Today’s photo tip is to help you in shooting better pet photos. Pet portraits can be the most fun you’ve ever had with your camera, you’ll meet a bunch of really nice people and it’s one of the easiest ways I know to go “pro” if that is a goal of yours.
When I was specializing in pet photos, at first I used to work very hard at shooting the dog with its tongue in its mouth!
This is always a good strategy because it gives you an elegant, classic portrait.
But, my customers would look at my photos and frequently I heard comments like, “But he doesn’t look happy!” They could never explain why the dog didn’t look happy, just that it was true.
This stumped me for a long time. The ears were up, the dog looked alert, and I clearly remembered the dog as being very happy that day. The portraits were gorgeous.
Finally, I tried shooting a series of shots with the tongue out – AND I NEVER HEARD THAT COMPLAINT AGAIN!
When the tongue is out, the dog looks happier and more playful. You lose a bit of the elegant look, but gain a lot of personality.
When you are shooting, do some of each. Tongue in for a more classic and elegant pet portrait. Tongue out for a happier more playful, exuberant one.
But, the tongue has to be in front of the mouth; not hanging out the side… no one likes those. It’s amazing how long some of those tongues can be! Whether to the front or the side, you don’t want it hanging halfway to the ground.
Get a dog’s toy that squeaks. They have them in almost all grocery stores. I like to get the “newspaper” one. They are flat and don’t roll away when it hits the ground. Get ready to shoot and then gently squeak the toy.
The ears will pop up, and the tongue will go in – for about half a second. So, you have that half a second to get your contest winning shot.
Eventually, the dog will get tired of the squeak and it won’t work any more. When that happens, gently flick the squeaker into the air. (Near the lens.) Shoot fast, the dog is going to go for the toy. See why I don’t want it rolling away? I want to get it first!
You will only get a second or two for the shot, but with a bit of practice, that is plenty of time. While I always recommend taking your camera off its automatic settings, with animal photos, auto focus is almost a MUST!
Shooting better pet photos is easily with reach of all of us. Give it a try! Pet portraits are very rewarding and the pet owners will love you forever!
About the Author:
Dan Eitreim writes for ontargetphototraining.com. He has been a professional photographer in Southern California for over 20 years. His philosophy is that learning photography is easy if you know a few tried and true strategies.
Pets, like any member of a family, have unique personalities, individual responses to situations, and particular ways of expressing themselves. From a dog that loves to play hide and seek, peering from around a corner, to a cat that triumphantly perches in its favorite spot after removing anyone who dares to trespass on its prized territory, these small events are among the fond memories of pet owning families. Capturing the nuance of these situations simply requires a camera and the use of a few photographic techniques.
There are a number of ways to shoot great pictures of a pet. Portraits can be challenging with a pet, but the end results are worth the extra effort. Using food, toys, or another person to direct a pet to look in a particular direction or to elicit a certain expression may be necessary. To obtain a more natural scene, incorporating interaction with other animals or family members can help to create an image that better captures the true personality of the animal and a more typical atmosphere, as attention is drawn away from the camera.
Photograph pets where they’re comfortable—lying on a favorite chair or gazing out a window. Another ideal setting is wherever they can be engaged in a favorite or natural activity. This helps to reduce some of the difficulty in getting an acceptable pose in front of a camera and better reflects the behavior and personality of a pet.
As is true when photographing other types of subjects, assuring that the background is free of clutter or distracting objects can help to focus attention in the shot on the pet. A plain background often creates the best backdrop.
Wiping the eyes of a pet prior to shooting can also help to eliminate any distracting residue that will take away from the focus on their eyes.
Just as with small children, anyone hoping to capture the best images of their pet will need to approach the situation with patience. Waiting for the right shot to happen is often a prime ingredient. Once the right setting or situation is selected and any needed props or helpers are assembled, the task of getting the best photo will frequently require multiple shots with the camera.
Getting photos that show the detail of a pet’s features requires getting the camera up close and on their level. The pet should fill the frame and the photographer’s viewpoint should be near the eye level of the pet. When getting close with the camera isn’t an option, zooming can help to achieve similar results, and when all else fails, cropping during the editing phase can also improve results. Although the pet’s eyes should be the focus of the shot in most instances, it is important to avoid on-camera front-facing flash to eliminate the eerie glow that can occur when flash bounces off of the eye.
Whenever possible it is best to avoid using flash with a pet. The risk of getting the unwanted reflection in the eyes is significant and some pets will even learn to avoid the flash by closing their eyes at an inopportune moment. For this reason, photographing pets outdoors is often easier, particularly early or late in the day or in the shade when harsh sunlight doesn’t take away from their features.
When photographing indoors and available light is insufficient, better photographs are easier with a camera that allows the on-camera flash to be disabled or removed. The photographer can then bounce the light off of a wall or ceiling to avoid any harsh glare.
Selecting the appropriate setting on the camera can help achieve optimal focusing. Many consumer model cameras have settings such as portrait and action, which function nicely. Using the burst mode or sequence-shot setting when trying to capture images of a pet while playing can allow rapid shots that best capture the activity.
For millions of individuals and families who have pets as part of their lives, preserving memories of their time with us can be important. A good camera and knowledge of just a few photographic techniques can help to capture the kind of images that will be treasured for years to come.
About the Author
Christine Peppler encourages readers to visit her website for more information about using, caring for, and selecting a camera.