The pros make it look easy, but anyone who has attempted to photograph an animal with a mind of its own knows just how challenging it can be. Here are some professional pet photography tips to help you get the perfect image.
- Manage your mood
Animals can pick up on your emotions, so if you're nervous or anxious, they'll become stressed or anxious as well. A stressed animal can give you "flattened ears" and "concerned eyes," which don't translate well "on video." Take a deep breath, and don't forget to enjoy yourself!
- Pay attention to the eyes and facial expressions.
Since the eyes and facial expressions are the most expressive parts of an animal's face. If you want to make truly entertaining portraits, concentrate on these areas. A well-timed puppy whine or quirky sound (from you) will draw a puppy or curious dog into focus and have them looking straight at the camera for the golden shot. We’ve tried using strange squeaky toys (not their own!) and it works like a dream as well.
- Prepare your background
Take a look at your shooting location before you even take your camera out of your bag and clear out any clutter or distracting items. Do you want your cat's pictures to include random boxes or plastic bags strewn across the floor?
If an element in your background isn't adding something to your photos, transfer it to a different place. A clutter-free environment creates more aesthetically pleasing photographs and cuts down on post-production time. Imagine the scene of your happy dog in front of an overflowing garbage bin!
- Shoot at eye level
Although a few shots looking down at your pet while you’re standing can be cute, the best shots are taken at their level. You’ll notice that taking shots from their perspective mimics the mastery of truly engaging portraits that the pros create. A Great Dane's world can extend to the height of your hips, while a Chihuahua's world may extend all the way down to the level of your ankles. To get on the same level as a cat lounging on a cat tree, you may need to bring out a step stool. If they are on the field, practice ‘shooting from the hip' to position the camera in their world without having to crouch or kneel.
- Be flexible and stretch before you begin.
If you've ever seen a professional pet photographer in action, you'll find that they bend, twist, turn, crouch, and crawl to get the image they want. Prepare to work certain muscles in order to achieve the ideal composition. It's easier to reach and lean than to make a big movement that will cause the pet to shift from their ideal pose.
- Look for the best light.
In photography, light is everything, particularly in pet photography, where it's crucial to see the catchlights in the pet's eyes (the white reflective parts). Avoid taking photos in dimly lit rooms or on overcast days. Before you start shooting, look around your subject's area for the best clear, diffused light, and then switch to that spot.
- Bribe your model
Every animal must be motivated in some way to pay attention to you during the shoot; otherwise, they will wander off and lose interest. Determine what motivates them (i.e., their 'pay') and provide it to them during the shoot. It may be treats or toys for dogs, or just receiving love and attention. A feather ball, a paper bag, tuna fish, catnip, or even their favorite blanket are all possibilities for cats. It may also be a horse's favorite food, such as carrots or apples. When it comes to ‘rewarding' your models, get imaginative, and they'll reward you with better shots and more cooperation.
- Make a storyboard and a shot list.
The most immersive animal imagery depicts them in their natural habitat. It may be a cat gazing up at an owner opening a bag of food in the kitchen (concept: desire), a dog looking longingly through a front door waiting for his or her friend to return home (longing), or a horse owner wrapping her arms around her equine's neck (concept: longing) (connection). Your pictures can talk to your audience on a deeper emotional level if you can say something about them.
- Give quiet commands
Barking commands at a dog or a cat repeatedly is a surefire way to annoy or frighten them. Try interacting with your pets in the same way as they communicate with each other: nonverbally. Invite them over here by using hand signals or pointing. For dogs who know how to sit, use the sit hand signal. If you must say 'sit,' do so softly and calmly just once or twice. Avoid mentioning the pet's name during the photoshoot because the more often they hear it, the more likely they are to desensitised to it.
Avoid abrupt movements
Unless you're an expert at the documentary, on-the-fly shooting, in which the animal is always running and you catch the ideal moment of them walking, sniffing, jumping, hunting, and so on, learn to step slowly around them when taking their images. This is particularly important with cats, who are prone to either drastically changing their facial expression (and ears) in response to your subtle gestures. This also applies to dogs in a sit or lay-stay posture.
They want to join you when you change positions because they sense you are embarking on a new adventure. If you do move and do not want your model to move, do so slowly and without making eye contact with her. Also, don't forget to reach, bend, and lean. You'll not only have a fruitful pet photography session, but you'll also get a good workout!