Tips and Tricks for Picture-Perfect Pets:
How to Take Great Pet Photos
A cute little kitten in a teacup. Adorable puppies all in a row. Perfectly posed pets wearing party hats! How on earth do those greeting card photographers do it? You probably already know how easy it is to personalize a Cardstore card with your own photos (hint: super-easy). And you can imagine how cute it would be to make a card featuring your own adorable pet. But how can you turn furry blurs and glowing eyes into card-worthy cuteness? Sit, stay and read on.
A Reliable Camera
Odds are you aren't going to run out and purchase a top-of-the-line camera just to get some decent shots of Sparky. If you already have a DSLR with a 50 ml lens - great! You're as geared up as a pro. But if we lost you at DS...don't worry about it. A digital camera or decent camera phone can work just fine.
- Turn off the flash. Most cameras have made major strides in reducing red-eye, but this technology doesn't seem to work on animals. Turning off the flash will reduce your chance of getting that weird white or green eye glow.
- Select Sport/Action and Burst settings (if available). This minimizes blur and allows you to take multiple pictures as quickly as possible.
- Keep snapping. The best photo ops tend to happen when you least expect them - so always expect them. And when you're not shooting, hold the shutter button halfway down to keep the camera focused and ready for that doting look or toothy grin.
A new collar or bright bandanna is all the accessorizing you need.
Even the best photographers don't tackle the challenge of posing pets alone. So don't be afraid to call in for back-up or catnip if that's what it takes to get the job done.
- Ask for Assistance. Recruit a friend or family member to keep your furry friend occupied-and in place-while you're setting up the shot. The last thing you want to do is lose your model (or your patience) before you get the first picture.
- Treat them nicely. Just like a parent doesn't want to photograph a fussy toddler, you'll get much more cooperation if your pet is happy and satisfied. Start out with a little exercise or play time to expend extra energy before expecting them to sit pretty. And make sure you have plenty of treats and toys on hand to reward good behavior.
- Go easy on the bling. Adding too many props to the mix is a recipe for disaster with most animals, and an unnecessary distraction from the star attraction. But if you want a little fashion in your shoot, a new collar or bright bandanna is all the accessorizing you need.
Location, Location, Location
In real estate, location is everything. And the same goes for photographing pets. An ideal locale will almost guarantee success.
- Stay out of the sun. The best place to photograph pets is outside in a shady location, using the fill flash (if available) to bring out the photo details. However, if the only day you have available is a scorcher, then stick to midday rays to highlight the best in your pet.
- For inside photo shoots, natural lighting and a plain background is all you need for your cat or dog's close-up.
- Find a place with minimal sounds, sights and smells, especially new ones that might be distracting for a pet. This means the best spot could actually be in your own backyard. Keep it simple.
Cats vs. Dogs
A dog photo shoot and a cat photo shoot are two completely different, well, animals. And although one isn't necessarily easier than the other, they both have very distinct keys to success.
The most important tip to remember when capturing your animal's personality is to get down to their eye level.
- Speak and/or squeak. You know your dog. If "Wanna treat?" or "Good dog!" will get the ear-perked expression you're looking for, then have your camera ready as soon as you say the magic words. High-pitched squeaky toys can usually inspire an alert look as well.
- For puppies, faint clicks are usually all you need for the perfect perk or curious head tilt. But they also have shorter attention spans, so be ready to click as soon as you "Click."
- Act fast. When your dog is focused on his bribe or treat, start snapping, snapping and snapping! The time and effectiveness for each sound is limited, and his attention span won't last forever (neither will yours), so don't keep trying for a "better" shot when you could be the catching cutest one.
- Model behavior. Think of photographing your cat as working with a diva supermodel-everything has to be the cat's idea-starting with the location.
- Prop her up. If you're having trouble getting a great shot, you might have to break the "no prop" rule with something simple, such as a clean and warm blanket from the dryer. Cats adore fresh scented blankets so much; you might get lucky and have a slumbering kitty all afternoon. Just make sure you choose a fabric that compliments your model's coloring.
- If the blanket trick doesn't fully gain your cat's interest, a feather on a stick or holding a treat behind the camera lenses should do it.
Best in Show
Okay, now that you know the tips and tricks of pet photography, there's just one more thing to keep in mind while photographing your furry family members.
The Golden Paw Rule:
The most important tip to remember when capturing your animal's personality is to get down to their eye level. Or, if you're working with shy pups and kittens, the zoom lens will be your best friend. Zoom in as close as you can to capture every detail of your dog or cat's cuteness...and then zoom in even closer. The best pet photos fill the whole frame, so use the "crop" tool for your final edit.
Once you have a photo suitable for framing, put it on a card suitable for sending, and brighten someone's day by putting the awwwwww back in awesome.