photographing pets – by jazL

Photographing Pets by JazL Dedicated to SashaDT, with special thanks to Paul B. Lincoln Actors commonly regard one of the late comedian W.C. Field’s famous quotes, “Never work with children […]

Photographing Pets

by JazL

Dedicated to SashaDT, with special thanks to Paul B. Lincoln

Actors commonly regard one of the late comedian W.C. Field’s famous quotes, “Never work with children or animals” as a truism [1].  Children and animals can be very unpredictable and hence difficult to work with.  However, photographs of one’s pets and children are some of the most commonly posted ones on social media such as facebook, instagram, twitter, or even simply on one’s mobile. It is a joy to capture one’s pet(s) or children and even more so if it is a ‘good’ shot!  I had a Siberian Husky and in part, my love for photography was sparked off by the challenge of wanting to take ‘good’ shots of her.  These are some of the things she has taught me on photography:-

(1) Be prepared

If you have ever interacted with a Siberian Husky, you would have experienced their many lovely qualities but also how short their attention span is, their agility and speed.  These are, I believe, also applicable to most animals and involves:-

(a) Understanding how your camera works

Take a few shots to test out the lighting, the lens and the different angles. This would help you react your pet’s movements without having to fumble about.

(b)  Keeping the camera ready and close by at all times

Your pet would not pose or keep in the same position for long.  Therefore, it is important that your camera is ready and close by to avoid missing any interesting moments.  It would also help to keep your camera settings to auto exposure and focus, to enable you to shoot immediately.

(c)  Moving fast, keeping balance and agility



It is also important to keep your balance and in some instances, you may even have to stretch your agility to its limits in order to capture your pet from a certain angle or keep it in focus.  Shooting wide angle in the general direction may help if your pet is on the go.  Refinements to the shots may then be edited thereafter.  For example, you may wish to crop the image for a better composition.

(2) Bait for time

Before asking someone for a favor, chances are, you would be more successful if that person was in a good mood.  Similarly, your pet’s mood would affect your photographs.   By reading your pet’s bodily cues, you would be able to detect if they are irritable or in a mood to cooperate.  Sometimes, it helps to put aside the camera, play, cajole or even lay alongside with your pet before photographing them.  If your pet is not used to the camera, you could use a macro lens (my friend recommends a setting of 35mm as the minimum to avoid distortion from wide angle photos), and hold the camera away from your face.  On the other hand, if your pet is very comfortable, you could move in for closer shots, emphasizing on the different details of it.


(3) Kill the flash

When using flash in photographing pets, their eyes reflect in greenish or yellowish glow.  These are different from red eye effect, so often, editing software is not able to get rid of this glow.  More importantly, the flash irritates pets’ eyes which may cause them to shut their eyes, turn their heads or simply move away, refusing to be photograph.  Hence, I avoid the use of flash altogether.  Setting your camera to Auto ISO enables the camera to select the lowest ISO for the lighting conditions while maintaining the maximum image quality [3].  Alternative light sources are also very useful, for example, overhead lights, sidelights or even backlights.

(4) Burst / Continuous Shooting Mode

DSC04634-1 DSC04635-1DSC04636-1

It helps to set the shooting mode to Burst or Continuous [4].  This means that photographs are taken successively, by holding down the shutter button (in most cameras).  This is extremely effective in capturing motion, which can be as simple as your pet moving its head. However, as pets generally have a sensitive sense of hearing, if the camera is too close to it, the sound of the shutters in the continuous mode may irritate it.  So do keep an eye to ensure that your pet is comfortable.


(5) Get a decoy


Sasha by ZA-1

This is one of my favorite pictures but I did not take it.  The reason is simple; in this instance, I was the decoy.  My dog was looking at me intently and at this moment, my friend snapped from the other side of the room.  From this experience, I realized that it helps to have some one else to distract your pet while you snap

(6) Have fun… TOGETHER!

Sasha Smiles-1

The most important thing is to have fun while taking the photographs.  It should not be intimidating or stressful to you or your pet.  Add a treat or two, bring it to a scenic location, and above all, keep an open mind.  Try taking photographs from different angles, from above your pet, below, and you may be surprised with the results. Sometimes, the best photograph is the one that you least expect and the golden rule?


A happy pet makes a happy snap!






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