Pet Portraits – Tips & Tricks
We are a nation, if not a generation of pet lovers. From cat cafes, doggy day-care & grooming boutique and countless pony camps…we can’t get enough of our pets. So with this in mind, it comes as no surprise that pet photography is on the increase. Pets are a big part of our lives and considered to be part of the family, and their portraits can certainly add a new dynamic to the family gallery!
Pet photography initially began as a way to increase the number of animals that were re-homed from shelters; the thinking was that a great photo would improve their chance of being rehomed and has now turned into an extremely popular hobby and lucrative business. If you haven’t yet entered into the realm of pet photography, we have put together some tips on creating a successful pet photoshoot for when the time comes.
Believe it or not – animals can swiftly acknowledge the emotion that you are experiencing and can begin to experience it themselves.If you are feeling flustered and anxious around them, they will also become stressed and nervy (often with dire consequences that require some cleaning up). Strive to remain calm and confident through the entire shoot – this is supposed to be fun! A word of advice; an animal that is stressed and upset will also look that way on film – their ears will lay flat, their tail will be hidden between their legs and, like humans, their eyes will give away their emotion. Not the keepsake the owner was looking for!It’s also important to be aware of any body language that shows an animal is scared or unhappy, as they are likely to become aggressive if they believe they need to protect themselves. Raised hackles and a recoiled stance are warning signs; set aside sometime at the beginning of the shoot so that the animal can familiarise themselves with you and your equipment.
Focus on the Eyes
The age old ‘the eyes are the window to the soul’ also extends into the animal kingdom. The eyes are the most expressive element of an animals face and they can pull some really engaging facial expressions that bring alive their personality in their photos. A noise that you make in order to attract their attention will create an incredibly powerful image of them staring right at the camera.
Photograph in Their World
While some ‘human eye view’ shots of pets are cute, why not create some images that are compelling and dynamic by shooting down at their level? Photograph them in their natural poses or as they go about their day to day lives, capturing them in their element; animals are ultimately outdoor creatures and this is where they are happiest. From lounging in the branches of a tree, chasing a ball or frolicking in the garden, photographing pets when they are at their most content will provide a beautiful shot and invoke powerful memories. Chances are you will have to spend a lot of time crouching, kneeling or stretching so it’s best to get some practice in to make sure you are able to get some great shots whilst being uncomfortable!
I’m sure you are aware that professional photographers are often required to turn, bend and twist as well as the aforementioned crouch and kneel – all in the name of a great shot! If you have previously been unfortunate enough to experience some of the aches and pains that come with the job why not spend some time stretching and improving your flexibility to create the perfect composition. Let’s not kid ourselves, the animal is going to be in control here and you will have to wait patiently in some pretty precarious positions until they decide to co-operate. In all honestly, once you change position, the animal will probably follow your lead, going from sitting to standing for instance and breaking a picture perfect pose.
As always, good lighting is critical. However, when photographing pets it’s even more important because ideally you want to catch the ‘catch lights’ in their eyes (the white reflective parts). Make a point of checking the weather forecast of the day that you intend to shoot, if its forecast to be heavily overcast you should seriously consider moving the shoot to another day. As always, avoid photographing your subject in a dark room. Bright light that is diffused creates the best pictures; before you begin shooting, have a look around the environment and determine the location with the best light to ensure the most flattering shots of the pet.
Just like us, animals require some motivation to pay attention throughout the shoot, otherwise they will become easily distracted. While two-legged subjects are motivated by the payment they will receive after a shoot – for animals the best way to their heart is through food, or even perhaps a favourite toy. It’s likely that these treats will be used in abundance throughout the shoot; but these rewards will pay off as you will also be rewarded with great shots as the animal will be more inclined to co-operate. And there you have it – some top tips that will help you shoot some beautiful pet portraits; we would hedge our bets on the commissions coming in sooner rather than later as the trend really takes of – so best get limbering up now!