Animal photography - what is the best way to photograph your pet?
By Albert Woźniak
Animal photography - what is the best way to photograph your pet?
Probably none of us is able to imagine the world without our beloved four-legged friends. For a very long time they have been an inseparable part of the family, not only for practical reasons, as it used to be in the past, but also because of the ordinary, human need for company. No wonder that we often immortalize them with a camera - pictures of cats and dogs can certainly be found on the phones of all their owners. Our barking friends enchant us every time with their cheerful, laughing faces and bursting energy, and the innate sweetness and charming behavior of our pets dazzle even the most grumpy photographers.
However, very often pictures of our pets come out too dark, blurred, with too bright background or just plain uninteresting. To avoid this, it's best to expand your existing photographic knowledge with new information and tricks that will take your pet photos to a new level. In today's post, you'll learn how to prepare well for a session with your pet, what camera settings to use, and some practical tricks to make working with pets on set easier. Although the article was prepared for the most popular pet duo, the tips it contains can also be used by owners of other pets. We invite you to read it!
Preparing for a photoshoot with a dog or cat
Before you take any photos you should first get to know the character of your next model. Every pet has its own personality - both dogs and cats have energetic, playful mischievous pets as well as phlegmatic stoics who would prefer to rest all day long. If it's your pet, the case is the simplest - you probably already know its character and know how to deal with it. However, working with an unfamiliar pet can be a real challenge, and in this case it will be best to conduct a photo session in the presence of its owner. Shy dogs and cats can be photographed in his company, while the more energetic ones should be captured when they are in their element - running, playing and rampaging on the grass.
Just like people, cats and dogs also need to be properly prepared for the session. Before the meeting, ask the owners to groom their pet thoroughly. An extra bath before the session doesn't hurt either, if it's possible. Your pet's favorite toy and snacks can also be extremely helpful during the photo shoot.
(Photo by Thinkstock)
Also, remember to have some clever tricks in store for getting your little model's attention. The oldest, but also the most effective trick to take a picture, in which the dog sits motionless looking at the camera, is to place his favorite treat on the camera. However, one trick is definitely not enough - just like us, our little ones won't be fooled by the same trick over and over again. Try using sounds to get their attention, such as a squeaky toy, a bell, or barking or meowing noises.
Just before you start shooting, let your pet get used to the camera - a large, black object that you hold in your hands is sure to catch the attention of a curious dog or cat on its first photo shoot. On the other hand, timid pets may be frightened by it. Your best bet is to give it to them to sniff and show them that there is nothing to fear. However, remember to stay calm and in a good mood during the session - your pet can sense your emotions and if you show nervousness, it will get to you.
Camera settings - how to bite it?
Proper camera settings for shooting animals is an issue that many a novice photographer struggles with. In the case of portrait and static shots, the matter is quite simple and leaves room for maneuvering the parameters. But what if you want to take pictures of animals in motion?
(Photo by Claudio Piccoli)
To take good pictures of your pet while playing or running (in natural light), use a short exposure. This will create the effect of freezing the moment in time. The shorter the exposure (e.g. 1/1000 sec.), the more accurately you can capture all its craziness. The most impressive pictures are those in which the animal interacts with its surroundings - running into puddles, scattering or chasing leaves. To achieve this, however, you need plenty of light. Remember that flashes work great not only in the studio but also outdoors! When light is scarce, or when you want to isolate your subject from the background - an outdoor flash will be perfect! You can opt for a mobile AD series (from 100 to 1200Ws) or use a camera flashon a lightstand.
Fast and precise autofocus will also make it easier to work on dynamic shots. Remember to use your camera's continuous shooting mode to capture the entire sequence of movements and choose the best frame from among them.
When photographing your own pet, you don't need an expensive, bulky lens with a long focal length - your little ones know you very well, so you can get close to them while taking the picture. When photographing strange animals, however, you'll need more leeway, and a zoom lens, especially a long-focus lens, can help in these situations. Remember though, it's the light, not the lens, that makes the magic!
Outdoor photography - sun, nature and fun!
Dog owners know very well how important daily walks are for their pets. Their four-legged friends feel great when surrounded by nature - it's their natural environment, where they can freely use their energy. However, in case of cats it is not that easy - a purr-fect cat that is not used to being outdoors cannot be persuaded to take part in an outdoor session. While outdoor photos of doggies look familiar and natural, a picture of a kitten bushwhacking in the grass or playing with flowers will definitely attract attention because of its uniqueness.
