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Our fur babies, our companions and often the best friends we will ever have. Pet photography can be tough, but if you set the camera and your environment up right you will have success.  Who doesn’t want to share their pets photograph all over Instagram using the hashtag #crazycatlady or #bestdogever ? Below I will share my tops tips for how to photograph your pet.

We recently added a new addition to our little fur- family so I was inspired to write this post and share how to photograph your pet. I also wanted to share a general listicle of tips and tricks for getting that perfect photograph of your pet. This mash – up post of all things pet photography is dedicated to little Henry who is just 10 weeks old. We also have a Sphynx named Fuseli, a full grown Borzoi named Twila and of course my friend and family dogs/cats make a few appearances here as well. Also featured are the many photographs I took my our boy Cartier. He has since passed, and will forever be in our hearts.

Things to Keep in Mind Ahead of Time

Mindset:

First things first: you know your baby best. So you know when they are having a bad day or are not on their game. This would be the worst time to photograph. Make sure it is not first thing in the morning when their energy is high, a calm well exercised animal (cat or dog- yes cats need exercise too) is ideal.

Have your head in the right space, ready to be patient and have a bonding moment with your pet.  If you had an extra long day at work, trying to pose your pup or focus on the photograph may not be right.

Now, you may be thinking that you just want to snap a cute pic while living life- good times and bad. This is valid and you do not need to find ideal scenarios all the time- however if the purpose is to get that “portrait” photo to frame, so is mindset.  It is also good practice in pet photography to be aware of your mindset at all times when photographing  in order to make the experience more enjoyable.

Positivity

Do you ever pull out your phone or camera and your cat runs from the room or your dog quickly puts its head down and stops doing to cute thing you wanted to capture. This is because so far, that camera has taken your attention away from them. It has distracted you from your connection and is then shoved in their faces without any sort of reward.

Your pet needs to associate positively with the camera. This means for  a cat, you can have a play session with a string and make sure the phone or camera is out and a part of it, but you are focused on playing and them- not the device for at least a few play sessions.  If you have a pup, make sure a treat or reward is used when they look at the lens or at the phone. Positivity goes a looonngg way in for pet photography and getting this everlasting photographs.

Be Open

While it is always good to have inspiration or plan in mind, stay open to what your pet wants. Photograph them sleeping or playing. Have them sit and stay and roll over. Trying to force them to hold a ring of flowers on their head when they have never been trained to do so is not fair and again take away that positivity. I cannot tell you how many times I have seen the forced halloween costume photo where the dog is literally tearing it apart as the owner frantically attempts to photograph them.

Stay familiar and comfortable for them and be open to the photographs it may yield.

Ideal Camera Settings

Motion:

This is one of the most exciting forms of pet photography. Animals can do incredible things and capturing that motion is exciting for you and them. If you are playing fetch and your dog leaps for that frisbee or perhaps you are trying to catch your cat mid leap onto its’ favorite perch you will need to set your camera up ahead of time. This means considering the light and location and then planning from there.

Lens and Aperture

If you are shooting in a park or large space you will need a telephoto lens. Moment make a Tele Lens for the phone that would work perfectly.

Of course Aperture may not be something you can adjust manually- depends on your phone or camera, however if you have the option in motion images you will use a aperture of 5.6 -8. Meaning you will have a mid-range aperture to allow for capturing all ranges of the motion.

Shutter Speed

For motion photography you will need to have a fast shutter speed. This means that the amount of time the shutter stays open is very small so as to capture the movement.

On the phone camera you may have an app that allows you to manually adjust the shutter speed- if this is the case, start at 1/500 and move up from there as needed. You may also consider using the “burst” or “continuous shooting” mode in your phone- similar to the continuous shooting mode for a DSLR. These are often used for sports, but that also means fast motion and can be great for capturing that action.

If shutter speed sounds like a foreign concept for you check out my article on Waterfalls and Shutter Speed here or see my article on general camera control here.

Candid

For candid pet photography your settings should be set to mostly “Auto”. I say mostly, because as you become more familiar with your camera or phone, adjusting setting quickly may become more automatic for you and not take so long as you missing the moment.

Lens and Aperture

In candid you will use your typical lens that is on your phone or camera already. This means that changing to a fish eye lens may look cool, but only if the pet does move in the amount of time it takes you to do so.

Aperture should be a Auto as well, although consider using Portrait Mode which or adjusting the aperture to be open at say a 2.8 in order to create that shallow depth of field. This is only if shallow depth of field would suit the moment of course.

