Tips for taking photos of your pets
By HELEN PALMER
Dec. 2 is National Mutt Day, but since that is past, I will let those of you who have beloved mutts roaming the house celebrate on your own and maybe take some photographs of the festivities since my subject for today is recording your pet’s life with pictures.
Taking photos of animals is not like photographing still life. To make the animal stand out, the lighting has to be considered, especially if the animal is dark, because you want the expression highlighted, but you don’t want “red eye” (where the eyes glow red). Back or side lighting gives a unique character to the finished picture.
Some photographers like to do close-up portraits of animals, sometimes using a long-focus lens and occasionally waiting for the right moment. Other photographers go for the action picture and set themselves up in a strategic spot to catch the dog racing by or jumping into the air. However, you need a special high-speed film for action shots.
If you analyze portraits and full body pictures, you will notice that all of them are taken about shoulder height of the dog. Occasionally you will see one taken from the ground looking up at the animal. Posing the dog on a draped platform will make it easier to get the desired angle.
Occasionally you can get sweet, one-of-a-kind photos of puppies discovering something new, like a mirror. I took several shots of my eight-week-old standard schnauzer puppy as she tried to make sense of her reflection in the full-length mirror. These pictures had to be taken quickly because the puppy decided that the mirror was no playmate and ignored it after that encounter.
I was once asked to take a picture of all my pets in one shot, which included my cat. I discovered that the dogs would stay but the cat had no interest in the project. I ended up placing all of them in the bathtub and snapped the picture as the cat was preparing to depart. It worked! The cat had his paws on the tub rim and looked like he was just standing so his head was level with the other animals. (A lucky shot!)
The object is to catch the dog at the right moment of anticipation or interaction.
Most animal photos are best when the camera is on the level of the subject. That means for toy breeds, the photographer gets down on the floor or puts the dog up on a table.
Larger breeds can be photographed from a kneeling or sitting position.
It is best if the animal is photographed quite close to get the texture of the fur and the subject’s expression. This is especially important if the dog is black with dark eyes. I prefer to take side views of these animals as the flash will highlight the eyes and the facial fur.
Backgrounds should also be considered. The lighter the fur, the more options you will have for an intense colored background. A pastel background will bring out the unique features of a dark coat.