If you can keep the three following tips in mind while photographing your pet you can almost be assured of a satisfying result. You can use these tips as a springboard to ever more sophisticated and creative pet portraiture.
Tip Number One:
Get Down. Get down onto your pet’s level. Seeing your pet at eye level makes a shot inherently more interesting. We are always looking down at them, but by shooting them at eye level we not only get a more interesting perspective, but you can also achieve stronger connection.
Tip Number Two:
Focus on your pet’s eyes. Even if you don’t get anything else sharp, get the eyes sharp. In fact, if your pet’s eyes are sharp, and nothing else, it can even be a creative plus. Again, the connection you establish with your subject will be much stronger if the eyes are sharp, and connection is ultimately what it is all about.
Tip Number Three:
Get the light right. Having the light behind you a little to the left or right almost guarantees your pet will be well lit. Not necessarily the most interesting light, but I’d rather have well lit than a featureless blob. If you want to get a little more sophisticated, set your flash to 1/3 under exposed (if you have an adjustable camera and flash) and have the available light from behind or slightly behind your subject matter.
Using a flash, even in bright light, is probably a good idea as long as the flash does not overpower the existing light. Using the flash as a supplement is known as “Fill Flash”. It can bring out the subtle details as well as adding a “catch light” to your pet’s eyes. Adding a simple catch light can bring an otherwise drab image to life.
Tip Number Four:
Center yourself, not the picture. You’re focusing on the eyes, right? Make sure those eyes are not in the center of the picture. Most people center the eyes leaving a lot of empty space at the top of the frame. Try putting your pet’s eyes on the upper right or left quadrant for a starting point. And fill the frame; it is hard to be too close!
Tip Number Five:
Get your pet’s attention. You have the eyes in focus. The composition is looking good. Now get your pet’s attention. It might be calling their name, making a noise, or even having a friend hold a treat just above your head.
But be prepared. You want to press that shutter point just when your pet’s eyes zero in on you and his or her ears perk up. That precious look usually only lasts a fleeting moment, but capture it and you’ll have a picture you can treasure forever.