How to vary depth of field in Spokane dog portraits

pomeranian mix in deep snow

There’s this thing in dog portraits and, of course, photography in general.


It’s a catchy little word, isn’t it? You may even have seen it in that new (annoying) iPhone ad.

“You bokehed my kid? Don’t bokeh my kid.”

Truth be told, I’ve had a camera in my hand for almost four decades, finally launching my dog portraits business in Spring 2018, and I only started hearing the word six or seven years ago. A friend said, “Oooooh, nice bokeh,” and I thought, “WTF are you talking about?”


It’s a Japanese word, according to Wikipedia, and loosely translated it means “blur quality.”

It references those images you get when your subject is clear and your background is all smooth and blurry, just like the image of Bella, my Maremma sheepdog, up above.

Since I was raised in a world of newspapers and journalism, I know it to be “shallow depth of field.”

Sidebar: One editor also insisted on calling horizontals “sidey-sideys” and verticals “uppie-downies.” So if you ever catch me saying that, you know why.

“Bokeh” in dog portraits

The easiest way to achieve shallow depth of field is to use a long focal lens and a wide-open aperture.

When I want to achieve that look in dog portraits, I trot out my 70-200 lens.

That’s when I get images like Newt, a.k.a. Little Miss Thang, in a shallow depth of field:

heeler mix dog with shallow depth of field

Last fall, Erika specifically requested that I get “me and Joey all blurry in the background” with their senior boy, Edgrr the Bassett Hound.

Best name ever, am I right?

bassett hound in spokane

A different lens, a different perspective

To my husband’s dismay, I am a gear hoarder.

Last count, I have six lenses, each one a different tool for the job I have of getting the best images of your dog during our portrait session somewhere around Spokane and North Idaho.

Three primes (20, 35 and 50mm) and three zooms (10-24, 28-70 and 70-200).

The 50 and the 28-70 are pretty much throwaway lenses. I hardly ever use them.

The images I want to achieve are usually at either extreme of the depth of field spectrum.

In a recent session with Mocha, a 14-year-old Pomeranian mix, my favorite images are all with my 10-24mm.

pomeranian mix at mirabeau

I wanted to get Mocha in front of some of the gorgeous scenery we have around here. Our session started at Spokane Valley’s Mirabeau Falls and then we walked across the parkway to hang out in the woods next to Centennial Trail and at the rocks along Spokane River.

Going super wide gives me a clearer background (but still with a soft touch to make your pup the star, not the landscape).

It also lets me show a little fun distortion with your furkids. It’s perfect for telling the story about their goofier side.

And guess what? Mocha’s mama just loved those wide-angle images, so much that she ordered this in a 30×20 metal (my favorite print platform):

pomeranian mix dog spokane valley

Check out all the fun we had in this gallery:

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All around the circle

Now let’s see how depth of field works in dog portraits around the world with the pet photographers blog circle.

Start with Tracy Allard of Penny Whistle Photography, fetching portraits in Coppell and surrounding communities in the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex.

Click the link at the bottom of each blog post to travel through the circle. When you find yourself back here, you know you’re home.

Right where you belong.

When you get back, if you want more information on doing a portrait session with your pup, click this link and go right to my contact page.

Can’t wait to hear from you!

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7 thoughts on “How to vary depth of field in Spokane dog portraits”

  1. Pingback: HIking Saltese Flats with just one lens | Dog Photography

  2. Pingback: Saltese Flats: A Spokane hike with one lens | Noses & Toes Pet Photography

  3. I must admit the iphone commercial cracked me up. This is the first I have seen it. 🙂 Mocha also had me smiling… what a doll!! Love your photos.

  4. Wow – the first image jumps out to me – but then I looked at the others and well – very nice collection – they all speak to me. Such unique ideas and vantage points! I must confess, I am more of a gear hoarder than you – but then we do have 2 people with cameras in my household.

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