As a photographer, one of the questions I am asked most often is: ďHow do you take such animated portraits of dogs and cats?Ē I have always felt strongly that being a good photographer comes from instinct and experience. I donít believe that you can teach someone to ďhave a good eye.Ē However, you can learn techniques that are helpful in taking good portraits of your pets, and you donít even need a professional camera. Here are tips to help you take great photos. Remember, practice makes perfect.
1. Develop a rapport with your pet
Before taking any photographs, spend some quality time with your pet so he will relax and pay attention to you. Talk to him and let him know that you love him. This creates a more comfortable atmosphere.
2. Use natural lighting
Dogs and cats move around a lot, so it helps to be able to move around with them. I like to photograph pets in their environment, where they feel most at home and comfortable. Using natural lighting is ideal because flashes and big lights can sometimes scare pets, and they wonít stay in one place too long.
3. Photograph them outdoors
Photographing outside is ideal, particularly for dogs because it gives them room to be playful and run around. Shooting outdoors also eliminates the need for extensive lighting, so you can move with your dogs or cats to wherever they decide to take you. It also allows for more personality-driven photographs.
4. Experiment with different lenses and filters
Create unique perspectives by trying out a variety of lenses and filters to make your pet look a little different than he would in a traditional photograph. If you’re using an iPhone, turn on the HDR (High Dynamic Range) option for clearer pictures. To turn on: Open the camera app, select “Options” and turn HDR toggle to on.
5. Get down on the same level
The key to taking great portraits and showing the petís unique personality is to act like an animal. Roll around or lay down on the floor so that you are eye-level with your dog or cat. This unique positioning shows you the world from the petís perspective.
6. Learn how to shoot them indoors
If I photograph indoors, specifically indoor cats, I like to use 400-speed film in front of an open window so that the natural light is coming through. If I have to set up lighting, I will do so in one of the petís most comfortable spots in the house.
7. Treats, treats, treats!
Bits of food help pets stay in one place so you can take several shots at a time. Call your pets name to get her attention away from the treat, or take the photo while she is waiting for her treat.
8. Use a shrill noise
My best shots come when I use a high-pitched shrill sound. Some dogs tilt their head to these sounds, though this may not work for all dogs. Cats tend to react when you use a word or sound that gets their attention. Using a harmonica is one of my personal favorites–it functions the same as a shrill sound, but sometimes with an even bigger effect.
9. Take as many shots as possible
It usually takes many tries to get a really great image, so be prepared to have a good memory card in your digital camera or plenty of extra film on hand.
10. Always have the camera around
Some of my best pet portraits have been spontaneous. Timing is everything–you canít force your pet to make your favorite expression on cue, so keep the camera out and ready. When your pet smiles or rolls around on the ground in a funny manner, pull out the camera and begin photographing.
Do you have any other tips for great pet photography? Tell us in the comments!