Pet Photography Professional Techniques

By: butterfly
OK. You have your pet. You have your camera. You have the desire. Why can't you get a picture that doesn't show the back of your pet's head as he/she walks away from the camera or a shot of an oversized nose as they try to sniff your lens?

The professionals make it seem so easy, don't they? I've noticed that when you read their instructions about how "easy" it is, you wind up more confused than ever and get completely lost in the ISO's of the thing-a-ma-gigs and the whatzit number on the whoszits.

Let's get some basics in here. We know you may not be interested in becomming a professional photographer. You may not even be interested in taking a professional looking photo of your pet. You may simply want a nice photo of Skippy to stick in your wallet, on your fridge, or in a frame on the piano that doesn't make him look like an alien.

First of all, if you're still using film and you're shooting outside, stick to ISO 400. Suffice to say it will help make your pet photos less blurry. If you are inside, go for ISO 800 since chances are you will have less light to work with and you will need it. Take my word for it.

Now, if you are still using film you are either a professional already and not reading this, or as stubborn as the day is long and determined not to be dragged into the 21st technilogical century unless it's kicking and screaming that there's "nothing wrong with your old camera!"

Well, there probably isn't anything wrong with your old camera but the "new-fangled digital cameras" have several distinct advantages in the pet photography department. Most of them can shoot several pictures quickly in a sort of "stop action" animation-type sequence. You will at least have better odds of one decent moving shot! The new fangled digitals also let you check immediately for how badly you screwed up, let you ditch the pictures you hate, and give you plenty of time to try to get Fido to chase that squirrel up the tree one more time.

BE GROUNDED! No, that doesn't have anything to do with taking photos in a lightning storm. Pet photography is at its best when it's taken from the animal's perspective. Your pet will be far less intimidated by the little black (or silver) eye that appears to be eating your face if you get down to your dog's level. Remember, your dog (cat-bird-iguana) doesn't know that you are the owner of the camera and that you control it. From the animal's perspective, this is a strange little box that has removed one of your eyes from your face and flashes blinding light in the pet's eyes before it lets you go!

Try not to use the flash! Yes, it's easy for me to say that as you grovel around on the living room floor at dusk. Obviously when you can, it is better to try pet photography outdoors in natural daylight. Brilliant light can be tough despite the fact that it seems to you that the colors around you appear wonderful. You will have to check for shadows, both your own in the frame, and shadows on the face of your pet. Cloudy (not tornado type cloudy) but lightly overcast skies can create soft light and sublte shadowing both indoors and outdoors.

If you must participate in pet photography indoors, try to use the natural light from your windows. Reposition a chair next to the window that contrasts nicely with the color of your dog or cat...or iguana, and make him comfy. The animal will be less stressed and undoubtedly thrilled to be allowed on the furniture.

Don't forget to speak! Remember, if the little black or silver box is swallowing your face and you don't make any noise, your pooch is more likely to thik either you or he is in serious trouble. Whatever cutesy words you usually use to get Fido or Spatz-Kat to behave will do wonders for camera-stress.

There you go! You may not make this month's National Geographic, but Grandma will love the picture of Fido digging up her prize roses.



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