Tuesday, April 07, 2009

12 Steps to Beautiful Pet Photos

You love your pet, and wish you could capture their unique and lovable personality in photos. But, when you pull out your digital point and shoot, the results fall far short of what you had in mind. The best solution may very well be to hire a pet photographer who has the gear, and the experience to capture the images you want. But even the best pet photographer will not have the close relationship with your pet that you do, and she certainly won’t have the same opportunities to capture all those antics that your non-human friend shows only to you.

So, here are 12 tips to capture great photos of your pet:

1. Always have your camera ready to go.

There is nothing worse than finding a dead battery and full memory card when the Kodak moment finally happens. Make sure this doesn’t happen to you. Get a spare battery and a spare memory card for your camera, and keep them handy. Better yet, get into a regular habit of charging your batteries and transferring the images on your camera to your computer or online gallery. If you are a prodigious shooter, do it after each session. If you shoot sparingly, make sure you do it at least a couple of times a month. The memory card won’t be affected, but batteries can go stale after sitting idle too long.

And, if you don’t use rechargeable batteries, now is a good time to start!

2. Turn off the flash if possible.

The pros know that strange or unusual things can really unsettle an animal, so they if they must use a flash, they take the time to allow the animal to get used to it. But, that flash on your camera can look like lightning to a pet who is not used to it. And if your pet is afraid of thunderstorms, chances are she’ll be afraid of the flash, too. So, proceed with caution to avoid spooking your pet. A cat who dives under the couch to get away from the flash will not be very photogenic.

Instead of using flash, turn on a bright light. A flash light, or a 100-watt bulb with no shade will provide plenty of light. Just aim it at the subject, but be careful of where the shadows land.

Another plus about eliminating the flash is that you won’t have to deal with demon eye to fix in Photoshop.

3. Get down to eye level

One or two photos of your pet gazing up at you lovingly—even if it is because you are holding a hot dog—is cute, but a better perspective for a photo is your pet’s eye level. So, crawl on your belly, or elevate the pet on a pillow or chair, to capture an image that shows the beauty of your pet’s physique and in a pose that is comfortable for her. You’ll like the difference.

4. Declutter the background

How many cute poses and expressions have been ruined by the overflowing laundry basket, scattered toys or other unseemly clutter in the background of your pet pics? Sure, if you are handy with Photoshop, and you have a few hours to spare, you could eliminate the distractions in the background, but the pros know that a fix in post-production is never as good as getting it right in the camera.

So, position yourself, or your subject (your pet) to minimize those distractions. Or better yet, keep the area where your pet likes to hang out clutter free. (Well, at least you could try!)

5. Zoom in

Another way to eliminate background clutter is to zoom in and fill the frame with your subject. A little bit of background can be helpful to show the setting, but a compelling image will give the viewer detail about the subject. So, get close and fill the frame with your pet, not the washer and dryer in the corner.

6. Don’t get too close-use the zoom lens.

As mentioned earlier, cameras are noisy, funny looking things that can make your pet nervous. So even though it is important to get close to your subject to fill the frame, getting too close with a funky looking square thing with one eye and a strange light on it can ruin the mood.

Even the most basic camera has a zoom feature on it, so now is the time to use it. Try to keep about five or six feet of distance at a minimum between you and your subject, and you will find that your pet will be more comfortable. She may even tolerate a flash at that distance.

7. Use a treat or noise maker to get their attention

Just like people, pets have their own preferences. Find out what gets your pet’s attention. Is it a treat? A favorite toy? Use this item to “tease” her to give you an alert expression. Hold it near the camera so it will look like she is looking into the camera lens.

Remember to use this “teaser” sparingly. After a couple of fake-outs your pet will realize that it is a game, and may lose interest. Make sure you reward her with the favorite item as soon as you get the shot.

8. Focus on the eyes

There is an English proverb that says the eyes are the window to the soul. So, to capture a soulful image, make sure you get the eyes in focus. This can be tricky with animals that have long snouts, but keep an eye on your viewfinder’s focus point, and make sure the eyes have it.

9. Look for their personality

This is where you can show the goofy tricks your pet likes to do. Does your dog hold a biscuit on her nose? Does your kitty like to perch on your shoulder? Look for the things that make your pet unique, and get ready to take the picture when she starts getting ready to open her bag of tricks.

10. Watch the body language

You know your pet better than anyone, so you should be able to easily see when she has had enough. Your pet may not speak English, but she will tell you how she feels about the photo session through her body language. Look for the position of the ears, the turn of the head and what is going on with the tail. For a dog, wide eyes, flattened ears, a lowered tail and a turned head are all signs that she is not happy. Stop at that point and try again another day. You won’t like the photos if your pet doesn’t like the session.

11. Make it quick

Even the most well trained pet will quickly tire of sitting still waiting for you to get ready to take the picture. Get your gear ready before you get your pet in position. Take a few test shots using a doll or stuffed animal. Then when you have every thing set where you want it, bring in your pet. Just remember that they don’t sit still for very long, and be prepared to follow them.

12. Show it off!

After you capture THE shot, print it, email it, post it in your gallery. Share it with the world so everyone can see the reason you love your pet.

Do YOU have some pet photos tips to share? Post them in the comments section below.


Dave said...

How to tell when you pet's had enough...


"Oh, come on...are we through?"

Judy McCleery said...

Great photo Dave--yes your Scottie says it all-he definitely looks like he had enough! Thanks for sharing.