Pro-photographer Emily Holland offers top tips on getting the best animal pictures from your smart phone or digital camera. Get ready... get set... get snapping!
Sometimes our furry friends are far too busy chasing their tails and staring dreamily out of the window to pay any attention to us and our cameras! You may think that unless you have a fancy camera with an even fancier lens, there's no chance of catching your pet in that perfect pose.
There are, however, a few tips and tricks that you can use to get some great pet photographs at home. Apply some of these tips whilst snapping with your smart phone or digital camera and you'll be a match for any professional photographer!
Think about your pet’s personality
Try to think about what kind of character your pet has. For example, are they lazy? Energetic? Or maybe playful or silly? If your pet loves to sleep during the day, then try to snap them in their basket or favourite sleeping spot. A sleeping pet is much easier to photograph than one that’s up and moving around… and shots of your pet snoozing can make for super cute portraits! If, on the other hand, they are full of energy and enjoy a good run outside, then maybe start with photographing them in the garden. You could try capturing them playing with their favourite toy when they are relaxed and at their happiest. This way you will be sure to snap something about their unique personality in your photos.
Natural or posed?
There are two different approaches you can take to photographing your pet…
1. Try posing
Encourage your pet to sit patiently in a spot of your choice and get them to look at the camera. This isn’t as easy as it sounds and won’t work for every pet, particularly if yours is very playful and won’t sit still for as long as you need them to. Try asking someone to help distract them while you snap away. Get them to perform some tricks that they might know and use treats to encourage them to look in the right direction. This will require a bit of patience, but you can capture some great photographs this way with a little effort and perseverance. If you’re using treats don’t forget to reward your pet afterwards for their great work!
2. Au naturel
Try a more natural and easier approach to your photo shoot by snapping away whilst your pet is playing, relaxing or simply doing what they do best! Often a natural photograph can be the best way of portraying your pet’s true nature and characteristics. This may require you to do a bit of pet detective work to find out where your pet enjoys spending his time, but this can be a lot easier than trying to pose and keep them still without them getting too bored or restless.
Location and surroundings
An important factor in taking a great portrait is the location you use. Using a plain backdrop can make a photograph look very professional and sometimes the simplest photos are the best. Clear the area of any distractions that may get in the way of your photo or occupy your pet’s attention. You will find it much easier to keep your pet focused if his favourite toy isn’t sitting nearby! Try shooting against a plain wall, carpet or floor, a patch of grass or even use a bed sheet or textured blanket as a backdrop. You could try experimenting with different coloured sheets to get some bold and exciting shots.
Something else you can try to make your photos more interesting is getting right up close to your pet and capturing all the details in their face and eyes. You’ll need a camera that will allow you to zoom in, as you may catch them looking a bit uncomfortable if the camera is too close.
Experiment with different angles and perspectives for some interesting portraits. Get right down to your pet’s level to take some photos from their point of view and see the world from their eyes!
Try turning the camera at an angle rather than pointing it straight or maybe even go for a shot looking down at them to make a creative looking image. Think about shooting from the side to get your pet’s side-profile. This would add a really artistic look to your photographs and you may capture some details you wouldn’t necessarily see straight on. However you decide to photograph your pet, remember to make sure you focus on their eyes instead of their nose. If your pet’s eyes are nice and clear in your photographs they will look really sharp and professional.
If your pet moves around a lot and you are finding it hard to get them to stay in one place, one trick to consider is using a platform for them to stand on such as a table or chair. If they are up off the ground they are less likely to move around and may be encouraged to sit, lay down or simply stay within the space. Be sure not to use anything too high that will scare your pet and have someone nearby just incase they decide to jump! You could even drape a blanket or sheet over your chosen platform to add some colour or disguise the object you decide to sit them on.
Lighting and shadows
Lighting is a very important thing to think about if you want to achieve a good quality photo, especially if your pet has dark fur or features that you want your photograph to show. Natural light tends to work best with pets as it helps depict their natural markings and true colourings. If you can, avoid using a flash on your camera or phone as this will result in a spooky, red eye effect and can often create a very harsh, flat shadow.
Instead, if you are shooting indoors, find a window that lets in plenty of natural light and photograph your pet beside it. This can create a lovely bright and dreamy look to your photographs too. Try and stand so you have the best of the light behind you or to one side and remember to get down low so you aren’t creating a shadow or blocking any of the light yourself. If you want to get really creative you could try making your own reflector to bounce more light onto your pet’s face. You can make reflectors out of white paper, card or even tin foil.
If you decide to photograph your pet outside, try to take your photographs with your back to the sun if it’s a bright day. Taking a photograph facing the sun may overexpose your photo and make your pet looked washed out if it’s too bright. Sometimes a cloudy or overcast day can make for the best photographs as there is less risk of your snaps coming out too sunny or with any dark shadows.
Use a mixture of these top tips in your pet’s very own home photo shoot and you’ll be bound to capture some family favourites.