Sally Jane Photographic Art

Fact Sheet 1


Photographing Pets

Taking pictures of our pets is almost as popular as photographing family members. For many of us, our pets are a part of our family so maybe that's not so surprising. Chances are you have loads of photos of you pets but how many of them are good enough to frame? Do any of them really show your pet at his or her best? Most pet photographs fail for a few simple reasons. If you would like to be able to take better photographs of your pet then read on. I will be explaining how you can take really good pet photographs without any specialised equipment (save a camera) and have something you can put in a frame.

To pose or not to pose?

Most of the pet portraits in my portfolio are posed. That is to say, the pet has been stood, sat or laid down where I want them to be and asked to remain there for the photograph. A few, mostly of my own dog, are candid shots, taken while he was running around enjoying himself. Candid photographs convey emotion and personality far better than posed photographs but they are harder to get. A posed photograph is better for showing the physical attributes of the animal than a candid shot which is one reason why posed photographs tend to be popular for pet portraits. The advantage of a posed photograph is that it is easier to focus on the pet and you can generally take several shots of each pose in the hope that at least one will be a perfect. Not all pets will pose, however, and sometimes it can take a lot of patience to coax animals into doing nothing for a few minutes while someone points a camera at them.

Some animals get very curious about cameras while others seem to become 'camera shy'. The lens of a camera can appear like a staring eye and this can unsettle some pets. If a posed photograph is what you are after and your pet isn't a natural poser, then you would be better off waiting for a time when he or she is naturally relaxed rather than choosing a time when they are hyped up and full of life. Food bribes for doing what you ask or just as a way of keeping their attention are very handy to have with you particularly for dogs.

Candid shots are great fun and very rewarding when they work. There is a much greater chance of them failing so don't be put off. Even if you do everything right and conditions are perfect you might still only get one really good shot in 30 or so attempts. It's a matter of being in the right place at the right time and having plenty of luck on your side. Still, if you are using a digital camera you've got nothing to lose. One thing I will say about digital though, they generally need much brighter lighting conditions than film especially when taking anything moving. Don't consider taking a moving subject in dull light.  Even a bright, sunny, day in winter is unlikely to be bright enough. It is usually best to wait for summer.  

Most digital cameras, even inexpensive compact types, have pre-programmed settings for shooting in different conditions. One is bound to be a 'sport' setting. This setting is for taking anything moving where you want the image to be as sharp as possible. Usually it will set the camera to the fastest shutter speed and widest aperture that the current lighting conditions will allow. It will also generally set the focus to automatically focus on whatever is in the centre of the frame. All you have to do is follow the action and press the shutter release. Sounds simple doesn't it? Well, it's still like playing darts with a swinging dart board. Much the same rules apply to candid photography as posed but remember try and keep your subject in the centre of the frame as that is where the camera is focusing and don't hold the shutter release down to pre focus as the subject will have moved out of focus by the time you press the release. Try and keep a steady hand and don't jiggle the camera as you press the release, not easy when you know you've got a split second to get the shot. Be patient, keep trying, and eventually it will pay off.