Many people love their pets just as much as their children. They want to capture those precious members of the family in film, keeping those memories alive forever. Animal photography, however, brings its own unique challenges! Animals are known for their refusal to do what their owners or photographers want once the camera come out. That cute moment that you saw just seconds earlier disappears, the perfect shot evaporating like it was never there. If you’re setting up for a photo shoot with a pet, these tips will make the process easier. It won’t guarantee an ideal shot, but it might increase your odds of capturing Spot’s adorable face from somewhere other than nose-to-nose with your camera.
1. Skip the Flash for Animal Photography
If red-eye was your only worry with using a flash, it would be bad enough! Unfortunately, your flash can also cause a number of other problems with your photography. Some animals will become distressed by the flash. Others have shiny fur that will reflect the flash in ways you didn’t intend. Whenever possible, turn the flash off and shoot with a higher ISO instead.
2. Get Down on Dog Level for the Best Pet Photographs
You know that you’re supposed to get down to a child’s eye level when you’re taking their picture, but have you remembered to do the same when you’re trying to catch a great shot of a dog? Get down to the level of the pet you’re photographing, whether that means lying across the floor and using it to stabilize your camera or shooting with a monopod that’s just a little bit off the floor. Looking straight into the animal’s eyes will help capture the best images.
3. Get to Know the Subject of Your Pet Portraits
What is the animal’s character really like? Are they friendly and playful? Lazy and pensive? Learn about the animal’s character and use this to frame your pictures. It’s even better if you can capture the animal doing something they would do naturally, rather than trying to force them to cooperate.
Throughout the session, encourage the animal to be who they really are just like you would encourage a human subject to be themselves. The best pictures are often the ones of those candid, unplanned moments. Learning more about the character of an animal is doubly important if you’ll be shooting a pet that isn’t yours. Make sure you check with the owner about whether or not the animal is friendly and how he will respond to your approach.
4. Choose Your Timing Carefully When Trying Animal Photography
Like humans, animals have times of the day when they are more alert and responsive and times of the day when they’ll struggle to interact with you. Choose your timing carefully! Try to schedule your session for a time of day when the animal will react the way you want them to: lazy, if you’re looking for pictures of them sleeping, or energetic and upbeat, if you’re looking for fun, playful pictures.
5. Get Comfortable With the Animal Before Your Animal Photography Session
Spend some time petting or playing with the animal before you get out your camera. Make sure that you’re relaxed and ready to shoot. The best pictures will come when both you and the animal are in a good mood, and the animal will feed off of your mood. If you create a relaxed atmosphere for the session, the animal will likely follow suit.
6. Be Patient Throughout Your Animal Photography Session
You can’t always guarantee that the pet you’re working with will cooperate or that they’ll be in the right mood for the session. You can, however, be patient and wait for that perfect moment. Don’t try to rush the session. Set it for a time when you’ve got plenty of time to work with the animal and its owner. If you have to rush through the session, you’re more likely to end up with an uncooperative animal. It’s also useful to have several ideas in mind for pictures in case the animal isn’t willing to cooperate with your first ideas. You should also be willing to step back and take a break or move on to candid shots if the pet is being uncooperative or you’re unable to capture the image you were hoping for.
Getting great pictures of animals can be a challenge. Patience, planning, and persistence, however, will ultimately pay off, allowing you to capture those great images that will show off your skill and the animal’s heart. There’s nothing better than a great cute animal picture!