PreparationWhen you’re planning a photo shoot with a pet, you always want to prepare ahead, so everything is ready before the pet makes his entrance. For indoor photo shoots, set up your studio backdrops, adjust your lighting, and choose some props. Be sure to test the lighting and exposure, using a stand in subject if necessary. Custom white balance works well because it minimizes the need for color correction when editing.
Backdrops & LightingHow you set up your lighting and photo backdrops will depend largely on the pet’s coloring. For example, if you are taking pictures of a dog with a dark coat, a silver reflector will help bounce light against the dog’s face. Choose a backdrop that will complement or contrast the animal’s coloring. Outdoor shoots should be set up somewhere where the pet will feel comfortable and is unlikely to run away. The area should also have open shade and even lighting, rather than dappled light.
Staging & Props
Props are also fun, especially with pets that are used to being part of a photo shoot. Props can be helpful when it comes to keeping a pet engaged, but they should be selected carefully so they don’t detract from the pet in the portrait. Toys can make good props, but also try using some human props, like sunglasses and hats. There are sure to be many spontaneous comical moments in your shoot. Be sure to save pictures of these moments, as well as the more choreographed photos against. You never know when something a little different might be exactly what you need.
Controlling Your “Model”Sometimes, getting an animal to cooperate for a photo shoot can be difficult and frustrating, especially with a grumpy kitty. When you are going into a photo shoot with a pet, establishing control is important to make sure the session goes smoothly. Basic obedience training is very important, and the pet should be able to understand the commands to sit, stay, and down. Some animals, such as small dogs, may not like to jump down from raised surfaces. In these cases, putting them on a table can work to the photographer’s advantage. Make sure the surface you place your pet on is solid; a frightened animal on unsure footing will not make for a good subject. Most pets are social creatures. Photography may be serious to you, but they just want to have fun. Before you break into business mode and bring out the camera, take a few minutes to play with the pet. Show the pet affection both before and during the shoot. This lets them know they are the center of attention, and they will be easier to work with.
Capturing PhotosOnce everything is set up, and it’s time to start taking pictures, make sure your camera is calibrated correctly. Since pets seldom want to hold still for very long, shutter speeds of 1/100 second or faster, as well as a low ISO work best to minimize blur. A wide aperture can be a good choice when you want to scale back the background with a blurred look to better highlight your subject. For studio shots, narrow apertures help to bring out details in the pet’s eyes or markings. A short telephoto lens between 85 and 100 mm ensures that the attention stays focused on the pet. Focusing on a pet’s eyes is a great way to capture his personality in your photos. Setting up a camera on a tripod and talking to a pet will often make him tilt his head and ignite a spark. Offering treats is popular for most pets and is sure to pique their interest and help you get the shot you’re looking for. Always be sure to give the pet plenty of reward and praise upon completion. Many photographers find that their once pets get quite used to being part of their photo shoots, they are happy and excited to participate the next time around.
-The Backdrop Express Photography Team
Interested in learning more about pet photography? Check out 12 Tips to Easier and More Creative Pet Photography!
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