Tails Blog

How to take great photos of your pets

Steve Coppell - Saturday, December 31, 2011

Taking photos of your pets can be fun and rewarding, but unless you are a professional, luck often plays a part in getting great shots. However, with patience and preparation, you should be able to achieve some really pleasing results.

You probably won't get the shot your after if your pet is stressed. So the best time to photograph your pet is when it is relaxed and happy. More often than not, this is when it is in it's natural environment.  Our dogs love the beach, and this environment often makes for an excellent backdrop.

The Backdrop
When setting up for a shot, minimise the clutter. Sometimes a photo is too busy and the viewers attention is drawn away from the intended  shot. So think about enticing your pet into a nice spot with a simple backdrop. 
As a rule light coloured pets photograph better against a dark background, and conversely dark pets show up better against a light background.

Eye contact
Try getting down to your pets level and centre your shot on your pets eyes. Animals show their expression and personality through their eyes so you will get a more intimate photo. Get close to the subject and fill the viewfinder with your subject- emphasise what is important and exclude the rest. Fortunately most modern cameras have zoom lenses that give you a tight crop without having to get too close.

Good lighting
Exposure wise the easiest photos are taken outside in natural light. Diffused light on cloudy days is actually better than bright sunlight, which can create unwanted contrast and shadows in your pictures. Some of the best lighting for taking photos inside is side light from a natural light source like a large window.
Using a flash as your main source of light creates it's own problems. The flash can startle your subject. It also often creates a very flat over exposed look and red eye.

It's a good idea to have some treats ready to entice your subject if perhaps they are not willing subjects for your photo shoot. When photographing cats, hold a feather wand right on top of the camera to get optimum eye contact. It makes the pupils of their eyes really big and you can get great reflections in their eyes.

Little Critters
It's not only large pets that star in front of the camera. When taking shots of cage bound pets like rabbits, birds and guinea pigs one option is to photograph them being held in someone's hand to keep them still and allow you to get as close as you need to. If you want to take a photo of them in their cage, put your camera right up against the cage to put the bars out of focus, likewise when taking shots of fish, put your camera lens right against the tank or at an angle to eliminate reflection, turn off the flash and use the natural light, or the light the tank  provides.