When it comes to outdoor photography, choosing the right place and time is crucial - it's best to think about it while you're still planning the shoot. For best results, the session should take place in a location that is familiar to the animal, for example, along its walking route. If you want to take pictures in a park, choose a time when there are few people and animals there, or head for one of the less frequented ones. There should be as few things around as possible that can distract your little one and divert his attention.
The golden hour will add a natural, warm atmosphere to the photos and create an amazing, happy mood in them. Try to avoid hours when the temperature is highest and the sun shines the most intensely. On hot days, use shady places between the trees and provide water for your furry model. Remember, however, that basically any time is a good time to take pictures - you just have to know how to adjust the parameters of the picture to it.
Also pay attention to the perspective of your photos. Pet portraits are best taken from their eye level - dogs and cats feel much more secure when you crouch down to their level, rather than looking down on them. This will also give you a charming depth of field and an aesthetically pleasing background. However, this is not a rigid rule that you should absolutely adhere to. Using a lower perspective can give your pet an air of seriousness and loftiness, while taking pictures from above will emphasize its muzzle, facing the lens.
Although natural light is often enough to take pictures of animals outdoors, more advanced and ambitious photographers may need additional help in illuminating the frame. A small but powerful camera flash will allow you to fill in the intense shadows created in the picture by the sunlight, and thus slightly improve the exposure of the whole picture. Remember, though, that not all pets respond well to strong flash - before using a reporter lamp, first check that your pet isn't afraid of its harsh, violent light by setting it to the lowest possible power. If your pet does not mind, you can slowly try taking pictures with a stronger flash. However, try to stay away from the strongest power settings and make sure that the light is strongly diffused.
However, using the flash on your camera is not the best solution - its light may be insufficient for wide frames, or too harsh and direct for close-ups and portrait shots. To avoid this, it would be best to get a simple strobing kit, such as one from the SGGV/SGUV/SFUV series. It will allow us to soften the light and to set it in such a place and at such an angle as we want. It will be controlled by the system X transmitter. This is very convenient!
Compose the photo in such a way that the animal is facing the empty space in the photo. A pet running through the frame will look better than running away from it.
Working with your pet in a studio space
A visit to a professional photo studio is sure to be memorable for your pet - new space and unfamiliar smells are the perfect indicator of an interesting adventure for him. But remember that some pets may feel uncomfortable in unfamiliar places - before the session, let your furry one get acquainted with his surroundings so he can feel confident and at ease. Fortunately, you don't have to rent an entire studio right away - you can set up a similar space that works just as well for photographing dogs and cats in your own home.
Building your own mini-photographic studio involves some expenses, but over time it will give you maximum freedom to work on your own terms, and the lamps themselves will be perfect not only for animal photography, but also for people and products. But let's stay with animals for a moment! Properly chosen props will add character and variety to your photos - during a photo session with a dog or a cat you can place an armchair, a stool or a box on which you will seat your model. An additional pillow or a blanket on the seat will be a perfect decoration for such a shot. If you can, use different colored backgrounds for your photos - white or black cardboard may look aesthetically pleasing and professional, but more expressive colors, such as yellow or blue, will allow you to create happier photos, full of cheerful associations.
Full creative control will be given to you by a set of lights, modifiers and transmitter, their to control. You can use ready-made sets
When we think about photo lights we often have the image of a flash in our heads, both when it comes to large studio lamps and smaller, camera flashes This is of course a correct association, the flash light is strong, but maybe it is worth to try working with continuous light?
Currently LED lamps do not generate such amount of heat as the halogens used years ago. The same is true about weight or power consumption. Lower power (in relation to flash lights) can be compensated for by the convenience of use and the ability to preview the light distribution in real time. Plus - if you want to try playing with film, LED lights will prove irreplaceable. See our modern LED lamp models:
Although our little ones give us endless joy every day, working with them on the set is not always smooth and trouble-free. In this particular aspect they are a bit like small children - in order to achieve a certain effect during the shoot, you often have to encourage or persuade the model to cooperate. Sticking to a rigid time frame is certainly not necessary when taking pictures of animals - something may always happen that will extend it by an extra hour or two. That is why patience and a positive attitude are key qualities when working with animals.
However, a lot depends on the character of your pet - some of them, especially the trained ones, will willingly and obediently cooperate with the photographer, while others will only have fun and romp in their heads all day long. However, this should not be a great obstacle. The best photos are those that will show the disposition of the furry model - to capture their essence, you need to get to know your model before the session, and interact with them during the shoot.