Mat Garber photographed Jackson, a French mastiff, using a Canon EOS 5D and a 24–105mm f/4L Canon EF IS zoom. Exposure, with ring flash: 1/80 sec at f/5, ISO 100. Mat Garber/Mat & Ash Photography

A common composing bugaboo for new photographers? With shorter subjects, the tendency is to shoot from above, looking down on them. Among other problems, this higher-than-thou shooting angle introduces unnatural perspective distortion. And the wider the focal length of your lens, the weirder the distortion.

For children, this can result in large heads and relatively tiny feet. When pets are photographed from above, their bodies become as important as their eyes—not good for capturing their personality.

The solution is simple. Do as Mat Garber did with this French mastiff: Kneel or lie down to shoot into your subject’s eyes. Garber’s lighting also contributed to the success of this portrait. He mounted an ExpoImaging Ray Flash ring-light adapter onto his Canon 580 EX II Speedlite for a brighter light with more contrast, bringing out all the color and texture in the mastiff’s beautiful coat.