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Ten Expert Tips For Taking Great Pet Photographs

Updated on May 2, 2012

Pet Photography by Edward Fielding

Copyright by Edward Fielding
Copyright by Edward Fielding | Source
Copyright by Edward Fielding
Copyright by Edward Fielding | Source
Copyright by Edward Fielding
Copyright by Edward Fielding | Source

How to Shoot Dogs

I shoot dogs for a living. Wait! Before you turn me into PETA let me assure you that the shooting I do is harmless. No pet has ever been harmed by my sort of shooting. Its all done with a camera you see -- I take portraits of pets and sell them to advertisers, calendars, book publishers and greeting card companies via the microstock agency Dreamstime. I also take custom commissions from pet owners who want portraits of their pets to hang on the wall. Working with hundreds of dogs over the years, I've learned a trick or two about pet photography. Here are some tips.

  1. Timing - A pet will only perform for you when its in the right mood. No use in trying to photograph and amped up dog when they are excited. Take them outside of the studio and walk them, play fetch with them, get them tired out before attempting a photoshoot.
  2. Pre-Planning - have your sets and props and ideas laid out well before your model shows up to have their portrait done. If you are not ready, you subject certainly won't be.
  3. Squeakers - Getting your subject into position is one thing but getting that special expression out of them is and entirely different thing. Most dogs don't know the word "smile" or "say cheese", you'll need to have a bunch of different noise makers on hand to squeak at the right moment to get a good expression. You can also your mouth and try high or low pitched sounds.
  4. Licks - Licks can be encouraged with a bit of peanut butter or vegetable oil on the lips.
  5. Lighting - You can test out your lighting by using a stuffed animal. Take a few test shots before the dog arrives and get you lighting figured out before using the stand in.
  6. Clean up - Before taking the photos, inspect your subject for tears, dirt, flea, crumbs etc. You can removes some of these distracting elements in post production using Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Lightroom or other photo editing software but save yourself some time and clean up your subject before shooting.
  7. Take lot of breaks - give the dog a treat after each session and let them relax. Even human models need a break from hot and/or flashing lights. Soon your subject will associate the flashing lights as a way to earn a reward.
  8. Turn down the lights - If you can, turn down your studio flash and increase the aperture on your camera so that you can minimize the blinding flash of the studio light and make the experience more pleasant for your pet.
  9. Put them on a pedestal - Some pets will stay put better if you lift them up high on a stool or counter top. Just watch out if they are determined to jump down from their high perch.
  10. Give them lots of room - Conversely you can give your subject lots of room to wander around and get some more candid shots. Just be sure to have a wide background in place and a large general lighting set up. Encourage your pet into the "studio" area by dropping treat where you want the dog to go or by making them "sit" and "stay".

Remember to have fun and if its not working many pet parents will understand and be willing to come back another time to try again.


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