Pet Photography Tips for Pet Parents
By Saurabh Botre*
When I was little, it remained an unchanged dream to one day work with dogs. A very ambitious idea in a young kid’s mind, which eventually turned into a recurring thought until, I found a way to make it possible.
Fast forward a few years, ‘The Pet Photography Studio’ was founded.
‘The Pet Photography Studio’ is a fruitful result of my love for animals and my professional photography career that began almost a decade ago. For me, it’s all about capturing the perfect shot of your little friend, which does justice to their kind souls. The studio was established to create the finest works of animal portraiture and archival quality prints for your living and work spaces.
It is important to know that it’s much more than being able to click a good picture of a pet. Getting a great portrait starts before I’ve even met the animal. A questionnaire is sent to the client, which gives me an insight into the life and personality of their pet. That way I can tailor my approach to make sure that images I am capturing reflect the character and soul of their lovable fur kid.
At the beginning of every session, I spend some time letting the pet get used to me and my equipment. I need to make sure that it feels relaxed and confident around me. I need to bond with my furry clients quickly, but genuinely! I want them to love me; there is no way you can capture the essence of their soul if they aren’t looking at you with pure love!
I have completed quite a few pet obedience and training certificate courses; which have definitely helped me to get along with pups easily and make them do things that I want them to do. There’re a lot of treats, praises, and cuddles involved here (well, this continues throughout the session)!
Once I start photographing, my approach really depends on the individual. For instance, if they are confident and very interested in me, then I will immediately focus on capturing dynamic close-up portraits. If they are more interested in exploring landscape, then I’ll focus on capturing wider environmental portraits and wait until they have settled in, before I attempt to move in closer. For portraits with that amazing eye contact and perked up ears, there’s often a lot of ridiculously silly noises from me.
However, my approach with cats is completely different; with cats I work very slowly, starting farther away and gradually moving in closer (or using a telephoto lens) as a cat becomes familiar with me.
Here are a few pet photography tips for pet owners to capture more fur and less blur…
1) USE A FAST SHUTTER SPEED, CONTINUOUS FOCUS, AND BURST MODE.
Since many pets have a hard time sitting still, using a fast shutter speed helps if you are using a camera to click pictures. Set your camera to shutter priority mode or manual mode and use shutter speed of at least 1/250, if possible, and even faster for action shots of a game of fetch. Turning burst mode on will take a sequence of fast shots to up the odds of getting a perfectly-timed shot. Prevent soft images by using continuous autofocus mode.
2) SHOOT FROM THEIR EYE LEVEL, NOT YOUR OWN.
Portraits are all about the eyes, even when that portrait subject isn’t a person. Getting down on animal’s eye level will create more personal pet portraits, as it brings out unique personalities and highlights a more intimate perspective.
3) USE NATURAL LIGHT.
You don’t necessarily have to worry about flashes and complicated lighting setups when taking photos of dogs. The best option is to use natural, continuous light that won’t frighten them or cause red-eye in your images. Whether you’re using ambient or studio lights, the general rule is to go for bright, diffused light that will help create more flattering portraits.
4) CAPTURE THEIR CHARACTER.
Even better than a cute close-up of your pet is a photo of them that conveys their character. If your dog is the playful type, you should definitely add a picture of him in action in your proposed shot list. If the dog loves lounging around, take a picture of him yawning while lying in his favourite bed. Those precious photos will definitely be for keeps!
5) SHOOT WHERE THEY ARE COMFORTABLE.
The most basic aim in dog photography is to capture your pet’s character and personality. You’re less likely to get this if they’re in an unfamiliar place. Head out to a park or to your backyard and allow your pet to relax and loosen up. This should help them feel and look more comfortable for the camera.
6) BE PATIENT.
Besides camera gear and photography know-how, another important thing that pet photography requires is patience, and a lot of it. Pets obviously can’t follow specific instructions unless they’re trained by a professional. At the same time, they’re known to absorb human energy, so if you end up getting stressed out or frustrated, they’ll sense it and will begin to mirror your feelings.
7) USE TREATS AND TOYS.
The trickiest part of animal photography is that pets don’t understand posing instructions like. A few treats and their favorite toys can go a long way in getting pets to stay put or look in a certain direction. A dog that’s been trained to sit and stay, in particular, will be much easier to work with when he’s eager to listen for that treat. Food bribes can work well with other critters too since even untrained pets will often look towards the smell of that treat.
8) SHOOT FOR A FEW MINUTES AT A TIME.
Pet photography requires a lot of patience and understanding. If you notice your pet losing interest in your presence, put your camera away. I know this can be frustrating, especially if you’re about to get a great shot, but it’s a fantastic way to strengthen your patience.
Slowly introduce your camera to your pet. You can shoot every day, but make sure you limit your photo shoots to a maximum of 10–20 minutes. Even though your pet cat may be sassy and stubborn, it wouldn’t mind the camera after a few sessions.
9) GET THEIR ATTENTION BY USING SOUNDS.
Some dogs react to food and some to toys; some are just not interested in either of them. You could use a squeaky toy to try to get a dog’s attention. Hold a toy behind your back and squeeze it. But take care, some dogs wouldn’t sit and wait, they will jump towards the toy, which could ruin the portrait you are about to shoot. However, you might also get a surprised look from a dog looking straight into your camera. Test a few sounds and see what happens; try whistling or humming. You can download apps with animal sounds for your mobile. Start every noise at a very low volume. This usually works better than loud noises. Always take care not to scare the animal off.
10) DON’T STRESS OVER IT.
Pet photography doesn’t have to be difficult. If you approach it with curiosity and patience, you’re likely to get a lot of beautiful shots in the process. Make sure you experiment with different lighting setups, angles, and rewards. The more photos you take, the closer you’ll get to that incredible shot of your pet that you’ve always wanted.
If all of this is too overwhelming or you don’t have time and patience, don’t worry! Get in touch with me and I would be more than happy to help you with a portrait of your pet that you would love.
My main goal here is not to make this a money making business but to create a brand that helps people get beautiful images of their pets, which they don’t just hang on a wall but cherish for years to come.
For more on my work, check out ‘The Pet Photography Studio’ on Instagram and Facebook. I would request pet owners to keep an eye out because I keep having giveaways for pets on these social media platforms.
I would also like to let people know that I am willing to volunteer my time and skills to help animals get adopted from animal shelters.
*Author is a 25 year old Pet Photographer based in Pune. He has been in this field for over a decade and plans to expand his expertise even further. He can be reached out directly on +91 9503663750 or firstname.lastname@example.org