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Our fur babies, our companions, and often the best friends we will ever have. It is a necessity to photograph them.

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 top 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, since I have been snatching photos of this guy as much as I can.

Prepare

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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Writing about art can daunting. After all, aren’t we creating work to communicate in a visual way? Finding the right words to describe art work is like looking for the wind sometimes. Ever changing and invisible. However, the wind has some major impacts- we can see its shifts in other ways. This is how we have to look at examining our own work- the subtleties.

Thankfully, I had 5 years in art school that taught me writing about art was not only a challenge but also essential. Compelling work will ask for more- including those magic words that describe your work.

What is perhaps even more of a challenge for some of you will be narrowing down words to describe your work. I know this is the case for me, since I am inspired by so many things- see the image of my ‘Inspiration Web’ below. All of these pieces  are true inspiration, but not all of them are evident in my work.

The Exercise

Step 1: Gather and Observe

You need to be looking at something in order to decide the words for your work. So, gather some of your favorite pieces or alternatively look at you Instagram or Website Gallery. Spend at least 10 minutes if not more scrolling through your work.

Now grab out a piece of paper or your journal to start some brainstorms.

Step 2: Decide what Elements of Art or Principles of Design  are most prevalent

Elements of Art are the foundation building blocks for composition and how we choose to arrange elements in the frame. It is important to recognize that these are conscious choices and not random (even if some artists prefer to think this way). You brain is constantly processing visual information and making choices about it.

Elements:

  • Line
  • Color
  • Texture
  • Shape
  • Value/Contrast
  • Form
  • Space

Principles of Design are the general ideas about HOW you arrange the elements. These are often intertwined with your theme.

  • Balance
  • Unity
  • Variety
  • Emphasis
  • Movement
  • Pattern/Repetition
  • Proportion/ Scale
  • Rhythm

After looking at both of the lists- narrow down the elements or principles most evident in your work. You list should include about 5, but no more than 8. Keep it precise.

Step 3: Consider Moods and Themes

Mood is created by one of two things: lighting or subject. Cliche mood images with light are things like a sunrise or sunset. However, lighting such as fog or bright harsh light can create different moods. Subject created mood depends on the viewers relationship to it. For example, a puppy can bring a joyful mood while a lone park bench can bring a solitary mood.

Mood is the viewers feeling to your work. Tone is your own (the photographer’s) attitude regarding the subject. So try to keep these separate and examine your work from he viewers perspectives.

To get you started here are a few Mood Words: (Some of they may apply, but don’t hesitate to Google a mood word list)

  • Abandoment
  • Vulnerable
  • Intimate
  • Harsh/Removed
  • Energetic
  • Judgmental
  • Observant/Voyeuristic
  • Proud
  • Provocative
  • Respected
  • Worthy

Themes may also come forward during this brainstorm. Themes are general categories for us to store information under. A way to describe our work that is a bit more removed from the feeling. This may be more accessible for you work than a mood.

Themes can also be closely tied to genre’s of art or art history as shown in the examples below.

Here is a list of themes to give you some examples:

  • Pop Art
  • Motown
  • Found Objects
  • Nature
  • Questions
  • Faux
  • Photo-journalistic
  • Garish
  • Vivid
  • Artificial
Step 4: Time to Journal

One of my favorite books that changed my perspective on photography and art in general is called “Photographs Not Taken” by Will Steacy. It is a book about Photography that has no photographs – only the words of photographers describing a photo they did not take.

This journal prompt has been one of the best parts of this exercise for me and insightful for what I find valuable or beautiful about images.

Get out your pencil and do as all of these photographers did; answer this question.

Describe a photograph you did not take, but still vividly remember today? If you can, consider what stopped you from taking that image?

Step 5: Review what others have to say

Lastly, take an opportunity to read what others have to say about their work. Choose photographers that you admire or follow. What words do they use?

Careful not to fall into the trap of using their words- but instead see how they line up with the work and how they have chosen to approach the pieces. To read interviews with 5 photographers who have inspired me with their work and how they describe it go here.

Final Three Words:

The idea is to be succinct and have words you can utilize in a variety of ways (see below). After all of your note taking stop and put it away for two days. Come back and scan over your notes. Circle the first three words that still pop out at you. While this may be it for some of you- others might be dissatisfied with the three words. Perhaps this means that your work needs to grow in a new direction OR go through again a few days later and see what else pops out.

Write down the three words that most describe your work.

My three words are: Textured, Reductionist, and Natural/Organic.

I am also open to these words changing and evolving overtime as I do. At one time I did everything from documentary to the narrative and now I tend to remove elements in order to create a minimal, piece. (Reductionist).

Where you will use these words:

Hopefully you came up with three words to describe your own work or style in art. After this, you have the opportunity to use them in a variety of ways. Artists have to do some self advocating and often are expected to explain their work at some time or another. For example you could use these words as the building blocks for any of the following:

  • Artist’s Statement
  • Artist Bio
  • Resume
  • Cover Letter
  • Applications or Entries to Shows/Competitions
  • Talking to your parents
  • Talking to your friends or generally anyone who has not been asked to consider art
  • As journal prompts
  • For inspiration when you feel like your work has lost touch
  • On your Instagram or Twitter Bio
  • You can create a poll on Facebook or Twitter for your followers to see which of the words they feel like describes your work more

Self Reflection can be one of the most powerful tools for continuing to create. This is the process after all. This can also be one of your powerful tools in self promotion and growth- connection and understanding between you an the viewer. Photography and art is always a two way street and the viewer is important. Let these words guide them.

What are your three words? Please share them below in the comments! 

Have you ever had a time when you needed to talk about your work and were at a loss for words? I would love to hear these stories as well. 

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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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An Early Start to the Pinhole

A Pinhole camera is any light tight container with an aperture (hole) and a shutter (something to cover the hole.

Interest in perspective and optics during the Renaissance is what led to the first necessary discovery for the pinhole camera: the camera obscura. Leonardo De Vinci described the camera obscura very clearly as early as the 16th century. (Alternative Processes)

A camera obscura is a dark chamber, container or room with a singular entry point of light. Once your eyes have adjusted, the outside will appear on the wall upside down. You can see how this would  be useful for artists to trace and have an accurate perspective.

Create a camera obscura right now out of your own room!

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Hello Fellow Photographers! Some of you have heard me talk about the Filmborn App in the past. It is my go to photo editing app for my iPhone. You can use the app to actually shoot photographs as well. It was originally designed to teach you how to use film and has the manual feature of a film camera right on your phone. There is also some Pacific Northwest pride tied up in this since they were created right out of Seattle in my home state Washington.

This app has what we my call “filters” which mimic a film quality. I am such a huge fan because I still shoot on film and am in love with the quality and tonal range that film can hold, especially when it comes to black and white. Filmborn makes this accessible on your phone with your digital photographs.

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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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