It’s hard to consistently come up with new, fresh, fun ideas for dog photography but “underwater” dog photography sure seems like a neat place to start. I should state fairly clearly that at no point is your camera, or you, going to be in water for this “faux” underwater dog shot. This is a technique I’ve worked hard to perfect in the last 12-months and in this post you’ll find 5 top tips.

A 2hr in-depth behind-the-scenes photoshoot, Q&A and an additional full end-to-end edit can be found inside the Membership though, should you want a true roadmap to success!

This entire video wouldn’t exist without the amazing team at K&F Concept kindly providing our community with a 10% discount on all the products mentioned here. This post does contain a few affiliate links, but as always I only ever recommend products that I would use and trust on the daily to get the job done!

To get 10% off the lights, modifiers and triggers I use, head to EssentialPhoto.com and use the code 10OFFTPSJM.

Here is the video on this topic:


Scroll down past the epic shots here to get to the shopping list and top tips

Shopping list for “underwater” treat bobbing shots:

Wherever possible, thrift or scavenge for these items (except the dog!) – reuse things when you can!

  • Fish tank
  • Black fabric
  • 2 x Lights
  • 2 x Strip boxes
  • A tub of snacks
  • A dog who loves food and water
  • Towels!

5 tips for “underwater” dog photography:

1. Safety First for Dogs & Warter

Water intoxication is a real risk when you’re photographing dogs catching or swimming in any way in water. Although it is SUPER rare, it happens when dogs consume a large volume of water quickly and is most frequently seen when dogs play fetch and inadvertently consume a lot of water at the same time as collecting the object. Symptoms can take hold very quickly and can prove fatal.

Why this matters here, even though no one is swimming or playing fetch, is that you could repeat the treat drops multiple times and have a “gulper”. If your dog repeats this game over and over again, you have a situation with high water intake. Therefore, I have a rule here – 2 tank refils per dog per day and no more. The tank refill happens regularly, and shooting sessions are less than 3-5 minutes for each tank, if that.

Don’t be an idiot, look after your dogs!

2. Use Strip Boxes

You want to be using a super narrow softbox for this shot so find a softbox that has a narrow opening. My favourite strip boxes for this session are the ones you can see in the video linked above, and are from EssentialPhoto, under the Pixapro brand. They’re 140cm x 30cm and are quite big, so prepare for them! They do flat pack though so no poles to fight with.

You can grab yours here.

3. Make a Black Background

Ideally, you want something between the tank of water and the dog behind it, and black is a great choice. A black fabric or board is sufficient and can be placed under the tank and wrapped up the back for neatness.

I find my fabrics in craft stores, but you could easily thrift something suitable or find it in your home!

4. Always use Clean Water

It’s super important to keep the water clean, both going in and during the shooting of your underwater dog photographs. The water will need to be changed, so ensure you capture the “waste” water and use it for another purpose like watering your plants or for cooling the dogs in hot weather outside. This type of photography is quite wasteful because of how frequently you’ll need to change the water, so take care and don’t do this shoot in areas with water-use restrictions.

5. Keep the Glass Clean!

Every time the dog photography starts and stops, you need to clean the glass. Every time you change the water, you need to clean the glass. When you think you don’t need to do it, just go clean the glass.

Never use chemicals to clean the glass, we don’t use anything other than water, and so far, it’s worked out perfectly for us!

These are 5 tips out of closer to 50 that were covered in high levels of detail along with 4 end to end tank fills and shooting sessions inside the 2hr long MTog Live Studio Photoshoot, where nearly 100 members joined us live on zoom to learn the exact how-to and all of the associated steps and techniques with this shooting style.

Learn more about the membership here.