If you’ve always wanted to give pet photography a whirl, you’ll need to have an abundance of patience, be able to understand an animal’s behavior cues and know the decisive moment on when to snap the shutter. The best pet photos capture the natural personality and beauty of the animal itself. Here’s 5 ideas help you get the most out of photographing these creatures.
To truly capture the animal’s personality, it’s just like humans… the eyes have it! But with individual animals, there are also so many more unique elements. Paws, tails, fur texture and coloring can all be highlighted in beautiful detail shots to convey the personality. These look especially great framed in a series of three.
2. Let Sleeping Dogs Lie
Let’s face it. Animals may not be as cooperative as your human subjects, especially since they have no idea what you’re saying to them. Take advantage of the opportunity when you subject decides he or she is going to snooze the session away.
- Get down on their level and walk or crawl around to capture them from all angles. Or get totally overhead to capture the unique curl of a tail or tilt of a head.
- Check with the owner to make sure you can wake up your sleeping beauty. A gentle scratch on the belly for dogs should do the trick. Be sure to have the camera ready because when pets wake up they can do some really fun stretches and rituals that will make great shots.
- At this point I recommend turning the flash off and shooting at a low ISO so you don’t startle the animal. Mount the camera on a tripod to avoid image blur. Use Aperture Priority Mode and a large aperture. You’ll get low noise and natural lighting along with a nicely blurred background to keep the focus on your subject.
3. Make it Fun
You may have to start the shoot with a high-energy, playful mood. This is great as well. Action shots with the animal playing with a toy or another furry friend make amazing images as well.
You may want to ask the owner for help here. Ask them to bring a favorite toy to have on or off set. Have the owner stand off to the side to get their pet’s attention. Be sure to have the owner get in the shot as well. They’ll appreciate some beautiful portraits of them with their favorite friend. The action shots may take a bit more practice than the stills but it will be worth the extra effort in the end.
Start with a fast shutter speed to freeze the action. Set the shutter to 1/1000 second on Shutter Priority to start and adjust as you move through the shoot. You may also want to use a slower shutter speed to add some interest with blurred motion.
4. Come On and Vogue!
Once you get a few shoots under your belt with letting the animal do their thing, go a bit further and try posing your pooch or kitty. The animals will not want to look directly at the camera (but that’s a good thing!) You don’t want a boring straight on shot. Try to get dogs to sit with a command or a feline to behave with a little bit of catnip. Or, try a bit of milk with cats as well to calm them down. Brushing and gentle petting of any pet is sure to get them relaxed allowing you to pose the animal into some artistic and interesting shapes.
5.Hats, Coats and Tutus, Oh My!
Who doesn’t love the irony of dressing up a pet? A dog in a handsome fedora or a tiny white kitten in a pink tutu can’t be beat for fun and unique portraits. Be sure to have all different types of sizes on hand to accommodate for the wide variety of pet sizes you’ll encounter. For some great inspiration in this area, check out the book 101 and One Salvations by photographer Rachael Hale or any You Tube™ cat video.