Many photographers have a difficult time with pet photography. At first blush, it can be quite frustrating. With the right technique however, pet photography can be extremely rewarding.
A DIFFERENT PERSPECTIVE
Pet photography is no different than people portraits. When shooting portraiture, certain rules usually apply:
- Don’t crop through joints
- Keep eyes sharp
- Get in close
- Include negative space
- Use the rule of thirds
These basic rules can easily apply to pet photography as well. The only difference is that animals can’t be told where to stand. A pet photographer needs to reposition themselves to get the shot.
Using the same composition rules for pets as for people will always create more compelling images.
CONSIDER YOUR GEAR
If you want to become a professional pet photographer, certain gear will make your shoots much easier. First and foremost, shoot in RAW. This will allow you to make adjustments after the shoot to settings such as white balance, lens distortion, etc.
Having a zoom lens available is another advantage. Sometimes it is best to be a bit farther away from the pet. Zoom lenses offer this option. They also let you create nicely blurred backgrounds.
Use burst or continuous shooting. This will allow you to capture moments you would normally miss shooting one frame at a time.
Patience is essential if you want to capture the pet’s spirit and personality. Allow for more time than you think you will need. When being introduced to a pet, have camera in hand. It simply lets the pet see the camera as being part of you. Let him/her sniff you and the camera. When they are comfortable with your presence, they will relax and give you what you need.
A big part of patience is not trying to get the pet to come to you. Be prepared to take their lead. The fact that they are able to move freely in their own environment will let their personality show through. Don’t rush them.
USE NATURAL LIGHT
Whenever possible natural light is your best option. Using flash can startle the pet and cause hotspots in fur and eyes. Certainly not flattering. If you must use a flash, try setting one up remotely to act like a bright window.
KNOW THE RIGHT TIME
If scheduling a shoot, or photographing your own pet, try to shoot when the pet has just woken up or are usually going to sleep. They will be tired enough to be calm, but awake enough to still want to participate.
GET DOWN TO THEIR LEVEL
To capture the essence of an animal, it is important to get down to their level. Be prepared to spend time on your knees or belly.
Pet photography is a great opportunity to be creative. Try capturing action or macro shots. Selectively focus on noses, ears, or whiskers instead of the eyes.
Pet photography can be a challenge and a lot of fun. Keep these tips in mind when you want to create compelling pet photography that showcases their unique personalities.