Pet Photography 101

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Fans of our Facebook Page heard the news that there would be no Beyond Megapixels article last Friday because my husband and I were in the process of rescuing a dog from our County animal shelter. While I don’t intend to turn this site into a forum for Public Service Announcements, I would encourage everyone who is considering a new pet to adopt from their local shelter, Humane Society, or animal rescue group. Our little girl Bailey was considered “unadoptable” because she was so frightened of the shelter environment that she didn’t display the usual friendly, tail-wagging socialization they consider imperative during their evaluation. So, she was put on the list to be euthanized. Due to the wonderful efforts of Arizona’s New Hope and the Friends of Arizona’s Shelter Animals, Bailey was given a second chance and is now a permanent member of our household.

She seems pretty happy, wouldn’t you agree?

And our Miniature Pinscher, Gadget, is ecstatic to have a new friend!

While I was in our back yard trying to take pictures of the dogs, I thought the subject would make a good article. I’m talking about my dogs here, but the principles can be applied to any pets.

Use a long lens. Like any other portrait, the subject tends to look better when shot from a distance with a telephoto lens. Plus, I found it was a little hard to photograph these characters since they were usually stuck to my side. So, I used my telephoto lens and tossed a ball out into the yard to get them at a distance from me. If you don’t happen to be in a place where you can let your dogs run free, have someone hold the leash for you and walk a distance away. Compose so that only the animal is in the frame.

Use continuous shooting mode for action shots. My dogs NEVER stand (or sit) still. In order to get one shot out of twenty that I considered to be “good”, I kept my camera on continuous shooting mode.

Use continuous auto-focus mode too. For dogs that are REALLY on the go, use the AI Servo auto-focus mode (Canon) or Continuous Servo AF (Nikon). Your camera’s auto-focus will continue to adjust for the moving subject, making your chances greater for a focused shot.

Keep a damp cloth handy. After throwing the ball a few times, it got to be rather slobbery. I didn’t want to handle my camera with slobbery hands, so I kept a damp cloth handy to wipe my hands on.

Catch them at their goofy moments. Yawning, scratching an itch, doing that little bow-wiggle thing they do when they want to play. Not every photo needs to be a head shot for the Westminster Kennel Club.

Get in close. Again, just like portraits of people, you don’t have to get the whole dog in the frame. Focus in on noses, eyes, ears, paws.

Shoot at their level. Get down on the ground and photograph your pet at their eye level. This was hard for me to accomplish since every time I knelt down and aimed my camera, they came charging toward me. So, try this one after they’ve been racing around for a while and are ready to sit still for a bit.

Sometimes the bad shots are actually good shots. Some shots that are composed a bit off or are a bit blurry are actually great shots for portraying action (chaos!) and mood. So take a closer look at the shots that you may ordinarily discard.

We would absolutely LOVE to see photos that you have taken of your pets!! Please share them with us on our Facebook Page.

All photos copyright Tiffany Joyce.

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  • Carenmagill

    What a great story and awesome pictures!! Good for you for adopting and encouraging others to do the same.  Gadget looks very happy to have a friend, and he looks a lot like my little dog snickers.

  • rpward51

    Great tips. Bailey looks extremely happy with her new family!