By Aaditi Kulshreshtha*
It’s 2020 and most pets today, have their own Instagram handles! Some are even more famous than their humans! However, since pets and children are often the hardest subjects to photograph, how can we do justice to the photographs we take of our furry Instagram stars?
Here are some simple tips and tricks I’ve learnt from photographing pets for over 20 years that will help you take better photos.
STAGE 01 – LIGHTS, CAMERA, ACTION!
To begin with, here are the first 3 key elements that you need to get right with pet photography.
Think of photography as an art of painting with light. Therefore, I cannot stress on how important good light is for photography in general, but even more so with pets.
Use Natural Light: Sunlight is beautiful. Photograph your pets outside or near a window if you are inside. For dark coloured pets, to be able to see them clearly, always shoot with the sun behind you and on a bit of an angle. Morning and evening light is the best – this time of the day is also cooler than the afternoons, so your pet will be more comfortable as well.
Don’t Use Flash. If you don’t know how to get the best results with a flash, avoid it altogether. If you’re photographing using your phone camera – often the pet’s eyes look strange with a flash, therefore it’s best to photograph pets in areas with naturally sufficient light so that the flash isn’t needed in the first place.
It’s important to have a lot of light when you are trying to photograph pets in action – otherwise you’ll get blurry photographs. Depending on the camera you are using, you might be able to solve this with your camera settings
When it comes to photographing pets – your equipment can affect your ability to get certain kind of photographs.
Using your Phone Camera: If you are using your phone camera – with the standard camera app and its basic settings, you will struggle with capturing fast moving pets when light is less. However, in situations with ample light and if your pet isn’t moving much, you’ll have no problem. Therefore, consider using a camera app for your phone that allows you to change your camera settings for capturing your pets in action. ‘Lightroom’ by Adobe is one such app.
Using a DSLR: If you have the option of photographing your pets with a Digital SLR, use faster shutter speeds and burst mode for photographing pets in action. For pets that are not moving much, try a wide-open aperture to get beautiful bokeh and softer backgrounds.
Focus on the Eyes. This is a rule that can be broken of course, but often some of the best photographs of pets are when the eyes are in focus.
Technicals aside, this is the fun part! Capture your pet in unique poses, doing what they love doing. Personally, I love quirky photos of pets – upside down, tongue out, ‘giving paw’ – the quirkier the action, the better it is!
Treat them Well (pun intended). Reward your pet with treats, toys, and positive reinforcements when you are photographing them so that this is a fun exercise for them. Don’t force them to do what you want them to. At the end of the day, remember they are animals and not models – so embrace their natural streak and capture them doing what they want to. Some pets are very food-motivated, so you can use food to steer their attention towards the camera and then reward them with treats as a thank you for doing what you wanted them to do.
Take Lots of Photos. You’ll never regret taking extra photos of pets in action. Sure, it’ll cost you some extra time to shortlist the photos, but the more, the merrier to choose from.
Relax and Have Fun. Don’t forget to enjoy the process. If you’re stressed then your pet will get stressed too. If your pet, for example, is determined to lie down upside down, think of interesting photographs you can get with him/her doing just that. If your pet is feeling utterly lazy, prop something fun near him like a book maybe, to suggest a quirky moment with your pet reading. Get creative!
STAGE 02 – DON’T TAKE A PHOTO – MAKE IT
Now that you have the basics of photographing your pet covered, here’s how to take your photographs up a notch.
- FRAME IT
Sometimes your pet is doing the cutest thing and you have to get that on camera! Sure, in such a situation the action is more important than what the frame looks like. But when you’ve got that first photo and if the action continues, try and move to get a less cluttered background, or rearrange things in order to achieve this.
– Simple backgrounds make your pet stand out more. This could be solid colours – like wallpapers or painted walls. Blurred backgrounds can be achieved if your pet is far away from the background and you are shooting in a ‘portrait-mode’ on your phone camera. The sky often makes for a beautiful backdrop as well.
- GET SOME PERSPECTIVE
Try photographing your pet from a different perspective. Photograph, not from your eye level, but theirs. Stoop low to your pet’s eye level and see how that looks for you. Then try from right above them and capture them looking up at you – for a classic ‘puppy-dog-eyes’ kind of expression. Don’t be afraid or lazy to try taking photos from a different perspective – you would love the results!
- MIND THE GAP
Don’t photograph your pet from the same distance always.
Go Really Close. How close is too close? Captured a reflection in their eyes? Focused on their wet nose?
Go Really Far. If you’re in a beautiful location, capture your pet enjoying this surrounding. This is a must do if you travel with your pets – and it makes for an iconic travel photo.
There is one rule of pet photography that must never be broken –
PATIENCE, PATIENCE, and PATIENCE!
It’ll often take many photographs to get the one that you want. Remember, your pet is not a model and you want the photographs more than your pet does. Have patience with your pet just as your pet is having patience with you getting him/her to do various seemingly odd things. Pets always come first – everything else, including their photos, always comes second.
There’s only one downside to mastering these tips and tricks and taking lots of great photos of your pet. There’s going to be a point where you will want to be in the photos too! Sure, you’ll have ‘selfies’ from time to time, but it’s nothing compared to a wonderful photograph with you and your pet captured by a seasoned Pet Photographer. I know that feeling only too well and which is why I will be there at that junction to solve this for you. Until then, enjoy mastering these tips for better photos of your furry Instagram superstar.
The best thing about memories – is making them – so capture some beautiful ones!
One of India’s Top Pet Photographers, Aaditi Kulshreshtha captures beautiful memories for pets and their humans.
Formerly, Aaditi has been an Award-Winning Film Director; an Associate Director in Bollywood; a Visual Effects Supervisor & Artist; and a Creative Commercial Photographer. Her clients include brands like Disney; ADIDAS; Conde Nast Traveller and Foster + Partners, London. She studied Film & Photography in London and then worked in UK before moving to Mumbai.
After shooting for major brands, first with humans – and then with dogs, Aaditi realized she had the ability to capture candid moments of pets in a way that most general photographers don’t understand them. This led her to combine her love for dogs (dogs > humans kind of love) with her passion for photography and steer direction into Pet Photography.
Aaditi believes, “our dogs have shorter lives than we’d want them to, and when they’re gone, wouldn’t everyone want beautiful photo memories to look back on? That’s why she create beautiful memories, for pets and their humans.”
*The author is Pet Photographer, Aaditi K Pet Photography