Outdoor lighting is the best, ideally on an overcast day. Why overcast? Because if you shoot in bright sunlight, you will get harsh shadows and if your camera isn’t set properly – washed out areas! Especially if your pet’s coat has light colors like beige, light tan, light grey etc.
If you can’t get your pet outside, try and take your photo next to a large window where you have plenty of light coming in. Try to have the light at your back or side as you face your pet. Most cameras today have automatic functions and I highly recommend them. Unless you’re a seasoned photographer, there’s just too much messing around using the manual camera settings. And the fact is, you can get pretty good shots on auto! Certainly good enough if you’re planning to turn your photos into a stunning portrait.
If possible, avoid using a flash. It can cause red-eye and alter the natural coloring of your pet. However, if your pet’s coat is black, a flash or bright sunlight will actually bring out the shading and textures which could be lost on an overcast day. If you must use a flash, don’t be too worried about red-eye since most digital photo labs can remove that!
Most pets, especially those that are well trained, can pose and give you a great photo. Most pets, however, can make it difficult to get that elusive shot. I suggest having several things handy to help you out.
- Helping Hands
A pet always listens better with food around. Hold your treat up next to the camera and just move it leading your pet’s eyes so you get the facial angle you’re looking for. Shoot three-quarter views as well as full facials when possible. You’ll have more variety to choose from. No treats handy? Try using a toy to guide your pet’s gaze.
It’s a bit tricky to shoot with one hand but it can be done… This may be a good time to get some helping hands to direct your pet’s eyes with some food or a toy. But how do you get those wonderful expressions?
Pets always have quizzical looks whenever they hear unusual sounds. Tell your pet dog the word “walk” or “outside” and the ears prop up… Give an uncharacteristic human growl or chirp and the head cocks to the side or the eyes brighten. Don’t be shy to get silly with your pet. It can really bring out their personality!
Is your pet stubborn? Consider getting some helping hands to hold your pet while you take your photo. Don’t worry, the background can always be removed afterwards.
Don’t plan to shoot photos of your pet unless you are in a mood to be patient. You’ll want to be relaxed and not give your pet any signals that would stress or make them anxious.
The best place to be when taking your pet photo, is at the level your pet’s head is at.
Got a small chihuahua? Get down to the ground and do your shooting there. If you’re a horse lover but shorter than your horse, stand tall to get that photo.
Head shots are always beautiful as portraits, but there’s nothing wrong with full body shots, as well. When shooting facial photos, try to use a zoom lens if possible, and take plenty of close up shots. Lighting and equipment aside, professional photographers always get that one great shot because they shoot so many!