How to Photograph Your Pet Like a Professional
by Vincent Strangio
Being that I photograph pets (and only pets – no humans) for a living I am always being asked by people how they can get their pets pictures to look better. Although, there is no simple answer to this question, there are a few things you can do which, I believe, will greatly improve your results and maybe even get you that “one in a million” shot! In a nutshell, here are a few tips I would highly recommend:
1:: PATIENCE, PATIENCE and More PATIENCE.
If you grab a camera, run over to your dog or cat and immediately expect him to strike a supermodel pose, you are setting yourself up for a big disappointment. Just by having the camera out, staring at them, calling their name, and waving treats around you have excited them and lost all spontaneity. It is better to keep the camera with you, sit down and wait. Your pet will eventually clam down and get back to the natural state he was in that you thought was so cute it made you run and get the camera. Then you can, slowly, raise the camera and take a shot with no big fanfare. They never expect it.
2:: NO TREATS.
This is the biggest mistake most people make. They think if they hold up a few treats, their pet will automatically strike a pose for the reward. If you want to take a picture of your pet staring straight up and drooling, then use treats. If you would like something more natural, leave them alone. I only use treats as a very last resort and then very sparingly.
3:: NO FLASH.
Unless you have an off-camera flash try not to use the flash. If your flash is on-camera (or built in) you will probably be getting red eye (if you use the red eye reduction feature on your camera you will probably be getting a little less red eye) and the light created from a straight on flash is very unnatural, making your pictures look flat. Since this will make it very difficult to take pictures in low light conditions you will need to make sure you are in the right environment. Try going outside on a nice day and taking shots in your backyard. Do not do this in the middle of the afternoon when the sun is very high and harsh. The best time is the early morning or late afternoon when the sun is low. The light will be very soft and flattering and you will be amazed at the difference it makes in your photo.
4:: STOP WITH THE MEGA PIXELS.
I shoot all digital. The first question most people ask me is “how many mega pixels is your camera?” Many people think that more mega pixels, translates into a better picture. More mega pixels will just allow you to print your image larger. If you are taking bad photos, go out and buy an expensive camera with 8 or 9 mega pixels and expect your photos to look better, you will, again, be very disappointed. You will still take bad pictures but you will now be able to blow those bad pictures up bigger! Most people will not print their photos at more than 5 x 7 size. For this size picture a 3 mega pixel camera is fine. With 4 mega pixels, you can print your favorite shots as an 8 x 10. Unless you are going to print photos larger than an 8 x 10, taking photos greater than 4 mega pixels is a waste and will just use up your memory.
5:: SHOOT, SHOOT, SHOOT.
Lastly, take a lot of pictures. If you do not have a digital camera yet, think about getting one. Take tons of pictures, delete the ones you do not like and take tons more. For every good “keeper” picture I get I take probably 20 “stinkers”. The ratio stinks but if you take a million pictures, you will get a ton of great shots. Print the good images, show them off and people will think you are actually a good photographer…That is what I do!
Vincent Strangio is a Pittsburgh, PA based professional pet photographer specializing in animals of all kinds but only animals, no humans at all.
His photography is featured on a dog and cat greeting card line sold in stores throughout the United States as well as on 5 different dog breed t shirt , sweatshirt and throw pillow lines sold exclusively through his online store. To date, he has sold over 10,000 shirts bearing his images. I’ve pictured a Cairn Terrier here, but he’s got all kinds of dogs and cats!