Sunday, May 4, 2014

Taking a great pet photo (It's hard!)

Liam the pug posing for a photo
Pet blogs like this one work best when there are bright, eye-catching photos involved. People who read these things do so to glean tips, of course, but they also like to look at the furry animals. Getting good photos is the best way to keep readers coming back for more.

I'm pretty lucky to have Liam, as he's a very willing photography subject. But, I also have some challenges with him, and Sinead hates to be photographed. So, I thought I'd share a few tricks and tips, as well as a few misfires. If you're thinking about starting a pet blog, maybe this will help!

Finding the right lighting 

Pets are a challenge to photograph, as they tend to blend into the background of photos taken in dark rooms. Light-colored pets like Liam also tend to get a little bright and blown out when they're in direct sunlight, too, so they simply must have rooms that are bright without being overpowering.

I try to photograph my dogs in the afternoon. The sunlight is strong, but there are shadowy corners the dogs can sit in. Photos like this have the right amount of light, but there are no problems with blowout.
Sinead the Boston terrier posing for a photo

Skip the flash 

A bright camera flash often produces photographs of alien-looking dogs with blue eyes. I've taken a lot of shots that look like this, and it's sad, because I just can't use them.

Liam the pug with blue eyes from a flash

His expression is great, but the blue throws the whole thing off.

I turn the flash off (most of the time) and try to capture the shot with available light. I don't get any blue, and I don't have to worry so much about hurting the dogs with a big flash.

Make pet photography fun

Liam will pose for hours, simply because our shots are at least somewhat fun. I have treats, I make all kinds of weird noises and I smother him with smootches between shots. That's how I can convince him to sit so nicely when I am exploring new settings on my camera (like these!).

Liam the pug with a photo filter on

Liam the pug with a photo filter

I never make him "sit" during a shot, and I don't take photos when something unpleasant is happening. For example, it might be wonderfully fun to take photos of Sinead when we're heading out for a walk because she often tries to pretend that she's asleep, so she won't have to go. That would make a blog post really pop, if I was talking about coaxing. But, pairing photography with something unhappy would almost guarantee that she wouldn't play along the next time the camera came out. I can't risk it.

Cut back the noise 

Many cameras come with all sorts of bells and whistles, including high-pitched beeps that let you know that the flash is ready or the memory is low. These things can be helpful, but the dogs find them really distracting, and dogs like Sinead look miserable when there's beeping involved.

Here's a good shot of her taken with my beeping camera. Notice how she won't look at me.

Sinead the Boston terrier will not look at the camera

And here's one taken with the iPad, which makes no noise at all. She's really checking the camera out here.
Sinead the Boston terrier in black and white

For me, this has been the secret ingredient in getting good shots of this Boston. But if I come up with others in the next few months or so, I'll share those, too!

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