Pet portraiture isn’t that different to people portraiture, except it is unlikely that you’ll get your goldfish to stop swimming and say ‘cheese’. There are a few tricks you can try though to get a pleasing portrait of your pet, and even some clever technology if you fancy pulling out all the stops.
But first… Basic rules of Portrait Photography
Simple, but key to capturing a great portrait. Bear these simple rules in mind and our pet specific tips below will add oomph to an already decent shot!
Capture the animal in it’s elementThe key to a great pet portrait is context. By taking pictures of your pet doing what it likes doing best, you will capture their personality in the photo.
TimingChoose a time of day (or night) that your pet is least likely to be overly active or agitated, unless of course you are after a frenetic shot. Ideally choose a time when your pet is resting but is instantly alert if you call them, whistle, squeak a toy or do some other trick that is guaranteed to catch their attention.
Meet them on their levelTo create a closer connection in the picture, get down with your pet. The closer proximity and alternative angle will add another dimension and extra interest in the shot.
Distraction works!Use a toy or treat to tempt your pet into different poses and ask a friend to help choreograph and guide your animal while you experiment with a variety of shots. While a pet is distracted, you are more likely to be able to get a great portrait.
Pets in cagesTo avoid having bars in the picture, open up the cage door and shoot through that, or get up close and use a wide aperture so that the bars of the cage are too blurred to obstruct the shot. Alternatively, re-create the environment in a larger space such as a cardboard box, cut a hole for your lens, and wait for the shot you are after!
Pets in glass tanks or waterThe main problem here is avoiding unwanted reflections. Use a polarising filter and keep adjusting until you have eliminated as many reflections as possible. Also, shooting at an angle can help reduce reflections.
And Finally… Cheat?Cameras with motion detection and pet recognition modes are becoming increasingly more common and of course affordable. This will allow you to leave your camera out and on, ready to catch your playful pet whenever they are in focus. Perfect for pet portraits without pesky pet owners calling the shots!
Try out our guide and post a comment back about your experience and with your favourite shot included – we can’t wait to see the creative ways you capture your pets!
Images courtesy Mark Carpenter, Lani and Jesse Wallace