The pros make it look easy, but anyone who has ever tried to photograph an unpredictable creature like a cat or a dog knows it is anything but. Here are some pet photography tips that the pros use to help you ‘get the perfect shot’.
Animals are like little emotional sponges, and if you are stressed and anxious, they will sense it and become stressed and anxious too. A stressed animal will give you ‘ears flattened’, ‘concerned eyes’ looks, which don’t translate well ‘on film’. Take a deep breath and remember to have fun with it!
II- Focus on eyes and expressions
The eyes are the most expressive part of an animal’s face, so if you want to create really engaging portraits, focus on the eyes and facial expressions. A well-timed puppy whine (from you) can reel in focus in a puppy or curious dog, and have them staring straight at the camera faster than you can say “woof”
III- Get rid of clutter first
Before you even pull your camera out of your bag, take a look around at your shooting location and get rid of clutter and distracting objects first. Do you really want to see that empty Starbucks cup on your coffee table in the photos of your cat? Is the garden hose snaking through the grass where you are photographing your dog, adding an aesthetically-pleasing element to your photos?
If an element in your background doesn’t serve to enhance your images in some way, either remove it first or move to a different location. An uncluttered environment produces more aesthetically pleasing images, and reduces post-processing work. Nobody needs to see photos of your puppy with an overflowing garbage can in the background.
IV- Shoot in their world
While a few shots looking down at your pet, while you are standing can be cute – to create the really engaging portraits the pros make, shoot down at their level, ‘in their world’. For a Great Dane their world may be the height of your hips; for a Chihuahua it may be all the way down at the level of your ankles. For a cat lounging on a cat tree, you may need to pull out a step stool to get on their level. Practice ‘shooting from the hip’ to place the camera in their world without having to crouch or kneel if they are on the ground.
V- Be flexible and do some stretching first
If you have ever watched a professional pet photographer in action, you will notice that they bend and twist and turn and crouch and crawl – whatever it takes to get the shot. Be prepared to get those muscles working in order to get the perfect composition. Sometimes all it takes for a dog to break their sit-stay is for you to go from sitting to standing, and it’s better to reach and lean, than make a large movement that will cause the pet to move from their perfect pose.