• How to take great pet photos

    How to take great pet photos

    If ever there was a city of pet lovers Buenos Aires is it. Visitors to Argentina’s capital cannot fail to notice the abundance of dogs. Big ones, small ones, fluffy ones with squashed little faces. They’re everywhere! And as a result, it’s rare that a Foto Ruta weekly event passes without at least one or two doggy photos being thrown into the mix…take a look at our doggy gallery here. But we’re keen to know how to master the perfect pet photo? We asked the expert, Foto Ruta friend and owner of  pet photography company www.CuatroPatasFoto.com, Kyle Short.

    I have been told many times that pets and children are some of the most popular subjects for budding photographers to shoot– the latter on par with the former in terms of drooling, lack of attention span, and inability to speak his or her mind, but vastly inferior to his four-footed counterpart in terms of quickness and stubbornness. Due to this fact— given that the pet is actually awake for the photos— the largest difficulty when photographing animals is achieving compelling shots that are in sharp focus. Sure you can always boost up shutter speed to eliminate motion blur, but this often means having to shoot wide open at a cost of depth of field, thus putting you back in the same place you started. It’s this point, damas y caballeros, that sets a pet photographer apart from a photographer taking photos of pets. The fifth element, the sixth man, the secret weapon in a pet photographer’s arsenal—a genuine love for animals.

    As with biped (see: human) models, cooperation is a key element to pulling off those killer shots that you’re looking for. Keep in mind the pet photographer’s secret weapon of genuine love and care for animals when dealing with an uncooperative pet model. For example, often times a pet will start to cooperate with the camera only after some good ol’ TLC and belly rubs from mom/dad/photographer. Other situations when the pet is really nervous or acting aggressive call for a respect of the animal’s space and a bit of time for him or her to calm down. More often than not, starting off a session just chatting with the owner combined with some pets and maybe a treat or two for the animal will translate into a much more enjoyable and successful photo session. Besides that, here are some things to keep in mind when photographing animals:

    PERSPECTIVE.

    Getting your camera down to the pet’s eye level is absolutely crucial for capturing his or her true personality. I am a huge fan of dynamic photos, so I don’t hesitate to include some shots from my eye level or even beneath the level of the pet. However, there is just no excuse for getting the camera eye-to-eye with your little model. Take advantage of your environment and have the pet in positions of different heights during the shoot—a big chair, on top of a bed, up on a sidewalk curb, or even up in the owner’s arms are all solid possibilities.

    FOCUS, FOCUS, FOCUS.

    Most animals have a nose (or snout) that extends a significant amount from their eyes. Usually, the most compelling shots are the ones that have the eyes in sharp focus, so you’ll have to take care to keep refocusing on the eyes as the model whips his or her head around. If you are having difficulty keeping staying focused on the eyes, stop-down your aperture to f/5.6 or smaller.

     

    PERSONALITY.

    As with us humans, dogs have personality too. Pay attention to the unique characteristics of the model you are working with and make it a point to highlight those things. Anyone can go on the internet nowadays and find a great picture of pretty much and type of animal. You were hired (or are taking the time yourself) to take photos of one animal in particular, so make it personal.

    buenos aires dog

    VELOCITY.

    Dogs are fast. Cats are quick. Ferrets are evasive. Birds are dodgy. Make sure to keep an eye on shutter speed. I like to keep it above 1/250 at all times and will even boost ISO at times if need be. Minding this aspect alone means a 10-20% increase in keeper photos.
    As with us humans, dogs have personality too. Pay attention to the unique characteristics of the model you are working with and make it a point to highlight those things. Anyone can go on the internet nowadays and find a great picture of pretty much and type of animal. You were hired (or are taking the time yourself) to take photos of one animal in particular, so make it personal.

    ALL WHITE, ALL BLACK.

    One of the largest and most frequent challenges that I face is photographic dogs or cats that are either all white or all black. If you own a light meter, this is the time to knock the dust off of it and put it to work. Your camera’s light meter does a pretty poor job of determining proper exposure and too many times you end up with a photo of a huge white cotton ball or a big black blob.

     ALL YOU NEED IS LOVE.

    There is not enough that can be said about the importance of connecting with the animal you are photographing. Dish out some belly rubs or ear scratches, serve up some treats or do whatever it takes to find a connection with the animal. When you are able to establish that connection, use it to grab your model’s attention while you are shooting. You want the model looking at the camera, so use your connection to the animal to have him or her looking your way.

    More and more, pet photography is becoming a very popular area for commercial photographers to try out. Just in the past 6 months I have seen at least SIX new competitors enter the local market here in Buenos Aires, and I am sure that there will be many more to come. My own formula for success thus far in the industry has been my passion and appreciation for animals. As long as there are cameras and as long as there are pets, there will be pet photographers. I plan on being in it for the long run.

    Check out my website and Facebook pages to get your fix of “awwwwwww” inspiring photos. www.CuatroPatasFoto.com and www.facebook.com/CuatroPatasFoto Have fun shooting!!

     

     

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