Nothing gets an “ahhh” quicker than a cute pet photo. Unfortunately, as a photographer working with a lively subject, it can also be one of the most frustrating ordeals to get that cute pet photo. Below are a few tips that will make pet photography more enjoyable both for you and the animal.
Before we go any further, I must remind you that the most important part with this type of photography is the welfare of the pet. At some point, the pet will tire of being the object of study; however, s/he will tire quicker if it is not having fun.
Train Your Pet
If you just acquired a new pet, you can begin to train that pet to pose on command for photos. You do this by conditioning your pet to strike a particular pose when you say a special command word such “picture” or “camera” or “cheese”, or anything else you choose to call it. The key to your pet learning the command is repetition through practice, practice, and more practice.
Avoid Using Your Flash
Practice both posing and the actual capturing of the photos, so your pet will get used to the camera and studio lights. However, whenever possible, avoid using your flash. Pets quickly tire of having that bright light repeatedly flashed into their eyes.
After taking your pet’s photo, be sure to reward that acceptable behavior with a treat for your pet. Make the photo session an enjoyable and rewarding experience for your pet and it will be more willing to be the subject again in the future.
Use Natural Light
Whether shooting indoors or outside, try to use natural light. Normally it is a softer, less direct light resulting in photos with less of the harsh shadow effect. If you are shooting outdoors, control your background by either moving yourself or your pet. If the background is distracting and you can’t get rid of it, throw it out of focus by using selective focusing.
If the weather is not conducive to taking photos outside, you can always pose your pet near a window or patio door and take advantage of the soft light filtering in. If you are going to shoot in an area not normally frequented by your pet, spend a few days getting your pet use to this area before the photo session.
If your pet is a non-cage or non-habitat variety, you can make a simple non-distracting background from a solid color bed sheet or bath towel or a piece of fabric you can buy at any craft store. With any of the photos, you can blur the background by zooming in on your subject with a telephoto lens. These lenses inherently have a small depth-of-field so the background will naturally blur.
Also, by using a telephoto lens, you can have more distance between you and the pet, so you don’t have to have the camera right in the pet’s face. When you are ready to take the photo, focus on your pet’s eyes. If the eyes are in focus, the picture is a successful shot. Another technique is to shoot from your pet’s eye-level or lower instead of always shooting down at your pet.
Shot from cat’s eye level
Props are widely used in pet photography. A photo of your dog with a favorite toy will make a picture you will find endearing for years to come. If you are not using a toy familiar to your pet, introduce the prop early so your pet has time to become comfortable with the prop.
You can control the eye direction of your pet in many ways. For dogs, you can train them to look a certain direction when a whistle is blown a certain number of times. A flashlight can also be used and they will normally look in the direction of the light. For cats, usually a dangling toy will work or they will respond by looking in the direction of your voice.
Pet photography produces some of the most-treasured photos you will ever take. Using the techniques above will assist you in capturing those treasures.