|Photo Tip & Assignment #14 – PETSIf you own a pet and a camera, you can spend hours of fun and it can be a great opportunity to test your skills. If you don’t own a pet but love animals, consider pet sitting for friends and family. Another wonderful way to do it is photographing animals in need of homes through your local shelter or rescue organisations.
The advantages of photographing pets in comparison to humans are many. You don’t need a model release. Pets will probably endure your experimentation process longer than a model, and you can pay them with little treats!
Jokes apart, pets make amazing models. Pet Portraiture has also become an established and profitable field in photography, there are studios specially designed to our loyal friends. Dogs and cats are the most popular pets and are frequently seeing as a member of the family.
Trying to come up with the best tip for photographing pets proved to be impossible. The variety of animals that can be kept as pets is so great that is best to talk about situations instead.
If you pet is in an active mood, you will need continuous focus (or AI SERVO) to keep it sharp. Continuous shooting (drive) mode is essential too, not miss a single moment. Freezing action will be possible with a fast shutter speed. To achieve that, open the aperture (small f/number) and set a fast ISO (400 or above, but watch for noise), then adjust the shutter speed keeping an eye on the light meter.
After some good static shots, experiment capturing motion blur by slowing the shutter speed (consequently closing the aperture and if needed, setting a lower ISO). Experiment within the 1/15 and 1/60 of a sec. range. Panning, zooming or twisting should be fun.
If you are after a good portrait, wait until your pet is in a calm mood. Change the focus mode back to single (ONE SHOT) and using shallow depth of field (small f/number), get as close as possible to fill the frame, trying to keep eye level with the pet. Lock the focus on one of the eyes (unless you wish to show another detail) and try vertical and horizontal shots. head only, full body, paws, snouts…Look for varied lighting conditions: shade, direct sunlight, side light, back light…
The choice of background is very important. The white English bulldog (left) was photographed by Antonio Leanza on a black background, which provided contrast and gave emphasis to the shape and contour. A simple background works well most of the times.
Different pets and breeds have different personalities. Try to capture these singularities by getting to know them well.
Upload your Pets images to the Flickr Gallery: ASSIGNMENT #14 for a chance to win an Evening Workshop Voucher at LSP*. Deadline 08/April/13
Photo: Antonio Leanza / Text: Luciana Franzolin