We wish there was a way we could communicate directly to animals. Maybe then we’d get them to pose for photographs. This is one of the hurdles of pet photography that makes even the best photographers want to smash their cameras in frustration. But that’s not all, factor in the issue of focusing and exposure. What if the pet doesn’t like you? These are but a few problems that make pet photography a daunting task.
Nonetheless, it has been done before. There are photographers, beginners and experts alike who have been able to capture animals in their true essence. They bring out the personality of your pet. This tells you that it is not impossible. You just have to have the know-how. We give you that today.
Pet Photography Tip #1
At times it is pretty hard to predict where your shot is going to take place when it comes to pet photography. This makes it hard to predict the lighting meaning that you will have a difficult time setting the exposure mode. In such a case, where the shot is not staged, go with automatic settings. My favorite is aperture priority (A) as the camera will set its own shutter speed depending on your aperture settings. On the other hand, if you expect the lighting to remain constant throughout the photo shoot, then set the exposure manually.
If your pet is not in motion, use a wide aperture and consider shooting at close range so that your focus will be on the subject while blurring out the background. This usually requires being at the same level as the pet so don’t be hesitant to lie down on the ground if it comes to that. On the other hand, if your pet is in motion and you want to capture this, a small aperture is preferred as it will increase your depth of field.
Again, the shutter speed you chose depends on the type of photo you want to end up with. If the subject is in motion, you will have to use a fast shutter speed to freeze the motion. The advantage of using a fast shutter speed is that it will not be affected by camera shakes from pressing the shutter button. If you want to get creative and introduce a little blur into your photo, a slow shutter speed will do. Just be careful as blurry photos usually take a lot of practice to ace. Read up on shutter speed if you are new to the whole concept.
Pet Photography Tip #2
You never know what to expect with pet photography so you best come armed. Choose your gear wisely making sure you carry the essentials. One of the most essential gears in this type of photography is your lenses. Bring various lenses to account for the different scenarios you may encounter. Don’t bother so much with your tripod as it will just get in the way of this spontaneous type of photography. Also, forget about your flash because you will most likely be shooting in natural light. Besides, flash usually frightens most animals or results in red eye.
Pet Photography Tip #3
Consider an assistant and some treats
Even the best photographers need a helping hand when it comes to pet photography. They can be quite helpful with organizing and handing you your gear especially in such a crucial set where timing is everything. Assistants also come in handy when you need someone to distract the pet and get its attention for the shot. To top it all, you will definitely look more professional with an assistant by your side.
As for treats, these work well in creating a rapport with the pet. If the cost of a good shot is some few strips of bacon, then, by all means, buy some bacon!
Pet Photography Tip #4
It takes a crap load of patience and luck to get pets to pose. But when you finally capture that moment, your patience will be totally worth it. Your best shot at getting the pets to pose is by scheduling your sessions. Learn when the animals are hyper and try to avoid shooting at this time. Your best bet of getting a posed photo is when the pets are napping or when they just got up.
A general rule of photographing posed animals is to ensure that the background does not contain any distracting object. Consider taking an up-close shot of the subject. Also, make sure that the lighting is adequate. This means posing near a light source or close to the doors and windows. Finally, don’t take too long as most pets get bored easily. When you see that window of opportunity, seize it fast coz when you lose a posed shot, chances are you aren’t getting another one. At least not that day.
Pet Photography Tip #5
It is not uncommon for pets to attack photographers during a photo session. This is especially if you are a stranger. As mentioned earlier, using treats to create rapport between you and the pet is a tried and tested means of avoiding animal hostility.
Expert pet photographer Gary Parker has his own tactics of creating a bond with pets before shooting. He suggests laying your camera on the ground and stepping away for the pet to inspect it. This mostly applies to dogs which end up sniffing your camera.
He also advises photographers to stay alert so as to detect tense moments. If you see the pet growling or ready to pounce, respectfully take a step back to protect yourself (your gear too).
I wish I could say that pet photography is a cake walk, but it’s not. Its unpredictable nature is what makes it so difficult. In all honesty, there is no fixed setting when it comes to this type of photography. You just have to be fast on your feet. This calls for knowing your camera inside out such that moving through different settings will not be a nightmare. You also have to do a lot of practice and remember to have loads of patience.
Finally, good luck and don’t forget to share your pet photos with us. Be it good, bad or ugly, we want to be part of your pet photography journey.
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