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 Image by LUM3N from Pixabay

 

Commissions - How to photograph your pet

So, you've decided to commission a lovely portrait of your favourite pet, but you need to take some photos first.
For some people, this is the most daunting part. But it needn't be, as photographing a beloved pet is really easy! You don't need a fancy camera (a mobile phone will do) or a studio as your back garden or living room will do just fine. But what makes a good photo for a pet portrait?


 

A head and shoulders portrait

 

A full length body portrait

 
 

You will need photos that are not only in sharp focus, but “zoomed in” on the pet. The most important thing with this kind of shot is to focus on your pet's eyes, as this will make or break the image.

 

You will need an image that shows the entire animal within the photo. Ensure that the pet’s extremities are not cropped in any way, so no paws missing or just half an ear on display! Or just use a blanket, as below...

 
 
Gizza biccy!
  Phone home!  
 
Image by Chiemsee2016 from Pixabay
 
Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay
 

Some things to remember…

 • Avoid Using Flash - It can reduce even the most robust of animals to jelly!

 • The bigger the animal, the more space you will require. Horses need more room than hamsters

 • Use natural light. Go outdoors as sunlight is the best for pet portrait photos

 • The eyes have it. Having sharp eyes in an image is essential for any kind of portrait photography

 • For dogs and cats, go to them with a toy and watch how they react. This is great for candid shots

 • Let their character shine through in any image. Let them play and fool around. Use toys and treats as bribes

 • Be patient and you will be rewarded. Most animals will do things in their own time. Just let them play quietly and wait.

 • Experiment with different environments, toys, games or even people. If you have kids, encourage them to play with the    animal.

 

Lights

Natural light is always best, so choose a sunny day for first class results. Try to shoot with the Sun behind you, but avoid casting shadows on your subject. Early in the morning and late in the afternoon are great times for photography, as this is what us snappers call "The Golden Hour." The Sun is fairly low in the sky, which gives the sunlight a golden hue.

 

Camera

If you are using a digital compact "point and shoot" camera or DSLR, but are not confident with all of it's settings, don't worry. Set the device to fully automatic, as most cameras these days deliver good results with the minumum of fuss. Try to experiment the zoom function if you have a compact, as you can get close to your pet without them running off.

 

For Digital SLR's, there are more options. Different lenses, ISO Settings, Aperture and Shutter settings, White Balance, the list goes on! If you are feeling adventurous, feel free to play around and see what happens. You might get lucky.

 

The least you need to know:

 • ISO Setting (Film Speed) - Make sure that this is between ISO400 and ISO800

 • Shutter Speed: Use a minumum of 1/400s to capture the action

 • Depth of Field (DOF): For Zoom Lenses, use between F2.8 and F8

 

Remember, if in doubt, set the camera to fully automatic!

 

Mobile Phones have come on in leaps and bounds over the past decade, the camera accessories which used to be a token gesture are now getting close to the same quality as a compact or DSLR. Just remember these points and you will capture a great image.

• Mobile Camera Phones are not as good as a proper camera

• Always switch off the flash!

• Make sure there is plenty of light, as the aperture of a Mobile Phone Camera is not as large as a normal one.
  Less light gets to the sensor and the quality of an otherwise good photo can be degraded

• Do not use the Digital Zoom. Unlike normal Zoom Lenses for DSLR's, this type of zoom just crops the
  existing image and magnifies the centered area, like a magnifying glass. There is significant loss of image
  quality. Just try and get closer to your subject.

• Do not resize, crop or reduce the file size of the photo as there will be sigificant loss of quality, resolution
  and colour rendition

• Do not use the Screen Capture facility on mobile phones. It may look pin sharp, however the resolution
  is vastly inferior to a photo taken with the camera.

• Finally, uploaded social media photos. I am not too sure about Twitter and Instagram, but Facebook
  uses an automated system to compress and resize the image. This results in poor image quality.

 

Action!

This is the fun bit! For best results, Alison will need around 30 to 40 photographs shot from several different angles. Of course, this always depends upon the temperament of your pet. If they are not in the mood, then leave it for another day. After all, animals have off days, just like humans.

 

But if it's Game On, then take your pet out into your garden or, if it's a dog, take it on a favourite walk. Anything that allows the animal to relax and behave naturally. Start off on one side of your pet and snap off a few photos. Then, try standing near its head and take a few more. It's the same again with the other side and of course from behind the animal.
Just click away!

 

For a bit more action, try holding or throwing a ball or holding a treat. Or, if you can rope someone in as an assistant, then get them to do the throwing, or just run around so the animal becomes more animated.

 

Some photos will be out of focus, or showing only half your pet. This is perfectly normal. You're not a proper photographer unless you have taken at least ten pin sharp images of your thumb or foot! Once you have done for the day, then you can sort through your photos and select the best ones.

 

For more information on Pet Photography, try these websites

Amateur Photographer - How to photograph your dog

Blue Cross - How to photograph your pet

WikiHow - How to photograph pets