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opinion, tutorial / February 25, 2014

5 tips to better pet photography

You love your pet, but when you look at the photos, your pet photography isn’t showing the same feeling you had when you took the photos. That’s very common because the camera doesn’t care as much as you do about the experience. It is just following the rules you set for it and trying to take an average exposure.

For you to improve your pet photography, you have to make sure you’re doing what you can to get the best photos possible. That doesn’t mean you need to invest in a expensive camera system. You can still get good photos right from your own camera if you keep these 5 tips in mind.  This way you can improve your pet photography and be proud to share.

Vizsla, pet photography

Mada running through the field in the early morning fog.

[highlight] Tip 1: Try to keep the light at your back. [/highlight]  If you are shooting into a light or you don’t have good light to begin with, you’re camera will compensate and it won’t look good.  If you can keep the light at your back, then your pet will be lit nicely (as long as you don’t block the light).  For indoor photos, try to use good window light. My dog loves to sit in the window so when I take photos with my iPhone, I try to take advantage of that.

[highlight] Tip 2: Adjust the exposure for the best photo of your pet. [/highlight]  This is especially important if your pet is darker in color or your shooting under bright lighting condition like snow or the beach. The camera is trying to create an exposure to average out the scene. So if you’ve got a black dog out in the snow, your camera is looking for a middle gray. Most camera’s have an option called E/V control. This allows you to over or under expose your photos.  It looks something like this: -2..-1..0..1..2. This means that you can under (-2,-1) or over (1,2) expose your photos up to 2 times the normal exposure.  Many will allow you to make these changes in 1/3 stop changes. So if you’ve got a dark dog in the snow, try over exposing by 1 stop (EV +1) and you’ll get much better look to your dog but the background might be over exposed.  Not a bad trade off.

[highlight] Tip 3: Get to their level. [/highlight]  This might seem obvious but when most people take photos, they take it from their hight or from where ever they are without considering their subject. For you with little dogs, this is more work but it will be worth it. When I photograph my rat terrier, I’m often on my belly just so I can get the right view for him. This isn’t always the case but it will add a point of view that you might not always see. I’m sure you’ll be happy with the pictures

[highlight] Tip 4: Consider the background. [/highlight]  Many times, people take photos of their pets but not consider the background. Things like trees coming out of their heads or other weird things that once on a flat, 2D image, looks really out of place. To avoid that, really consider where your pet is. What is behind them and how does that help the photo. Look for a background that will contrast your pet so you can get the photos the look best. It isn’t always necessary but you can also try to square off what you are shooting. to do that, make sure you aren’t pointing the camera up or down. Also try to keep the horizon only 1/3 up the photo. If it is in the middle, you might want to adjust your composition. Look into the idea of RULE OF THIRDS. I’ll try to talk more about this in a later post.

[highlight] Tip 5: Take a faster exposure. [/highlight] Unless you like photos of sleeping pets, your little one will be on the move.  That can be a real challenge for two reasons. One, they will be blurry because they are moving too fast or everything will be blurry because you’re chasing them with a moving camera.  To avoid blurry photos you first need a lot of light.  So either be out on a bright sunny day and/or adjust your ISO of your camera higher (maybe 1000 ISO would be a place to start).  Depending on your camera, you want to have your shutter speed be at least 1/1000 a second.  That will stop time of most moving objects but faster is good too. If you have a water dog and want to catch those splashing water, even faster would be good. If you don’t have control of your shutter speed, you might have a running guy as an option.  That guy means the camera will be trying to stop motion so it will try to do the work for you.

There are other things to consider, like how you hold the camera and framing so maybe I’ll make a new video that will help explain that better. Please feel free to leave a comment and let me know what you think about this and if you want any other tutorials. There are plenty of areas that I could explain in greater details so let me know what you think.


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