Photographing Dogs on Rocks – The Up Ups Dog Photography Challenge

One of the trickiest tricks a pet photographer must have up her sleeve is how to keep dogs that don’t know “stay” to stay for a photo. While there are a few tricks I use during nearly every session, one of my favorites is an Up Ups. Up Ups just means elevating the dog just a bit so taking a step requires more effort than just standing still. Dogs can go Up Ups on just about anything – a fallen tree, a log, a stump, a bench, a garden wall – or in the case of this image – up on rocks.

A Failed Attempt at a Dog In Landscape Photography

Photographing Hana the German Shepherd dog on rocks for Up Ups wasn’t my original plan. If you read the last post about Dogscapes – photographing dogs in landscapes – you know my original plan was to photograph Hana with the view off Preachers Rock at sunrise as the background. Alas, despite 4 AM alarms, 2.5 hour drives, and mountain hikes at sunrise – heavy cloud cover foiled our efforts, but I wasn’t going to let a few clouds keep us from creating a beautiful photograph.

12 new Emerge dog photography challenges were just announced. CM Bryson photography is currently casting for Atlanta area dogs to fill each challenge brief.

Dogs on Rocks

I’ve been lucky enough to photograph Hana several times over the last few years, both at my Pet Portrait Events and both of her birthday sessions! Hana is a joy to photograph, equal parts stunning beauty and silly shepherd girl. For this session her mom brought along some steak to convince Hana that modeling was worth it. I really love Hana photographed up on the rocks with a slightly melancholy mood to fit the cloudy day.

Puppy dog eyes photos are best saved for the end of your dog's Atlanta' photo shoot.

Getting the Final Image

My biggest challenge with this image was keeping Hana from getting lost when photographin her on the rocks. With Hana perched on the rocks they are very close to being on the same focal plane – meaning the rocks would also be in focus creating a lot of very in focus texture close to my subject. 

With careful post processing work I decreased the sharpness of the rocks, enhanced the leading line to Hana and removed Hana’s bright pink leash. I also created a vignette that brings extra light to Hana amking her face the star of the image. 

This image earned a Top 10 placement in Up Ups and our final feedback:  “There’s a lovely subdued mood in this image, really elevated by the misty weather and the dog’s calm and serene pose and expression.”

Created during the Embark dog photography challenge of 2022 this image of a Cane Corso in Atlanta, GA scored a Top 10 placement.

While I typically make only simple edits to the final image – in this piece I wanted to make sure the texture of the rock, especially on the left, didn’t pull focus from our pretty dog.

Created during the Embark dog photography challenge of 2022 this image of a Cane Corso in Atlanta, GA scored a Top 10 placement.

Using Photoshop I reduced the texture of the rock and simplified the left side of the image to make a stronger leading line coming up to Hana perched at the top of the rock. 

Bonus Dogs on Rocks

Hana the German Shepherd dog on rocks wasn’t my first attempt at dogs on rocks in the 2022 Unleashed Challenge. I also photographed Shark the Staffordshire Terrier up on rocks in Suwanee, GA. Although I ultimately chose to use Shark’s image for Soul Searcher. 
Scroll through to see an adorable bully dog posing on rocks.

This blog is a part of series of blogs from pet photographer’s across the globe! This week we’re featuring some of our favorite sessions. Next up Terri, photographer at Terri J Photography highlights a recent senior dog photo shoot in Toronto.

Then just keep clicking through until you land right back her with me & Hana. 

application for unleashed 2023 now open

Does your dog have what it takes to be an Emerge model?

What to read next?

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Dogs in Landscape Photography

For some photographers they fall in love with the art of photography and photograph everything - families, weddings, engagements, landscapes. And then they realize there’s one subject they just can’t get enough of and specialize. For me, photography has always been...


  1. Nicole

    Congratulations on your top 10s and your highly commended album!

  2. Terri

    Great dogs on rocks image. Congrats on your top 10

  3. Darlene

    Such a fun category to photograph! Congrats on top 10!

  4. Ina

    Great photo! Congrats on the top 10! and can’t wait to see your photos from the next challenge.

  5. Tracy Allard

    Congratulations on your top 10! Love Hanna on that rock, just gorgeous and I like the explanation of your editing work.


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