Pets are wonderful subjects for taking photos of and sharing with loved ones or on social media. In Britain we are nation of pet lovers and it is always a joy to see photos of everybody’s dog and cat pics flowing through the internet streams. Be it lazing at home, playing in the garden or outdoors on a great adventure. I have had many pets over many years and Malc and Gladys fill my camera lens and social profiles on many occasions.
I am often asked about angles, focus, framing etc so here I my own tips for getting better results. We all have out own style though so hopefully you can take away what you wish 🙂
We are also now providing Dog photography retreats! If you want a weekend away with 1 and 1 with me, Malc and a an experienced dog trainer and behaviorist.
Focus On The Eyes
This is something that can really boost your pet photography. Focusing on the pet’s eyes. This is where a lot of the character will come out plus it draws the viewers eyes in immediately to the pet. If you have a camera then you could practice also with aperture mode. Use an small numbered (wide) aperture setting and focus on those eyes closer up. You will blur the background and create a great contrast that makes the eyes pop!
If you are using a smartphone you can tap the screen to get that focus point where you want it. Plus most good smartphone cameras have a wide aperture already so it is a case of patience and taking lots of pics until you get a good one. A trained dog you can get to look direct at you, still, with a squeaky toy etc. Cat? ha, not so easy I know.
Take a look at this pic of Lyla for example….
You can see that the smartphone picked up on her nose as the focus point. Just imagine, if it had focused on her eyes, this photo would look ten times better!!!!
Get Down To Their Level
When I first started teaching myself taking photos of my dogs, this was the first thing I did to improve them. We have all done it, the dog comes up to you in the kitchen, it looks up at you so so cutely and you just have to take a pic. You do it from above at your chest level looking down. If you look back at them you will see how the head of the dog looks out of proportion to the body.
When I am taking photos of my dogs I get down and on the floor, at their level, and even more so now with little Gladys in the fray. It is worth the effort and getting dirty to get great angles of your pets.
Malc loves to run and run. And I love getting photos of him in action. These kind of shots are so much easier with a proper camera that has a great variety of settings. You do not need all these but they all can help make life so much easier. For example:
Set as fast as possible that won’t make your photos too dark. So outdoors the brighter the day the better. Ideally you want a speed of 1/500 or faster to avoid blur. The shot above was actually taken at a speed of 1/4000. A wide aperture allowed me to get more light plus a side effect of blurring the background. Thus not having to use a high ISO and create to much noise in the picture.
If you have tracking focus mode on your camera, use it here! Tracking mode allows you to set the focus on the dog when still. Then when they start running it will stay with the dog so you can just concentrate on taking the pictures. So for the above photo. I had Malc wait, focus on him, and shout ‘come’ when ready. I could take pics as he jumped toward me knowing the camera was tracking him.
If you don’t have tracking then at least use continuous autofocus. Never work with children or animals they say 🙂 They never stop fidgeting or moving. Most cameras get set to autofocus, you half press, it focuses on them and they then suddenly move a little bit. Turning AFC on will help you here by continuously following the focus point you may require.
This is the mode I use a lot! You know the usual score, you set the shot up, get the settings you want, but then only take one photo and your timing was out. With burst mode you keep the shutter pressed and it takes lots of photos in one burst. My camera does 11 shots a second in this mode so I can get a picture I want more often then not on the first try.
Use Props and Nature
As I walk with the dogs I am always looking for unique opportunities for photos. Nature is a beautiful framer and adds so much more to a photo. You could have a dog in a green field background, or, you could enhance the pic with colour and flowers for instance. This is where the getting down the their level comes in for sure.
Or you could go all experimental and bring your own props, for example a lensball.
Utilise Timelapse Mode
This is something I use, a lot! Especially if I want to get myself in the picture.
Gopros, cameras, smartphones. So many of them have a timelapse mode and you don’t need to use them for timelapse per se. Timelapse mode basically allows you to press go on the camera and it will keep taking photos, at the intervals you set, until you stop it. get yourself a little tripod, set it up, set off a timelapse and play with your pet in front of the camera. When you stop you will have lots of pics within that timelapse to single out and use one. A natural moment between you and the dog. No timers required.
Your photos, your style, that is the main thing. I didn’t want to get too much into technical detail and just show some simpler tips I use to get my pet photos more how I would want them. Pets can be the most amazing companions and can also be amazing subjects for photography.
As for pets posing? That is a whole different matter, and training 🙂 Gladys? She does her own thing. Malc? He is now trained so that whenever I point the camera in his direction he sits for a pose automatically. That brings a whole new issue when I want an action shot, ha, see, who would want to work with animals…. me!