WITH certain tips and tricks, your pet photographs can go from normal to extraordinary.
During the movement control order (MCO), I decided to enhance my pet photography skills at home.
I have two cats, both who are really good models. In fact, they are such “posers” that they might have been models in their former lives!
While some like to dress their pets up for photo shoots, I prefer that mine go naturel because I believe pets look best in their natural fur coat, without any accessories. The other reason is because they absolutely refuse to wear anything, anyway. Collars, bells, ribbons or anything else that might impede their stealth would inadvertently end up all “massacred” on the floor.
To make this project one that most people can do at home, I decided to use a smartphone instead of a DSLR camera, although the latter would, of course, yield better results.
Here are some tips if you’d like to try this.
See things from their viewpoint
When you want to photograph something smaller than yourself, in this case, your pet, get down to their level and see things from their viewpoint. If you shoot from your own higher perspective, you might get a reasonable photo, but you might also miss out on some unique details and expressions. This also means going to where your pet is and photographing them in their own space, doing their own thing, rather than bringing them into your space to be photographed. If you’ve ever tried to catch hold of your cat or dog to place it on a chair to be photographed, you’ll know how difficult it is!
Observe and capture quickly
By this, we’re not implying that you should hunt your pet down for that picture but, rather, “capture the moment”. Since you’ll be spending a lot of time at home during the MCO, observe your pet’s unique moments and be ready to capture them on the lens. For example, the way your cat sits by the window and looks outside, or the way it stretches and yawns on the sofa.
Relax and move quietly
Some pets might get startled and run off if you suddenly approach them to photograph them, so relax and move towards them quietly, in a non-threatening way. Also, don’t be afraid to get comfortable. If your pet is having a “moment” on the floor, you might need to squat down or even lie down on the floor next to it for a better shot.
Get your model’s attention
Similar to human beings, each pet has its own unique personality, and how you get your pet’s attention might depend on this. Some pets, like mine, respond to communication. Talk to them like how you normally do and when they respond, shoot! Other pets respond to stimuli, especially dogs. They love it when you interact with them and play with them. Once you’ve got their attention, capture that moment. There are also pets that respond to rewards as in food or treats. Reward them when they respond to you and you’ll end up with lots of lovely pictures.
After you’ve got their attention, how do you get them to look directly at you? Candid shots where the “model” isn’t looking directly at the camera can be nice, but the eyes say everything and there is a big difference in a photo of a pet that is looking straight at the camera. You can also tie a small toy or bell (depends on what your pet likes) near your device to catch your pet’s attention, but make sure it doesn’t block the lens.
Your pet might not take kindly to the bright flash from your phone or camera, plus that would not have the best effect. So, stick to natural lighting or available light (such as sunlight streaming in through a window, or a lamp).
All this staying at home is making me lazy.
Clear the clutter
If your laptop cable or other stuff is in the background when you’re trying to photograph your pet, it would make the picture look cluttered. Try to have a clean background so that the focus is on your pet, rather than messy surroundings. Unless an item adds value to the photo, such as a rubber ball which your dog is playing with, then it’s often better without any objects.
Use special functions
If your phone or camera has a “bokeh” function – which means an intentionally “out of focus” blurred-out background so that it doesn’t distract from the subject (your pet) – then use that.
You can also use certain filters on your phone or camera to turn some of your photos into gorgeous black-and-white images of your pet.
Zooming in on our furry friends
- Story & Pictures from Ming Teoh (The Star)