Shutter Speed

This must be automatic and needs to in the mid range, meaning a slow speed of 1/60 typically does not work well for candid shots.

Essentially keep your camera handy and ready at all times. Predict your animals movements if it is possible and “pre-focus” or grad your tripod and set it up on their usual path. If you know your cat jumps in the window to see you when coming home you can prepare and get everything set up ahead of time. While some claim this is not so “candid” I would argue that it is called being prepared.

Posing

Note: Posing your pet requires endless patience, planning and a few sessions.

Unless you happen to have the world’s best trained dog, you will need patience and a good attitude. Remember that mindset mention in the start of this post- here is where it becomes essential. Pet photography is fun, but always remember it is about them, not the photo and your mindset should stay in check.

Location

If you are a professional photographer or rising ametur you may have a studio set up and can try to shoot in this. However, most individuals at home will not have a studio set up, you need to to create your own ideal environment to photograph in.

A plain path of grass with nothing distracting the background may be perfect. Or a white bed spread with a few cat toys can also do the trick.

Lighting

This is the MOST important element of a posed shot and can elevate your work to look more professional. If photographing your pet outside- choose a shady spot with diffused light. You do not want harsh bright light as this can get hot for the animal and look washed out in the shots.

If you are shooting inside- use the window light, but use it from the side. Backlighting in a window can work to create a cute silhouette, but typically this happens on a candid level more often than posing it.

The Tricks

Keep it short. Your session should not be longer than 10 minutes. Animals will get bored and we want to keep positive associations with the experience.

Try to get their attention. Use a silly voice, squeaker or command. Keep it mildly entertaining, but not so entertaining that they can get distracted and wild.

 Tips and Tricks: A Useful Pet Photography List

While the camera settings are important and so is choosing the type of photograph (Motion, Candid, or Posed) along with the location- you will need to develop some general tips and tricks for getting that polished and perfect pic of your pet. Hopefully this listicle will provide some ideas and new ways of photographing your pet.

  • Keep your sessions short
  • Use treats and always associate a positive experience with the  photograph
  • Do not shove the camera in their face
  • Have your camera ready at all times for “candid” shots
  • Use a shallow depth of field for a professional look
  • Use natural light provided
  • Get on their level (lay on the ground)
  • Get in close
  • Stand back from afar
  • POV should be one of the two above, the “mid range” perspectives tend to look cliche
  • Relax
  • Look for expressions
  • Keep their eyes sharp
  • Be patient
  • Experiment
  • Work in their environment
  • Timing Matters- be ready to shoot bursts and take several shots
  • Pretend you are a sports photographer
  • Use props (like a toy etc)
  • Do not use them as props (not cool)
  • This is about them not you
  • Capture their character and personality

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I thought it was high time to post another photo project. This is a favorite of mine and has a primary focus on training your eye. Making the mundane magical is exactly what artists do regularly. This project works on honing that skill.

First you will need to select a mundane object. Mundane simply means everyday or ordinary. Nothing special or particularly defining of this object. I will also say that the smaller the object, the more flexibility you have with your photographs.

Here are some ideas for mundane objects:

  • Army Man/ Legos
  • Banana/ Apple
  • Fork/Spoon
  • Soap/ Nail Clippers
  • Cup of tea or coffee
  • Most random item you carry with you in your backpack or purse

Remember simple is a good place to start and will offer you many options.

Challenge:

Choose a mundane object and focus at least 30-40 images on this one object. You must make your object look like the following:

  • Light
  • Heavy
  • Beautiful
  • Ugly
  • Tall
  • Micro-Small
  • Soft
  • Hard

Remember these words can have different interpretations for different people. That is the fun part! 

After you select your object, consider setting up a home studio of sorts. You will need:

  • Light- any type of house lamp or position you studio by the window
  • A Surface to Shoot on- Choose something with texture or pattern like a stump or bubble wrap
  • Background- Find a simple plain background- this could be a sheet, metal, foam core etc
  • Reflector – Grab a piece of white foam core or even white paper to pop the light back onto the subject from the window.
  • Objects and Items – Have some plants or other items to highlight your object

Here is my 2 Minute Home Studio when I need to shoot a product or item quickly.

Things to Think About

These are some suggestions to help you get the creative juices flowing.

  • Lighting- How can you use this to create drama and emphasis (maybe backlight it ?)
  • Shadows- the shadow of the object can also make a photo
  • POV – Point of View and angles can make a huge difference in the size of your item
  • Fishing Line- Consider a way to stage your object and have it suspended
  • Composition- Use the Rule of Thirds and make sure to check out the 8 Basic Composition Styles to help you.
  • Destroy it- if you have multiple, manipulate the form and break it apart
  • Get Close Up– Use a macro lens and focus on texture
  • Motion– drop it, throw it, or slowly drag it to capture the motion.

