Taking compelling pictures of our four legged friends is usually easier said than done. Animals have minds of their own, and often times can’t just be posed into place like a bowl of fruit in a studio still life. But, with a few techniques in tow, it’s possible to transform the task from taxing challenge into dynamic photo session. Marcin Lewandowski from Adorama explains what he does when he has a cat, dog, or other pet standing in front of his lens:
During this one hour photo shoot, Lewandowski puts his own advice to the test, and the results prove to be phenomenal. Here are some of the basic methods he demonstrates and suggests:
Listen to cues. Animals may not be able to verbally express their thoughts and feelings, but they can certainly communicate through their behavior and body language. Pay attention to your subjects, the way you would with any human model. Try your best to accommodate their needs whenever necessary.
Have a few treats on hand. Let’s face it—we’re a lot more invested in photographing our animals than they are of actually having their picture taken. Food is one of the easiest ways to grab their attention. Use this to your advantage when setting up a composition or trying to capture an animal’s gaze.
Bring along a familiar face. If a photo shoot is the very first time you’re interacting with an animal, they understandably may be on edge. One of the easiest ways to make them comfortable is to have a familiar human companion close at hand. Aside from reassuring them that they’re safe, having a person who knows the animal first hand may be able to help you get the shot that you need.
Build a connection. Juxtaposing human and animal features often creates a relatable and interesting results. Alternatively, different animal subjects paired together can make for a fun photograph (provided that all the parties in play are willing to cooperate!).
Get on their level. Animals don’t see the world from our eyes. Physically go down to the ground. You’ll almost always get a better shot when you try to understand your subject’s perspective.
Go wide. Unless you’re making an intimate portrait, try using a wider lens. Doing so will capture more of their environment and allow more opportunity for movement and action.
Come in with an open mind. There’s not a whole lot of prep that you can do before a photo shoot with an animal. It’s much more effective to dive into the situation and feel out each individual’s boundaries. Just walk in with a list of potential shots and see what works; eventually, you’ll wind up with something great.
“Animals are great companions to photograph, so long as we treat them well and give them their dignity—accompanied by a few tasty treats.”
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