A pet has a very special and important place in a family’s home. Many of them have their photos framed and placed either on the desk or wall. However, taking a picture of the family pet isn’t always easy, as they do not understand the art of posing for the camera. Given below are a few tried and tested tips to help conduct a smooth pet photography session.
But first things first, it is essential that the pet is made to feel comfortable and is at ease. Do not force them to come towards the photographer and get down to his level. We all know how a dog looks when viewed from above, this is the way we always see them. The photograph should show us the way they see the world. The photographer should either sit on the floor or lie on the belly and most importantly shoot from eye level or below.
1. Character: A successful picture is one that captures and conveys the character of the pet and is easy to get as one knows their pet best. For example, a lazy cat should be photographed while he is yawning, or if it has a playful nature, shoot a picture while he is performing his favorite trick.
2. Natural Lighting: When taking a picture of a pet use natural light to the maximum. A flash burst will not only cause ‘red eyes’ but may also frighten the animal, so it is best to avoid using the flash. Try to use the outdoors or if it is not possible, do so in a well lit room or by a large window.
3. “Eyes are the Window to the Soul”: It is important to have sharp eyes in any kind of portrait photography and pets have very expressive eyes. Make sure to focus on the pets eyes.
4. Go Macro: Using a long lens fill the frame with the face and fur. Close up shots often make for beautiful animal portraits.
5. Surprise: Getting a pet to hold still for a photo shoot can be difficult, so let him play quietly till all the camera equipment is in place. Let somebody surprise him by calling out his name and once his attention is caught, it will take only a few seconds to capture him in a sharp and alert pose.
6. Formal Pet Portrait: For a formal portrait shot, schedule the session when the animal is slightly sleepy or has just woken up. It is much easier to hold him still. For a more dynamic shot, pick a time when the pet is at his energetic best. If the pet is ill or under the weather it would be wise to reschedule the session.
7. Experiment: A pet photography session should be enjoyed as it takes time to get the right shot. Try different approaches, angles and compositions and shoot a lot so that there is variety to choose from later.
8. Patience: Pet photography requires a lot of patience. These furry friends are very excitable and with patience he will relax giving the photographer the opportunity to get a good shot.
9: Take pictures in RAW: It is often very hard to meter the fur. When the subject happens to be a white dog, shoot in manual mode and then over expose by 2/3 of a stop. Since the meter makes everything 80% gray, over exposure will get their fur white. One can also expose according to the meter but remember to dial in a 2/3 stop exposure compensation. Take the pictures in RAW, only if the subject is a solid-color animal. It is quite difficult to get good exposure of a completely black dog, but with RAW the detail of his fur can be recovered during post production. If there are guinea pigs, loud noises and the camera flash will tick them off. Once it is warm enough outside, try taking them (or the rabbit) into the backyard (one at a time, to keep track of them). The outdoors will make them settle down on the grass and the natural light will cut down on using the flash. Be really careful if you are in an area where there are flying predators though.
10. And finally: It is better to know beforehand the pets’ reaction to having their photo taken. If there are two cats, then the one that doesn’t like to have her picture taken will run away. In such a case, use a lot of zoom besides stealth and cunning. Always let the pet sniff the camera so that they are comfortable and don’t feel threatened by either the camera or the photographer. Let the pet be a bit hungry as they will respond better to a treat on top of the lens or from your other hand. This method works wonders in the case of food motivated dogs. What won’t work are too many distractions and excessive name calling as this makes the pet recoil. For those who want to take pictures of young cats or kittens, play with them until they are tired. Make sure to use a number of different teasers. Some cats prefer furry toys, others like ropy things and or feathery things. Then feed them and wait till they are sleepy. This works especially for a group photo. When working with animals, make sure to choose a workplace where they can’t hurt themselves when they try to jump off or escape. Forcing a pet to be photographed will either hurt the animal or ruin the picture.
~Zahid H Javali