An Introduction to Pet Photography


 An Introduction to Pet Photography

Taking photos of your pets is a fun and rewarding experience. They offer a great opportunity to learn about photography! In this blog post, you'll find some tips and tricks for taking photos of pets, as well as the basics about light, composition, shutter speed/ aperture settings, filters and more.

To start off with: it can be difficult to get good shots of animals when they're moving (pets or otherwise). To stop them from jumping out of frame or running away while you're trying to snap the perfect pic, try getting down on their level (eye-level), making sure that they are surrounded by white space and using a wide-angle lens if possible.

A tripod will help you get the perfect shot; I use a lightweight Pelican case and a GorillaPod shoulder rig . You could also use a monopod or buy a dedicated pet-focused camera.  (I do not own one.)
For the first shot, try to have your pet in natural surroundings: the living room, with bowls of food and water, or the backyard. If they like to run around, make sure you're close enough to them (within 5 or 10 feet) as you want them in focus so that they don't bobble around all over the place.
Use a medium-to-wide  (e.g. 18-55mm)   lens,  and zoom right in to capture a close-up.
When viewing your photos after the fact, be sure the pet is still in focus. If not, it may be possible to fix the color and/or contrast of your photo in Adobe Lightroom or Photoshop.
Use a large aperture number (small f/#) to control depth of field: lower numbers mean more depth of field (blurred background), higher numbers mean less depth of field (sharp foreground). This is especially important with lenses that are built for capturing landscapes  (e.g. 50mm or wider).
Choose a low ISO setting so that you don't have noisy photos when you print out your shots.
Some pet tricks:
* Ask your pet's owner if they have a favorite toy or food to get them to play with you.
* Use the flash and fill it with paper, then aim the flash at your background and set the camera's white balance to "incandescent." *  While on the topic of cameras, make sure that your focus is set to manual. The auto-focus will only cause problems when taking photos of moving objects.
* You can also try taking shots from bushes or flowers: for example, a pic of a tarantula in a flower bed, or a dog looking out from under a bush (the dog is in focus; the bush is slightly blurred).
* Vary your composition (position of your subject within the frame) and try different angles on various days... don't settle into a pattern. As with the above tip, you will need to get down on your pet's level.  Having the pet look up at you or down at you is best; depending on their size, you may have too much or too little space in front of them.
* Sometimes, a simple "no" will keep pets away from flashlights or flashes! Using multiple flashes (usually 3-4) is helpful for this purpose, and for creating bokeh (blur). See below.
* You can also set up your flash behind your pet if you are having problems with red eyes. 
Next, let's talk about light. There are three kinds of light: natural light, flash, and continuous (or strobe) light.
Natural light is the easiest to work with. It's free and readily available--as long as you get up in the morning! It's good for taking indoor shots in rooms that have large windows or skylights. Take a look at the color temperatures of different bulbs (the rating is on the package or bulb). Incandescent light is warm (temperature-wise) and yellow; fluorescent lights are cool and more blue, while sunlight is very yellow to orange. Try to take photos in natural light when possible.
Light bulbs are the second-easiest thing to use. The flash on your camera will probably suffice for pictures inside or outside, but if you want to take pro-looking shots you can try using a strobe light with a softbox (to diffuse the light), a shoot-through umbrella, or just a simple flash on a stand.  The kind of lighting setup that I use the most is the one below; it's cheap and gives pretty good results if I'm not too picky. I'm not sure about weather it's available in other countries, but you can see it here  (scroll down to the bottom for the stroboscope module).
As far as the actual lighting, I use a single off-camera flash which attaches to my camera via an adaptor and a reflector.  This is generally good enough--as long as your pet is still in focus (it's easy to get too close or too far away).
When I'm taking photos of dogs that have "puppy eyes" (puffy white eyelids), I generally use a combination of daylight and flash. While out in natural light, it's probably not necessary to use any lighting. But, sometimes you need a little extra light to fill shadows or to add contrast to a smooth-furred dog. For instance, the Vietnamese pot-bellied pigs I've taken photos of have dark skin and their eyes are very light--so, I usually use flash.
The third kind of lighting is continuous (strobe) lighting. This is basically the same as a flash but it's attached to a stand and powered by AC power. It takes more effort to set up than using flash/ daylight; but the shots come out looking much cleaner and professional.
2.  Select A Composition and Take Your Photo
Besides your subject, everything else in the picture is a detail or part of the background. There are many ways to compose a photo--and a lot of them might be better than what I do. But here's what I've figured out over the years:
* Set A Focus Point . Lock onto your subject by setting your focus point (usually by half-pressing the shutter button). Lock it and then take them on a walk around the scene (i.e. house) so that you can see how it looks from various angles.

You should now have an idea of what kind of equipment you need to take better pictures, as well as some tips on composing them. With practice, your photography will start to look better and you will be able to bring out the best in your subjects. Please feel free to leave a comment or get in touch with me if you have any questions! (NOTE: I am not a professional photographer--I just like taking pictures.)
That's it for now! Thanks for reading. Cheers and keep shooting!
(To learn more about photography, visit:   http://www.zachbot.

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