Photographing Pets

“Never work with children and animals”, they say. Well, life’s photographic memories would be pretty boring if we abided to that old wives-tale. Although children and animals do have their challenges, there is nothing more rewarding than hanging that special photograph, which you yourself took, of Rover when he went for his first swim/finally caught the ball/dug up all the newly planted veggie seedlings! Here are a few tips to help you get those precious photos, every time.

Composition of the photograph is one of those things that we often don’t really think about while we’re chasing the dog around the back yard, trying to get a shot to send off to the relatives, so we can show off just how handsome he/she is. But good composition will help your photo stand out from the rest. Getting in close and filling the frame with your dog will help to eliminate distracting backgrounds. Your dog will become the centre of attention, not the weeds in the background which have taken over the veggie patch. To be even more creative, try placing your dog off-centre, rather than smack bang in the middle of the frame.

Getting down to your dogs level is also one of those little things that can make such a difference in a photograph. If you’re six feet tall, and you’re photographing a silky terrier, the distortion would be on par with you looking up at the Eiffel tower. So get down on your knees, or even lie on your belly and take a look at the world from your dogs’ perspective. One draw back may be the dog thinking its playtime, that’s when the word “Stay” comes into good use. It’s a good position to be in to try for eye contact too. The photograph will have more impact if your dog is looking straight into the camera.

Lighting can make a photograph. Days when it’s slightly overcast provide for good photography weather, the lighting is even with no harsh shadows. Sunny days are a little different, especially with darker coloured dogs. The golden rule is keep the sun over your left shoulder – meaning the dog is lit on the side you are photographing. But if he/she’s sitting under his favourite tree, he/she will be lost in shadow. To balance this you will need to use ‘fill-flash’. This just means you are ‘filling in’ the shadow areas by using your cameras flash to match the brightness around the tree. Having your dog positioned with the sun behind him/her, and then using fill-flash can also achieve a more creative shot. The outcome will be a correctly exposed photo, with a natural ‘highlight’ around the dog.

Using flash indoors can be a little trickier. Avoiding distracting shadows can be easily dealt with by making sure the background is far enough away from the dog – say at least one meter. The use of a plain background, such as a sheet often helps too. Another problem is ‘red-eye’, which happens when your dogs looking directly at the camera when the flash is fired. It’s difficult to avoid ‘red-eye’ in cameras with built-in flashes. If you can remove your flash from the camera, putting it to one side of the camera will help to eliminate the problem. Otherwise, there are pens available, which you can use to touch-up the photographs when you’ve got them home from the processing lab.

There will be many occasions when it pays to have the camera ready, such as:

Bringing the new puppy home.
Introducing your toddler to their first dog.
Bath time (just be careful not to get the camera wet).
Your dog’s first time at the seaside, or in the snow.
When the two of you pass your obedience training.

In todays world of digital photography its never been so easy – always keep the camera close at hand. With dogs (especially new puppies) you never quite know when that magic moment might happen.