How to Take Better Pet Photos
I often get asked how I'm able to get such beautiful photographs of animals when they can't even get their pet to hold still for a second with their phone. People seem to think that good pet pictures require a huge amount of patience and some kind of talent that they just don't possess. Well this just isn't true and in this email newsletter (my first one!) I'll explain 4 useful techniques to get better pictures of your pet!
1. Patience is required. But not as much as you think.
In the studio my camera is basically trained on the pet for most of the session. Consequently this gives me an advantage when the pet does something zany, like yawn or give me a sideways look. If you're using a camera at home, even the one in your phone, point the camera toward your pet and be ready. Having the camera already aimed at your subject gives you an advantage, your finger's already on the shutter! It also means your camera won't have to readjust for exposure before you press the shutter, the camera is already ready for the shot. Patience is required but you can handle it. After all, the Mona Lisa wasn't painted in a day!
2. Get eye contact.
Why do some pet pictures seem more meaningful and striking than others? Animals have personalities much like humans. They have emotions and feelings and feel happiness and joy like us. Emotion is most often communicated through the eyes and this goes the same for pets. Getting your pet to look into the camera is probably the most important thing you can do to get a photograph that speaks to who your pet really is.
Some techiques to accomplish this? How about a sqeaky toy? But wait! - don't squeak it too much, they'll lose interest. Wait until just the right moment, with the toy right by the camera then give a single squeak. It's likely that your dog will look right at you and give you a puzzled or inquisitive look or at least something that will make you laugh. It will take a little patience. If you're shooting photos of a cat you're going to have to work a little harder on this one.
3. Lighting is Everything.
If you're not in a well-lit room or are using the flash on your camera or your phone as your sole source of light don't expect too much in the way of gorgeous lighting. Instead go play with your pet next to a window or an open door. The light coming in from the side or behind can make for gorgeous highlights. Then you can use your flash to fill in the shadows. Or even better yet go outside if it's a nice day!
Even better than that is to wait for sunset - the light during the "golden hour" is beautiful and creates wonderful highlights. If you're in direct sunlight put the sun behind your pet and use your flash to fill in the shadows. Or you can find a nice spot in the shade. Shade often makes for even light and it's fairly easy to get a good exposure. Practice in both situations, it will take some experimentation but you can get some great shots using natural light.
4. Assistants can be very helpful.
If you've had a pet photo session in my studio then you know how much you're involved in your pet's shoot. Sometimes the owners need a break before the pets do! Pets know you best since you're their owner but having someone there helping out can be a great help. Your assistant can get your pet's attention and keep them animated while you concentrate on getting the shot you want.
Have your assistant squeak a toy at just the right time or have them hold a reflector for you. (If you don't have a reflector even a piece of cardboard with a white sheet placed over it can add some light where you want it.) It doesn't have to be complicated, just play with your pet with an assistant there and snap away. You're bound to get some great shots especially if you follow a few of the techniques I discussed earlier.
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