Results:

Spending this much time with one subject will be beneficial. It will be a challenge to force yourself to look at something for a long period of time. Whenever I do this photo project I am always challenged and inspired at the same time. Let me know how it goes! I would love to see your images, so make sure to tag me on Instagram or drop a link below.

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Hello Fellow Photographers! In photography you have certain controls within the camera that allow for “effects”, mood, and image interest. Today let’s explore the basic camera controls, what they do, and how you can control these on your phone camera.

Often when I capture a interesting shot, I am asked what I used to take the image. As if somehow my gear was doing all of the work. Trust me, you can go buy the newest mirrorless camera on the market or a top of the line DSLR and that does not mean you will be able to make the same capture or quality of capture.

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Photographing in the rain can be tough. It feels dreary and often uninspiring when all the lighting is an overcast diffused gray. However, I have to get over this and shoot despite the weather.

As you know I am an avid hiker and try to get outside and at least once a week. In my current location and the surrounding areas it rains….ALL the time. I live in the Pacific Northwest, home of green and lush forests, but this means rain for about half the year. The video above was one such day on a hike.

The same can be said for some of our travels. An equally dreary place was Ireland that held a similar climate. We visited in the summer and were able to experience some glimpses of sun, but the constant spitting of rain was common.

Here are some of my top tips for shooting in the rain starting from the gear to what you can look for. Watch the video or read the post! 🙂

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We LOVE to travel. However, in the winter months we tend to baton the hatches and huddle up at home. In the Pacific Northwest it is either raining, frosty, foggy, freezing or a combination of these. This less than inviting weather combined with the instinctual need to hibernate can make it challenging to both create and get outside. Despite this you can photograph in the dead of winter.

Thankfully, my partner and I made a pact to have at least one adventure a week.This means we get out and hike most often. Although biking, snowshoeing, skiing and the occasional spelunking have also been fun in the winter.

1. Bundle Up First

Prepare yourself for the weather. In the PNW we are used to the rain, but I still freeze in winter so start layering. We love merino wool, buffs, and a good down puffer.

DO NOT FORGET THE GLOVES. You will be shooting on your camera, so you will also want the kind that are “tech touch” sensitive like the ones pictured. This way you do not have to ever take off your glove to get a shot.

2. Look for Textures
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The History: A Woman, a Pioneer, and Prussian Blue

In the days of the first photographs, around 1839, pioneers of this field who integrated science and art began to emerge and take their place in the history of photography. During this era the thought of color photography in the contemporary sense was not even in the minds of the ingenious inventors.

However, one color did manage to make its mark through the hands of a woman born in 1799 named Anna Atkins. She is marked with being the first to publish a book of photographs and one of the first female photographers. [1]

Figure 1. Anna Atkins, Untitled, Cyanotype Photograms, 1843-1853, Photographs of British Algae: Cyanotype Impressions.

The vivid Prussian blue images that you see above are one of the 425 photographs published by Atkins. It is called a cyanotype. The name cyanotype was derived from the Greek word cyan, meaning “dark-blue impression”.

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Looking for a challenge this week? I have the perfect photo project for you.  This is an assignment I give my students who are first picking up a film camera: Point of View (POV).  A photographer’s vantage point is so important and can truly bump up your photography game.  I also think considering POV allows you to consider the world around you – making one more aware.

Eventually, you may find yourself creating an entire series of photographs with a specific POV. This will yield  authenticity and an aesthetic that brands your own work.

The Project:

In the next two weeks, take photographs using the following list. Consider your point of view and where you can move. Where you and your camera are will determine the message of the photo!

As you are shooting, post your photos on social media using the hashtag #masterthepov so we can all see and share.

Points of View to Find and Photograph

*All images are my own

Birds Eye View: Get up in the air or on a chair and look down

Worms Eye View: Get on the ground and look up! The tree on the left is actually only about 3ft. tall.

Squat: Yes, squat and be mid level- see how this changes the subject

Bellybutton Shots: Hold your camera at your bellybutton in a large crowd. No, you will not be able to look at the image, but it can give you some seriously cool results

Your own eye level: Bring it back to the basics

Surprise me! Find a new angle and POV not on this list! I would love to see it. The one below is my “lurker” POV.

Don’t forget to use that hashtag #masterthepov on Instagram. Follow me to see what I have done.

 

 

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