Pets, like any member of a family, have unique personalities, individual responses to situations, and particular ways of expressing themselves. From a dog that loves to play hide and seek, peering from around a corner, to a cat that triumphantly perches in its favorite spot after removing anyone who dares to trespass on its prized territory, these small events are among the fond memories of pet owning families. Capturing the nuance of these situations simply requires a camera and the use of a few photographic techniques.
Choosing the Shot
There are a number of ways to shoot great pictures of a pet. Portraits can be challenging with a pet, but the end results are worth the extra effort. Using food, toys, or another person to direct a pet to look in a particular direction or to elicit a certain expression may be necessary. To obtain a more natural scene, incorporating interaction with other animals or family members can help to create an image that better captures the true personality of the animal and a more typical atmosphere, as attention is drawn away from the camera.
Photograph pets where they’re comfortable—lying on a favorite chair or gazing out a window. Another ideal setting is wherever they can be engaged in a favorite or natural activity. This helps to reduce some of the difficulty in getting an acceptable pose in front of a camera and better reflects the behavior and personality of a pet.
Setting Up the Shot
As is true when photographing other types of subjects, assuring that the background is free of clutter or distracting objects can help to focus attention in the shot on the pet. A plain background often creates the best backdrop.
Wiping the eyes of a pet prior to shooting can also help to eliminate any distracting residue that will take away from the focus on their eyes.
Just as with small children, anyone hoping to capture the best images of their pet will need to approach the situation with patience. Waiting for the right shot to happen is often a prime ingredient. Once the right setting or situation is selected and any needed props or helpers are assembled, the task of getting the best photo will frequently require multiple shots with the camera.
Taking the Shot
Getting photos that show the detail of a pet’s features requires getting the camera up close and on their level. The pet should fill the frame and the photographer’s viewpoint should be near the eye level of the pet. When getting close with the camera isn’t an option, zooming can help to achieve similar results, and when all else fails, cropping during the editing phase can also improve results. Although the pet’s eyes should be the focus of the shot in most instances, it is important to avoid on-camera front-facing flash to eliminate the eerie glow that can occur when flash bounces off of the eye.
Whenever possible it is best to avoid using flash with a pet. The risk of getting the unwanted reflection in the eyes is significant and some pets will even learn to avoid the flash by closing their eyes at an inopportune moment. For this reason, photographing pets outdoors is often easier, particularly early or late in the day or in the shade when harsh sunlight doesn’t take away from their features.
When photographing indoors and available light is insufficient, better photographs are easier with a camera that allows the on-camera flash to be disabled or removed. The photographer can then bounce the light off of a wall or ceiling to avoid any harsh glare.
Selecting the appropriate setting on the camera can help achieve optimal focusing. Many consumer model cameras have settings such as portrait and action, which function nicely. Using the burst mode or sequence-shot setting when trying to capture images of a pet while playing can allow rapid shots that best capture the activity.
For millions of individuals and families who have pets as part of their lives, preserving memories of their time with us can be important. A good camera and knowledge of just a few photographic techniques can help to capture the kind of images that will be treasured for years to come.
About the Author
Christine Peppler encourages readers to visit her website for more information about using, caring for, and selecting a camera.
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