How to take better photos of your pet
Updated: Jun 8, 2020
Who doesn’t love our little furry friends? If you have ever owned a pet, then you know that they all have their own little traits, quirks and personality, which you only see when you spend enough time with them. They become part of the family and everyone thinks that their cat, dog or goldfish is hilarious. Naturally, we want to capture these moments and show others how cute and adorable our pets are. However, you may have heard the famous quote "never work with animals or children" because they are unpredictable and play by their own rules. Therefore, I’ve put together some tips below that will help you capture those moments, which you can then spend hours boring you friends with.
On a side note, I hate nothing more than people who are too sensitive and expect everyone to love their pet as much as they do. Also, this blog will heavily feature the jackadoodle, Pele, yes that is a real dog breed and he is named after the famous Brazilian footballer. If you don’t love him and think that he is the cutest, most adorable and awesome dog you’ve ever seen then I don’t want to be friends with you.
Unless you own a tortoise, the most obvious challenge with pets is that they move around a lot and at speed, therefore, you’ve probably found on more than one occasion that the image appears blurry. So far, I’ve wanted to keep these blogs simple without going into too much technical details, but shutter speed is important for capturing fast moving subjects. Briefly, shutter speed is how long your camera lens is open, for example a low setting would be 1/100, which means that the lens would open for one one hundredth of a second. Compared to 1/1000, which equates to one one thousandth of a second, which is considerably faster. With pets jumping around all the time, then the higher your shutter speed, the more you will be able to freeze the action. The trade-off is that the higher the shutter speed, then the less light your camera will capture and the darker the image will be.
Alternatively, if you do not feel comfortable getting bogged down in shutter speed, then make sure you’re in a well lit area, such as your garden on a sunny day. Also, be prepared to snap away a lot because if you are unable to capture your pet when they are moving around, then you are relying on capturing just at the moment they slowed down or paused . In addition, using a flash will help reduce blur, however please be careful using this depending on your pet, in case it may disorientate them or make them uncomfortable in any way. The picture below of Pele was used with flash and it captured a great, almost suspicious, look on his face.
GET DOWN TO THEIR LEVEL
Another thing that always helps to make your images more interesting is getting down to your pets level, which helps achieve a couple of things. Firstly, you will typically capture a better composition compared to looking down at them because looking down can sometimes flatten out the image. Whereas, being at their level will help create a depth of field by blurring the background, which will help them stand out in the photo. Secondly, dogs for example, love people being down at their level and are more likely to interact with you when you lie down next to them, which can result in more interesting photos. It can also be funny to see your pet look a bit bigger than they actually are, taking a photo from floor level can help even the smallest chihuahua look larger than normal.
CAPTURE THE EYES
When it comes to focusing on animals of any kind, then the best advice I ever read was “always ensure the eyes are sharp”. It’s tough to get your whole pet in focus from head to toe (paw) because of the reasons mentioned above. However, if you ensure the eyes are nice and crisp, then this will help you create a much better image. If you look at the image below of Pele, which I captured on my phone, then you can see how his eyes are perfectly sharp, however the floor in the background is nicely blurred to help the focus stay on his face. The image further down on the other hand, was set up and I had a nice composition in mind but I failed to capture his face in focus, the focus is on the apples instead. The result isn't too bad, however I needed to capture the eyes to really make that photograph work.
BAIT AND ANTICIPATE
Whether it’s their favourite toy or a treat, or in the case of Pele an apple, using bait can be a great tool when capturing great shots of your pet, however the trick is to use it in the right way to get the best results. The main advantage of using bait is you are able to control their movement, to an extent, compared to just waiting for them to naturally walk into shot or do something interesting for no reason. This allows you to set up your shot beforehand, for example making sure your camera settings are right or the background is uncluttered. A great way to use bait is not to simply throw it at them and shoot but to use it to anticipate their movement. For example, to get the shot below I noticed that every time I threw an apple to one end of the garden, Pele would collect it then jump over a path as he ran back to me. Therefore, I set up my camera to capture him as he jumped over the path and was in mid-air. Not always the highest quality but I got some funny results. Of course, you don’t need to try anything as complicated as this, however by using the bait to anticipate their movements you can then predict certain patterns in their behaviour to avoid being reactive.
If you follow the advice above, then this can help you find a nugget of a picture amongst the many you have of your pet in your gallery. I hope this helped and as always let me know how you got on in the comments below. Please share any other aspects of photography you struggle with and I would be happy to help.