. It's a hidden spot but it's lovely. There's a really beautiful fountain right in the middle too. No one ever goes there!”
“My clients, most of the time, would say ‘I never realised there's such a spot here’. So it's a nice surprise for them. I try to do research ahead of shoots to find some different spots.”
3. LaFarge Lake
Moving over to Coquitlam, LaFarge Lake in the city centre is another of Florendo’s special spots. A five hectare man-made lake, LaFarge has become popular with families and locals for it’s annual Water’s Edge Festival and free Christmas light events, as well as being a former quarry that was reclaimed by the city to create a luscious green city space.
“For me, this one is complete,” Florendo says. “It has everything. There’s some really beautiful trees, some great light which is diffused by those trees.”
The lake is also stocked with rainbow trout for those who want to try their hand at fishing. Florendo says one of the docks is his favourite place to shoot as you can capture the lake - and it’s large fountain - in the background. He recommends taking a walk around the lake and finding different viewpoints and backgrounds you want to capture in your photos, as well as heading into the trees to play with the shapes the light creates.
Florendo says that again, morning is the best time to visit this popular spot. But what about those of us who struggle setting an alarm?
“The lighting in the morning is exactly the same in late afternoon,” he says. “So around 4ish or 5ish (during winter), maybe an hour before sunset, the lighting would still be nice. It's still soft, so it's going to be the same.”
4. Pitt Addington Marsh
Florendo’s final pick is Pitt Addington Marsh - a nature reserve north of Pitt Meadows and Maple Ridge, home to over 200 bird and 29 mammal species and nearly 3,000 hectares in size. It’s relatively remote location away from cities and buildings, paired with a mountainous backdrop, make it one of the serenest spots on Florendo’s list.
“Pitt Addington Marsh is beautiful. I have to admit, I've only shot maybe two dogs here. Most of the shoots I've done in this area are family portraits. It's quite far [from Vancouver], but it is beautiful. It's very popular when it comes to engagement photos.
“You have a beautiful background with snow capped mountains all year round.”
For Florendo, the background does all the talking here. Everything about finding soft morning light and fewer crowds still applies here, but the scenic location, plus that extra drive to get here, is completely worth the visit.
5. Your favourite place
Florendo explains that everything he has talked about so far can be applied to any location - especially your dog’s favourite walking spot. Plus, you only need to arm yourself with a smartphone or a camera to achieve good results.
“Ideally, you want to go to spots where there's really not a lot of people, spots where you can go and just have fun and enjoy it,” he says.
“The background plays a big role, and so for me, I try to choose the right background. The background has to be complimentary, it cannot be a distraction. You don't want buildings in the background with so many people. You want the background to be an element of your photograph, so for example, if it's a certain season, you want your background to speak about the season, if it's spring, fall or winter.”
Florendo adds that post production also plays a role in fine tuning your images so they stand out among the crowd, and says that minimal adjustments, rather than over editing, can bring an image to life.
“A lot of photographers use filters, but before I add a filter, I just do very basic editing, I don't do a lot of anything,” he says. “It's just adjusting the exposure, making sure it's not too dark, not too bright, just the right exposure. Maybe adjust the contrast, just to pop out some of the shadows, so it's not that flat.
“Everything that I take, you can do with your mobile phone. I mean, our mobile phones are just so powerful. Nowadays, when people use their phone, there's so many filters and plugins, with one click, it changes the look of your photo, and can make your photos look better. If you want to use filters or plugins, that's totally fine. For me, it shouldn't be overly done. It still has to have that natural purpose.”
Exclusive deal for OMD! readers
From now until the end of April, ArtFoto is offering $50 off the Furry Pals Mini and Full sessions to OMD! readers, which include:
35 minutes photo session
7 web resolution images
Location: Greater Vancouver
Add'l fee to get all images in the gallery (web-resolution)
Add'l fee for fine-art prints
1 hour photo session
10 web resolution images
2 pcs. 5x7 prints (fine art paper)
Location: Greater Vancouver
Add'l fee to get all images in the gallery (web-resolution)
Hailing from the Philippines and having more than 20 years of photography experience, Florendo began his career in editorial fashion, shooting for high profile magazines, such as Cosmopolitan. With 5 years of Canadian life in Port Moody already under his belt, Florendo says photography has always been his “passion project” and created Artfoto to focus on “the bond between human and pet”.
This article is sponsored by ArtFoto. Learn more about Artfoto here