If there is one thing that the internet has taught us, it’s that everyone loves a cute or funny animal photo. As proud pet owners we particularly cherish photos of our own pets. Unfortunately, I have lost count of the number of times frustrated fellow pet lovers have complained to me that their pictures just aren’t good. What they usually mean is that the camera seems to see the scene differently. As humans we can see both with our minds and with our hearts, but a camera is a very cold creature, and what comes out of its viewfinder can often be a little cold as well.
That is actually quite easy to remedy, whether you are using a cell phone, a compact camera or a professional camera with expensive lenses. It is mostly a matter of thinking a few steps ahead before pressing down on the shutter button. It will be second nature in no time, and you will take much better pet photos effortlessly every time you take out your camera.
Change the Angle
One quick trick to improving average pet photos is changing your angle. Too many small pets are photographed from a human height, which distorts their proportions and hides their faces. You have spent countless of hours staring into your pet’s eyes, so you always see a little bit of their character. The camera doesn’t. Getting down, or up, on your pet’s level lets the camera see your pet’s face the way you see it.
Don’t be afraid to get up close! All too often we take pictures of our pets where they make up only a small portion of the final photo. Physical distance in real life adds a feeling of emotional distance in a photo. It also makes it difficult to see your pet’s expression, so the photo becomes even more impersonal. If you absolutely can’t get closer and your pet still makes up a very small portion of the photo — feel free to crop the photo later!
Lose the Clutter
If you can, lose the clutter! All too often background objects detract from our pets. Often, we don’t even see them because we are so focused on our beloved pet. You can get rid of most of those detracting objects simply by moving a little to the side or turning your camera 90°. If you have a decent lens, you can sometimes blur out background objects if your pet is far enough in front of them. Switch your camera to aperture priority, often abbreviated A or Av on your mode dial, and you will be able to change your aperture. The smaller the number on your camera, the bigger the aperture gets, resulting in more blur behind and in front of your focus point.
Try Something New
Variety is the spice of pet photography! Sometimes it feels like our photos are no good because we have grown tired of looking at nearly identical photos. Don’t be afraid to try something new! If you always take pictures of your pet sitting or standing at attention, take a photo of her relaxing in a natural pose. Think about ways in which you can bring out your pet’s individual character through action. Take a photo of him while he is doing something that he loves. The joy will be apparent on your pet’s face. If all of your photos are action shots, however, give a formal posed photo a try. To avoid the stiff plain seated or standing picture, try bringing out your pet’s character with your choice of props and setting. Is he regal? Is she goofy? A little staging brings this out. When posing your pet formally, don’t get so lost in the work that you forget to interact with your pet. Your voice, a toy, or some food will make your pet attentive and cooperative, leading to better photos.
Let’s Get Technical
In order not to end up with lots of otherwise great pictures that you cannot use because they are too dark, too blurry or too grainy, there are some technical aspects that you need to think about.
Light is one of them. Built-in flashes distort colors, create very sharp detracting shadows, and often end up startling your pet. Unfortunately, most cell phones, point-and-click cameras, and even consumer model lenses are not fast enough to take great photos inside without a flash. If you are using a camera, you can often increase the ISO, which means that you need less light, but your pictures will be grainier. Move closer to the window or go outside. If you are doing a formal posed photo, you can of course simply go and get more light sources.
If you aren’t posing your pets formally or trying something artistic with motion blur, you want the shutter to open and close very quickly. On your compact camera, you may have the option of switching to sport mode, usually visualized as a running man. In most lights this is enough for you to photograph your pet without motion blur. If you have a more advanced camera, you may be able to switch to manual mode or even shutter priority mode, usually marked S or Tv. If you want to freeze a galloping animal, you usually need to set it to somewhere between 1/1000 second and 1/2500 second.
Never Too Many
Take lots of pictures! Long gone, at least for most of us, are the days of 35mm film and costly developing. If your camera lets you take several pictures at once, hold down that shutter button and pick the best picture to save later. There is some work involved with sorting all of those pictures, but you will be less likely to miss out on a memento.
Don’t worry, it will all be second nature soon enough! Start taking a couple of pictures with these tips in mind, and you will soon forget that you are even thinking about it. It will just be you and your pet, having fun, and creating memories.
From the Pet Tails Magazine archives; this article was written by Emma Oxenby Wohlfart.
Feature Photo Copyright: creativei / BIGSTOCK