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opinion, tutorial / November 1, 2011

5 tips to better pet photos

When photographing your four legged family, it can be difficult to get them to look at the camera and smile.  I thought you’d like to have a few pointers when trying to get the best shots.

[highlight] 1- get on their level: [/highlight]  We are often looking down on our pets just because they have the advantage of moving on 4 legs.  Bringing the camera down to be head level or a little below will give you a better point of view and lets the pet keep their head pointing forward.  They are going to look at you and may even walk to you when you get on their level though so having some extra help, throwing a ball, calling, getting them to sit and stay may be needed.

[highlight] 2- shoot fast: [/highlight]  If you take photos outside at the park or with other dogs, they are going to run all over the place.  To get a good photo of them running, jumping and playing, you’ll need a fast shutter speed.  That means that the time the camera is open to make the exposure is very shoot.  Depending on your camera, you will have some or all the control over that.  Shooting in Shutter Priority mode will allow you to set the speed of the shutter and faster is better.  Something around 1/1000 shutter speed (may appear on the camera as just “1000”) will do a really good job of stopping motion.  To take advantage of that, you need to have a lot of light so choose a sunny day (earlier or later in the day has the best light). Also try to have the sun at your back. You’ll find the lighting much nicer that way.

[highlight] 3- follow to focus: [/highlight]  Some nicer cameras have some complex focusing systems.  Most though give you at least a basic auto focus by holding the button half way down to focus and then the rest of the way down to make the exposure.  If you’re dog is moving, track them with the camera, hold half way down while tracking and then press all the way when they are moving.  This works best when they are running by you or farther away. If they are running at you, you might need a servo focusing system that can track and focus at the same time.  That would be a fancier camera though.  Most point and shoots can’t but newer cameras are getting better all the time.

If you’re just trying to get a good photo of your dog sitting still, make sure to focus on the eye’s first.  The camera will try to focus on the closest thing which is fine for a pug but not so good for a German Shepard.

[highlight] 4- avoid distracting backgrounds: [/highlight]  This goes back to my first tip.  If you’re down on their level, you’ll get more background info and that can be distracting.  Take into account that the camera doesn’t care what is in front of it and will see everything.  If there are trees, bushes or other people in the frame that could distract from your beautiful pet, try changing your position a bit to get those out.  Framing is important and it’s a lot of work to remove things you don’t want after you take the photo like a tree growing our of your pets head or that stranger sun bathing in the background you didn’t notice.

[highlight] 5- Relax and have fun: [/highlight]  If you get worked up trying to get a perfect photo, your pet will sense the tension you feel and may react to that.  If you’re having fun, your pet will be having fun and that will show up in the photos.  Shoot a lot and remember, it’s just pixels ; you can shoot 100’s of photos that only cost you time.

Keep practicing and keep your camera close by.  If you’ve got to search for it, to take a photo, the moment will be gone before you turn it on.

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