If you know me you probably could have guessed this post was coming. You don’t have to go very far into my instagram photo feed to find my furry four legged muse, Weebee. In fact she’s sitting on my keyboard as we speak making this post a little hard to finish.
Weebee has been photographed countless times, and she is not, I repeat, not an easy subject which makes her a challenge. She has a camera awareness that makes her shy away when I point this big black thing her way and apparently a camera is a camera because she doesn’t cooperate with phone in her face either.
An avid animal lover I spent my college years working as a Vet Tech at a local animal hospital. I have handled my share of animals from coiled snakes the size of giant tires to snapping toucans. Photographing them is sometimes harder than handling them actually. Recently I was approached by Momfluential founder, Ciarin to see if I would accompany her and Marly (photographed above) to a local shelter. Marly created a group on Flickr Pix4Pets where people can visit to view the beautiful pets currently up for adoption in Orange County. Here are some of the tips I shared with Marly that day.
1. Spend time getting to know them if they are not your pet.
I know this sounds remedial but remember they are like kids, some are social and some are shy. If you really want to capture an animal you meet make friends with it first, you are more likely to buy yourself more time with the animal and more time leads me to my next tip, overshoot.
Meet Marlin, a neighbor cat of my sister. He happens to be very comfortable with strangers so I seized the photo op.
I met this Boston Terrier at the Great Park, the owner was happy to let me snap some photos, its always a good idea (good manners too) to ask first.
The cat on the left was very social unlike his roommate to the right who was very camera shy. They both reside at the Irvine Animal Care Center if you are interested!
We are free of development costs (most of use who shoot digitally) so the sky is the limit aim to shoot at least 25 of just one pose. You think that’s overkill but you won’t when you go back and review the images to find that only one gave you that ‘money’ shot, perfect lighting, expression, or capturing great catch lights in your pets eyes … do yourself a favor save the one and delete the rest (trust me you don’t want the computer clutter).
3. Get down on their level.
Much like children we must seem like gigantic looming monsters with big black boxes in our hands. Get on all four, lay down do what ever you need to make yourself as non-threatening as possible. You will be more likely to catch a more relaxed stance or even a yawn or a stretch. A lot of time I lay my camera on the floor and shoot.
4. Get closer. Go macro.
Getting in close with your lens or cropping the photo after usually works really well when you want to highlight a certain feature. Maybe its the dark soft pads of their feet or the ticking pattern of their fur. Close is always visually appealing, makes for a unique and interesting portrait.
5. Turn off your flash.
If you have flashed your cat you know the result, a funny and sometimes demonic-eye look. That glow is caused by a light reflecting layer just behind the cats retina that helps absorb extra light and aid in their ability to see at night. This is all well and good for the cat but bad for photos, so turn your flash off add as much natural light as possible or take them outside. I find that putting them by a bright window makes for beautiful catch lights (the little white circles) in their eyes.
In the dark cage coaxing them to come towards the light helps get the exposure right.
6. Catch them in motion.
You can roll around and run with the animal WHILE YOU ARE SHOOTING? Why not. Panning, taking photographs while you and your subject in motion can capture the subject in focus while the background is blurred. There is a great example on Flickr here.
7. Shoot at different times of the day.
If you have active puppies or kittens, play with them and then feed them as they quiet down for rest you’ll have plenty of time to capture their youthfulness. Afternoon is always a great time outside, the golden hour (the hour before sunset) is my favorite time, everything just looks better what can I say. Even though my cat is a warm color, the setting sun brings out the texture in her fur and the color of her eyes. Watch your background too. Its no accident I had her hop up on this orange lounger.
taken with my iPhone |Camera+, ShakeIt and qbro are a few of my favorite apps.
8. Use toys to engage them. Laser pointers are even better.
I remember having my Persian cat photographed by a well know cat photographer Chanan, he had a trademark look to his portraits. He was able to get my cat to strike the perfect “show cat” pose by slapping a feathered toy on the ground and whipping it straight above there head. It works on my Abyssinian too. My cat also responds well (that’s putting it mildly) to laser pointers, if I want her to look up, I can have someone point with the laser just above and behind me and she’ll lock it in hard and give me enough time to fire off a few shots. Every pet is different, my cat, especially her breed are very curious and respond quickly to anything darting around. Experiment with a variety of toys, the goal is to to stimulate not frighten.
Snapping my fingers with my free hand helped replicate the same pose as the her RRossman portrait.
I read a tip once about how a dog owner would save the squeakies out of ripped toys and stash them in his camera bag. When the dogs would lose interest he’s give it a few squeezes which was good for about 3 more minutes of shooting.
9. Use continuous shoot (or burst) mode
Have any tips to share? We would love to hear them as well as see YOUR pet photos. You can post them in out Flickr Group (Flickr is free to join) or email them to Lindsey (at) themodchik.com Your photo may be featured here on OC FAMILY Modclicks.
photo by: Marly Blumenfeld
photo by: Marly Blumenfeld
photo by: Marly Blumenfeld