Today media photographer and PhotoBox guest-blogger Maria Slough is here to share some valuable tips on how to take great photos of your beloved pets. So if you’re finding this a difficult task, keep reading. Over to you Maria…
Pets can be regal, mischievous, playful and inquisitive – with each one having a totally unique identity. They shower us with loyalty and unconditional love, and their trust in our care makes capturing their character and individual idiosyncrasies both a challenge and an honour. As you embark upon the journey of immortalising your pet in a photograph, be prepared to spend a lot of time on the ground making ridiculous noises and arm yourself with some of their favourite treats and toys.
Animals are instinctively curious. Always let them “meet” your camera and spend some time using up their excess energy before you start. Keep the composition simple, with the main part of their face in focus – particularly the eyes. Look out for quirky expressions such as a raised eyebrow, or the white of their eye, which shows off their true character. To include more of their face in focus you’ll need to close down the aperture. On a compact camera use the “portrait” mode, which will create a shallow depth of field and a tighter focus point – or move further away to widen the focus area. Remember that while dogs can be very responsive, when photographing cats, rabbits or guinea pigs, you may have to wait patiently for them to offer up that great shot.
Experiment with perspective to achieve alternative portraits. Try capturing profile shots of your pet while they are unaware – this is easiest when they rest or when they’re asleep. You can do this of your dog, by laying on the floor and shooting up towards the sky. Keeping just one of your pet’s eyes in focus or raising your camera slightly above ground level also creates an interesting context.
Action shots can be achieved with a little help from a friend or family member and a fast shutter speed. On a compact camera, experiment with the sports and burst modes to help freeze the action as your pet runs, jumps or plays.
These are the moments when your pet thinks you are looking the other way. This is why it always pays to have your smartphone at the ready to capture your pets “secret life”.
Members of the family
If you are having official photos taken, ask the photographer to make allowances for your pets to be included. A family photo should feature the whole family.
Using colour and texture
To make your pet stand out, choose a background that is in contrast to their coat colour, while also complimenting it. The daisies below create a natural frame around the dog, while the green grass provides contrast and texture.
Get creative with the elements
The elements provide superb natural ‘special effects’. Snow gives you a monochrome background, while water will add great detail to your pet’s coat – emphasising the shadows and highlights with in your picture.
On a sunny day you can capture stunning reflections within your pet’s eyes, such as the landscape seen below in the horse’s eye.
To achieve humorous yet memorable pictures of your pets, try capturing your dog’s ears as they get caught in the wind.
Whenever possible use natural light. As the days get longer, follow your pet’s lead as they seek out the light puddles in your house shining in from outside. The golden hours for photography are at dawn and dusk, when the sun sits close to the horizon – creating warmth and contrast. Another technique when outside, is to achieve “catch lights” in your pet’s eyes. You can do this by facing your pet towards the natural light source.
Finally, experiment with shooting into the light within a landscape shot. This will create a semi-silhouette and give your pet portrait a dynamic effect.
As you follow some of my tips above, draw upon the bond that you share with your pet, focussing on how it makes you feel and let that emotion flow into your pictures.
We would love to see your pet photographs so please do share them with us below.
All images © Maria Slough