May 21, 2010

you guessed it. fluff and fur means pet photography. who can deny the familiar wag of a puppy dog tail? or the sweet purr of a kitten? well, I can’t. I’m a sucker for animals (insert eye roll from my supportive and loving husband. *wink*) And mine grow up to be sweet some of the times… but also sinister and sneaky…which is what I love about them most. pets have such personalities!! I will refrain from telling you all of my pets’ unique characters–which include different accents and voiceovers– to spare you the judgements on my sanity. 😉 I do love them so much, though, and as I can tell from your adorable pet photo entries…you do too.

Here are some tips for capturing your fluff and fur in the best ways possible: (I found these tips from Digital Photography School’s “9 pet photography tips” and then injected my own thoughts and opinions…a but the site is a pretty good resource for those wanting to know more so check it out. ;))

1. Use natural light (not as in the beverage). 😉 In other words, no flash. Snap photos of your pets next to windows or outside if possible. The flash causes red-eye in many cases and also can frighten the animal…especially important when working with horses.

This image submitted by Heidi Jellison. (you know,that awesome harpist I was raving about yesterday? she has cute dogs too!) I think it is a great outside shot and a cute depiction of this sweet pup. Snow shots are more difficult for your camera to meter which is why it is hard to see the eyes of the dog. Your camera sees all the white and exposes for that and therefore the rest of the shot is dark. What you would need to do to fix it– change your metering to “spot” metering and then have the dog in the center of the metering bracket (spot). Also dial down your exposure compensation by 1 or 2 stops. This will meter and expose for the dog and not the snow and the exposure compensation will help keep the white parts from completely blowing you out with brightness. (Even easier than that and what to do if you have a point and shoot??: if you have a special mode on your camera for snow or “beach” then use that. most newer point and shoots are showing up with these helpful modes). I like the snow spots on the fur. Very cute picture, Heidi!

2. Keep the eyes sharp. That means, focus on the eyes and make sure that your auto focus brackets stay there if you re-compose the picture. The eyes are the window to the soul….very important to have in focus.

3. Go to them. . Its difficult to “pose” pets…as anyone knows who has tried it. Plus, they’re more comfortable and the pictures will reflect that if you get on their level.

4. Give value to their character. This was my favorite of their tips. Basically, if your cat is lazy, capture him or her yawning. If your dog is super-athletic, get a frisbee shot in the air. Super cool.

This image submitted by Laura Benton. I thought it was the perfect picture of “character.” I haven’t met “stitch” yet but I feel like I have a good idea of his personality just by looking at this shot. Very cute. Laura obviously had to use flash to get this…you can tell b/c there is no other indication of light in the room. Luckily there is no red-eye and the shadows, though still harsh, are not tragic b/c there is no structure (ie-wall) close behind the dog. I had to look for the shadows…which is a good sign…and I only found one. For those who don’t see it…its behind his right front leg. 😉 Although I’m much more of a sucker for natural light, this is a pretty good on-camera flash shot. The composition is great and the dog is ADORABLE!! Thanks for sharing with us, Laura!

5. Go Macro. Get up close, fill up the whole frame with your pet. It really shows texture (remember to keep the eyes sharp).

This image submitted by Alisa Darnhart. This is a great example of what they mean by filling up the camera with the subject. Also a great example of #3. The kitty is captured in her natural state which just makes it better overall. Composition is good. I’d like to see a little more of her face, though and at least the other eye. Its pixelated which makes it hard to see the sharp focus but I do think the eyes are sharp. Alisa, if you have a way to bump up the picture setting on your camera (most camera’s have a size feature where there is “small through large” and a quality setting which goes up to “fine,” make sure that these are maxed out (largest picture, finest quality) this will give you more pixels to show your work. Even camera phones have these settings so it doesn’t have to be about buying fancy cameras, just using what you have to its greatest potential. I really like this picture, though. Great shot and cute kitty! Thanks for sharing it. :)

6. Surprise them.. Ok. while I get what their point is…I don’t necessarily agree. I’m more with the #3 approach. I prefer to capture animals in their most relaxed and natural state if possible. Obviously with horses, we want to have their attention but not freak them out. When photographing horses (not an easy task to do solo) its helpful to have someone to snap or shake a grain bucket to get their attention and their ears forward.

This image submitted by Beth McMahan

Well, if you could set up a scheduled session (see #7), then this is what you’d want it to be like. I love this shot, Beth. What a gorgeous dog! the light is good, the composition is excellent, the dog is alert and ears are perked up. Like I said, this is “scheduled session” quality. Love it. I really like how the light shining in over the hill highlights the ear on the dog’s right side. It helps separate that ear from the otherwise very camouflaging background. It looks like (to me…and I can’t zoom in too far) that the plane of focus is not on the dog’s eye. Make sure you watch those focus brackets and set them right on the eyes/face. There are places where the fence is sharper than the dog…but the fact that I had to search that out should be encouraging to you. 😉 Great job.

7. Schedule a session. Eh, not a huge fan of this either. Anyone who knows animals knows that this is difficult to do without making them nervous and then taking away some of that character that we love about them in their down times. While I get the value in having a “sleepy pet” who is “calm,” they’re not going to stay that way once you put a camera in their face. Yes, you should schedule in the sense that you’re probably not going to get the best shots if you have 30 seconds to grab your camera before you leave for your doctors appointment…so take that into consideration but don’t set up a mini-Olan Mills in your basement in hopes of catching fluffy’s sinister smile while she naps. Not gonna happen.

8. Be Patient. This doesn’t need explanation. Anyone working with animals knows that you have to be patient. All of my equestrian shoots are 3-4hours in length for this reason. You can’t put animals on “your schedule.” You have to be patient.

9.Experiment. This goes with #8 too. Try new things, get different angles. It might be a great shot head on but what about from up above or down below? Get on the floor with your camera, army crawl around…. the best shots are sometimes the most awkward to take for the photographer. The picture of Bates (the fuzzy white cat in the main post) was in army crawl position on the floor. You just have to move around and capture different angles. In this digital age, if its a bad shot…delete it. 😉

Thank you all for sharing your pets with us!

capture those sweet moments with your favorite 4-legged friend,

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1 Comment to Feature Friday: PETS

  1. these are some really great tips!!! thanks for sharing them… u know how much we “pet-people” love our babies, and any insight on how to capture their true personalities is insightful :)

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An avid equestrian and true lover of art, Elizabeth merges her love of the horse, beauty and human relationship into her images.

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