Pet photographers have an amazing talent. They have the ability to capture your animal’s personality with the camera. A talented artist can show real moments of athleticism, such as your Golden Retriever catching a tennis ball in midair, and can show their personality as your miniature Poodle looks lovingly into your eyes.
So how can you take great pet photos? Learning to take pictures of your pet takes a lot of patience and planning. We’ve created a list of some of our favorite tricks to help you improve your skills.
Ditch the Stage
The days of pet portraits are long gone. Owners no longer want to see their Siamese kittens sitting stiff and still in a formal background. Instead, they want to see these playful siblings rolling around on a bathrobe, snuggling in a basket, or batting at a ball of yarn. While staged photos don’t look natural, the best shots capture moments of joy. Plan your sessions outside, or where your little guys are likely to feel comfortable, and you’ll see a difference immediately.
Get in on the Action
Pets love to play! They are always running after balls, wrestling and tumbling with each other, or chasing butterflies down the hill. Plan activities that will capture your pets in action, and let their personalities shine through. Stay quiet as they wrestle and tumble, and snap shots while they are enjoying their freedom.
Catching Their Attention
After a busy tumbling session, your Schnauzer may be ready for a nap. Let him relax in his natural surroundings, and quietly call his name to get him to look into the camera. If your Calico is still awake, use a noisy toy or a tasty treat to get her to look you right in the eye.
Focus on the Eyes
The old adage says that the eyes are the window of the soul, and that is especially true when you are taking pictures. Zoom in close, and focus on their eyes. Ginny’s huge brown eyes will tug at your viewer’s heart, so capture their essence from the start.
Play with the Shutter Speed
A higher shutter speed lets you capture amazing action shots. Since your little guys are probably quick on their feet, it’s going to be tough to get them to sit still and pose. The best way to get high quality stock photography is to set at your shutter speed on the fastest level, which may be featured as the sports mode on some DSLR cameras.
Keep clicking and see what you can capture. If you shoot a lot of pictures, you are more likely to get the perfect image. With digital cameras, film is no longer an expense, so take as many pictures as you can. You can always delete the ones that you don’t like.
Check Your White Balance
Most people underestimate the power of white balance. Make sure that your camera will produce the actual colors that you see instead of an awkward discolored shot. Use the tips under getting the proper white balance to help you get the best possible shots.
Clear the Background
While stiff portrait sessions are no longer in style, you still need to focus on your background. Use your hands to make a rectangle that represents the completed image. Is the background cluttered? Are there unnecessary items appearing in your snapshot? Each of these distractions will take the focus off of your pet, so take a few moments to clean up and declutter before you begin.
Use the Right Aperature
Professionals know that the ideal focal range for action photography is 35mm to 135mm. Most compact cameras and SLR lenses have this focal range. Wider apertures of f2.8, 3.5, and so forth give you the opportunity to create better action shots. Set the ISO to 200 or 400, depending on the lighting conditions. Adjust the aperture based on the ISO settings.
Point of View
Point of view plays a very important role in action photographs. Just like corners play a very important role in the dramatic images of sports shots, your yard’s corners and the garden’s background are natural props. Frame your photos with natural elements such as trees or a cozy corner to enhance the aesthetics. Or make your pet stand out by taking a picture of a dark-colored pet against light colored plants.
The best shots are taken at eye level. Low angle shots can be very dramatic, and close up shots often turn a ho-hum shot into a stunning image. A good tripod can help you get at the right height. For example, if you are taking a picture of a small animal, such as a few white mice tumbling around, or a miniature schnauzer, your tripod should be set at short height. Or get down on the ground so you and your pet are on the same level. However, if you are working with a German Shepard or a pit bull, you need to be working with a taller setup.
Getting a Pan Shot
The dramatic images of racing cars in sports magazines are created with a pan shot. A pan shot allows you to work with a relatively lower shutter speed to create a motion effect. The only way to master this difficult technique is to practice. When you want to maintain a consistent shutter speed for pan shots, adjust the aperture and ISO for the right exposure.
Even though the focus of this article is mastering pet photography, the best way to practice this difficult skill is to visit your local race track or horse racing club. If you don’t have access to any of these, take your gear to a local park that is near a highway and practice pan shots by photographing speeding cars. With regular practice, you will learn how to master the art of working with motion and shutter speed to create great pan shots.
Perfect Your Focus
If you have a Digital SLR, autofocus will work like a charm with the right lens. However, even the best performance from an auto focus lens is not nearly fast as manual focus. The tricky part about manual focus is getting the focus right. Assuming the approaching angle and position of your pet is a great way to keep your camera ready for the shots.
Follow focus are very difficult and takes time to learn. Practice follow focuses on flying birds or ask a family member to throw a Frisbee. Using a tripod reduces the pressure when you practice follow focus.
It takes time to learn how to be a pet photographer, but these great tricks can help you improve your pet photography skills. Practice them repeatedly until you become comfortable with your camera, and make any adjustments to help you get the right picture. As you take more photos, you will find that you will even find your own personal photography secrets for great action shots of your pets.