This article is by guest writer Debbie Glovatsky, the girl behind the curtain of the cat lifestyle blog, GLOGIRLY.com, giving voice to the clever and witty personalities of her cats, Katie & Waffles. Their laugh-out-loud banter will keep you smiling and snickering while the beautiful photography and creative graphics bring their tales to life. If only you could just tell them, “Ok, a little to the left…now right at the camera… hold still…and one-two-three….” Photographing people who can actually understand your commands is hard enough. Capturing a great photo of your pet can sometimes seem about as likely as winning the lottery. Let’s try to change all that for you. I can’t make any promises on that winning lottery ticket, but I will share some easy, foolproof tips that will have you taking photos of your pets like a pro in no time.
5 Tips & Tricks for Perfect Pet Photos
1. Let There Be Light
Light is one of the most important ingredients of any great photo. But not all light is created equal. Natural light is your BFF, whether you’re indoors or out. And where your light is can be just as important.
- Take advantage of natural light from windows and doors.
- Position yourself so the light is either coming from behind you or from the side.
- Avoid shooting towards the light, or your pet will be dark and underexposed.
- Avoid direct sunlight coming in from a window.
- Diffused light or light coming in on a cloudy day is much more pleasing.
- Shade, shade, shade! Avoid direct, overhead sunlight.
- Light should be even. Avoid mixed lighting like partial shade underneath a tree where spots of sunlight shine through.
- The most beautiful light shows up an hour after sunrise and an hour before sunset when the sun is gentle and warm in color. It’s like magic!
A Word About Flash
Using flash to photograph pets may not be your first choice. You’ll notice that when it bounces off the back of their eyes it has a tendency to create an unnatural look. It can also result in a flat and washed out image. Though many pros are skilled at making flash look like natural light, it takes quite a bit of experimentation and experience.
2. Get Down
Some of the most beautiful and expressive photos of animals are those that connect you with their world. Get down to their level and you’ll be amazed at what you and your camera see. Try to get your lens at the same level as their eyes. Even lower can create a great perspective too. I’ll often set my camera directly on the floor. Of course rules were meant to be broken. Catching your cat high atop their cat tree or looking down at your dog’s face as he’s jonesing for a walk can make for interesting perspectives as well. But my go-to positioning, particularly when I’m close to them, is always eye level.
Before you even click the shutter button, take a close look at the background. Remove any unnecessary clutter. It’s easy to become so focused on your pet that you completely miss the trash bag waiting to be brought out to the garage or that one box you’ve still not unpacked from moving. Avoid busy backgrounds, patterned upholstery and anything that will detract from your pet. When you’re outside, the same rules apply. The simpler and cleaner the background, the more your pet will become the center of attention.
With cell phones or small point & shoot cameras, it’s easy to focus on the pet’s face. However when using a DSLR, controlling your focus can become a little more challenging. Have you noticed how many noses are in focus yet the rest of the face is out of focus? Position the focus box (reticle) directly over their eye. With cats, I try to focus where the pupil meets the iris. With dogs, their eyes are typically darker, so I shoot for the edge of their eye.
5. Wait for it… Patience
I have cats. So commands like sit and stay tend not to be very effective. Patience on the part of the photographer is key even with the most well trained dog. Here are a few tricks that might help you catch the perfect shot.
- Wait for it. Sit down on the floor with your camera ready to go and let your pet just do what comes naturally to them. Don’t force it.
- Introduce something new. Once you’re ready, camera in hand, lighting and background checked, introduce a new toy, box, kitty lounger or whatever you have on hand. Sometimes just moving an existing piece of furniture will work. Be ready though! Their newfound interest will only last so long.
- Treats! At the end of their short attention span they’ll often hightail right it out of the room. Treats will almost always bring them back. If I want them to go to a particular spot, I’ll place a couple of treats there to entice them.
- Get help. If all else fails, have an assistant on hand to keep your cat or dog engaged with a toy or treats while you click away.