Quick Tips from a Pet Photographer
***As seen in the December January issue of Flagstaff Sedona Dog Magazine.
After many months of sheltering in place, pet parents across the nation were looking for fun and creative outlets. Throughout the late months of the summer, social media feeds began filling with close-up shots of furry family members – Fido nestled into his bed, Spot learning a new trick, Buddy dressed up yet again. There is something therapeutic about catching our pets on camera, and our profiles reflect this. As we continue to see the rising trend of animal Instagram accounts and selfies with pets, it is important to consider the basics of Pet photography. Pet photography is a quickly growing niche market, with specialty skills and techniques. Pets are a unique subject with even more unique challenges. Here are a few helpful tips for any pet parent to utilize when photographing in the home, from your friendly neighborhood pet and portrait artist.
Get on their Level: While a bird’s eye photo of your pup smiling up at you can certainly be cute, the best images are often shot from their eye level or below. This helps the animal to feel more at ease and enables us to capture the world the way they see it. It also draws the viewer in and humanizes the pet in the picture. A true artist will complement the standard snapshots in their gallery with more engaging portraits.
Focus on the Eyes: We know that the eyes are a window to the soul, and an animal’s eyes are particularly expressive. For the most engaging pictures, the focus should be on the eyes and they should be crisp, clear, and captivating. If you are having a hard time getting an animal to look at you it is never a bad idea to make strange noises or get their attention with a toy or treat.
Pay your Model Well: When it comes to treats, an abundance of small treats can help a pet enjoy the session, stay engaged with the camera, and even look forward to other times posing for a picture. We always want to positively reinforce the experience of photography so we can continue to get good results with our beloved pets. Be prepared to reward your dog with frequent treats and plenty of praise. The more we reward their good behavior, the more they will reward us with great shots. Keep your pets interested in the camera and make sure they have as much fun as you!
Plan your Shot: Remember that you do not have to be a professional to preserve some great memories. That being said, it’s good practice to set up a shot with good natural light (never use flash with an animal subject), a clutter-free location, and well planned angle and composition. The resulting image will be not only a great moment with your pet, but a wonderful piece of art. Planning your images with props, lighting, and timing can help tell a story and speak to viewers on a deeper level.
Stay Patient & Playful: Pet photography requires a lot of patience, and few animals can perform in the first minutes of a session. Be patient while you let your pets work out their energy and learn the ropes. Avoid reacting to bad behavior, and always remember that animals are sensitive to our emotional energy. If the photographer is impatient or stressed, the animal can quickly become agitated as well. The resulting facial expressions, flattened ears, or tucked tails do not make for a picture perfect image. Instead of working quite so hard for the perfect shot, remember to breathe, have fun with your pup, and work with their personality to get the right image. When in doubt, you can always put the camera away and just cuddle or play for now.
These are just a few easy strategies to take your pictures from good to great; you do not have to be professional to create pizazz. The best camera is the one in your hand, and the best photographer is the one who enjoys the moment. Above all else take your time and enjoy this time with your pets. Play with different perspectives, backgrounds, and lighting. Take more pictures than you think you will need, and then go through the extras later. Take a break or take a breath whenever you need it. Remember, this is just one more activity to celebrate and spend time with your furry family member! As such, it should be a great time for all! I can’t wait to see what you create!