Quad-City Creatures By Heidi Dahms Foster, Prescott Valley, Arizona firstname.lastname@example.org A local blog all about pets and pet activities in the quad-city area.PV, Prescott and beyond.
Wednesday, December 16, 2009
A few tips to get better pet photos
Heidi Dahms Foster
Top: Snow is a natural for dog photos - they all love it! Bottom: a solid background and good lighting go a long way toward a great portrait. Photos by Heidi Dahms Foster
Coming from someone who does pet photography as a hobby, of course I encourage everyone to at least once, in the lifetime of a beloved pet, to indulge in a professional photo shoot.
My husband and I attended the 2004 Australian Shepherd Nationals in Paso Robles, California, and while there, had pro studio shots taken of our two veteran Aussies (and, I'm happy to say, their win ribbons!). When I got the photo of the two of them, I immediately went and had it professionally framed, and it has pride of place in our living room. One of those dogs died at 14, and the other is now 13. I'm so glad I have that photo.
That said, during the life of your pet, you'll want to take a lot of photos of the wonderful, silly things they do, so I thought I'd offer some tips on how to get some good shots.
First of all, try to lose the flash. Flashes create shadows and glowing red eyes, and distort color. This means that you may have to take a lot of photos outside, but that's the better place a lot of the time anyway.
Take a few minutes to think about the cutest things your pet does. Are they wonderfully entertaining with a certain toy? Will your dog hold three tennis balls in his mouth? Will your cat endlessly amuse itself with a laser light or a fake mouse? Does your pet go crazy in water, or rolling outside in the grass? These are your best action photo ops.
Then, think about the angle. For instance, give your pet its favorite toy, and then get on its level. Photograph your cat from the floor, or your dog on its level. You'll get the essence of the expression instead of just the top of its head and back. Don't be afraid to get really close.
Inside, with a point and shoot, you might consider some photos of your pet napping. Since most of them leap up follow if you get up, keep your camera within reach when you are watching TV, reading or relaxing. Then you can quietly reach for it and catch a special moment. Some of our favorites have been when the cats "worship the fire god" - (they pile up in front of the gas fireplace and soak in the heat); when the dogs curl up together; or when one of the dogs stretches out upside in a fully relaxed sleep stupor.
Outside, your options are endless. Do you take your pet hiking or to a water hole? Be ready for some great shots as they try to soak up the entire outdoors in a few minutes. Or take lots of shots of them playing in the snow, rain or around the yard.
A good tip for snow is to "bracket" your shots or overexpose them slightly to take the blue out of the snow. You can also make this adjustment in your photo program on your computer.
The "lots of shots" is key, and much easier these days because of digital photography. You can shoot to your heart's content and delete the ones that don't turn out. The more shots you get, the better your chance of having some worth keeping.
One of my favorite hobbies is shooting portraits of dogs. It helps if you can teach your dog a rudimentary sit and stay. Or, you can have a friend hold the dog on a thin leash, and then remove the leash in your photo program after you have downloaded the portrait. Here is where light is very important, and again, try not to use flash. Outdoors portraits are best in early morning or afternoon light. You can also use the light from lamps, or a window, depending on how still your pup will stay.
Try to provide a background free of clutter - blankets or sheets hung on a wall often work well - and a raised place for your pet to sit or lay. This make some animals very uncomfortable, so make sure the platform is solid and large to help them feel secure.
I have a "bag of noise," squeaky toys and other noisemakers that I have collected, to catch the interest of my canine subjects. I also have learned to make some pretty creative noises myself! If you can catch your pet with a noise that it hasn't heard, it will often cock its head, and you'll get an extra cute photo. You can also have a friend play, run or make noise in the background to get your pet's attention. Food is a great motivator for some pets, and if you have a word for their treat, such as "cookie!" you can get some great expressions.
Once you have everything in place, you have to be quick to catch the moment!
It takes practice, but the memories are worth the effort. I love to take time and browse through our pet photos from puppy and kittenhood to the present.
Have fun, and send me some samples! We'll post them on our Pet Gallery!