Photographing cats and dogs is a fun way to capture the magic moments that make up the lives of your pets. Cats and dogs are always getting themselves into perfect photographic situations and it™s up to you to capture them for posterity. There is no reason at all why you need to be a professional photographer in order to take really good pictures of your cats and dogs. The following article is non technical and it is geared toward the person with no photography background. It is a very general article for anyone with any type of camera.
Flash and lighting
Photography is all about light and using ordinary film, you cannot take a picture of anything without it. You can take pictures using natural outdoor light or light from another source like from a room or from a street lamp etc. You can also take a picture using your on camera flash to light your cats or dogs though this is not recommended. When most people take pictures of their cats or dogs they put the camera on some automatic setting and shoot. This automatic setting especially when shooting indoors, usually pops up the flash automatically. When photographing cats and dogs it is best NOT to use flash. What happens all too often is that due to a phenomenon called red-eye your pet ends up with, you guessed it, red eyes. This generally produces a weird looking photo that is not flattering. If at all possible, don™t use the flash. When you are outdoors in the day this is not a problem because there is plenty of light. Therefore, outdoors in the day is the easiest way to get a great shot of your pet.
If you are indoors you must be sure that there is enough light falling on your pet. Due to the fact that most films are calibrated for shooting under daylight conditions, this is the best type of light to use. So get your pets near the window, open the blinds all the way and shoot. The only other thing to be aware of is back light. This means that if the light is in back of your pet (i.e. your pet is in front of the window or in front of the setting sun) and you press your shutter what will happen is that your pet will show up really dark or in silhouette. This isn™t attractive so photograph your pets from any angle except this one.
Get down to your pet’s level — change angles
All too often we photograph pets from our eye level, even though their eyes are practically at floor level. Your pet photography will be far more interesting if you take some shots from the point of view of your cat or dog. This means get down on the ground and start shooting from your pet™s level. Other interesting angles are everywhere though we rarely exploit them. Try standing on a chair and shooting directly down at your dog or cat while they look at you. Get right under a cat tree. If you have a zoom lens, try zooming in and getting a close face shot. Or if you™re in an interesting environment pull back and capture the whole scene.
Think like a dog or a cat
Cats love to hang out on high places and lick the water droplets inside sinks and bathtubs. Dogs love to chew on different things and tend to give you inquisitive facial expressions when you talk to them in certain ways. There are loads of activities that are unique to cats and dog and many others that are unique to just your pet. These unique behaviours or personality traits make excellent photographic opportunities. When you notice something that your pet does that is uniquely him or her, that™s a great photographic opportunity.
But how do I get them to stay still?
Sometimes you may want to pose your pets instead of catching them in candid situations. Some dogs are already trained to sit or stay. Others are less eager to stay still. For this your best friend is food. Make sure you have the stuff they love. Dog treats, kibble, fruit, whatever they love that™s also healthy for them. Reward them with food for staying still, and they will probably stay still to get the next reward. Shoot in between.
Cats can be more difficult than dogs because they have rarely learned the stay command so that even when you bribe them with food, they will come and not stay still. If you™re trying to photograph cats they may or may not be co-operative. Welcome to cat photography. It™s far easier to start taking some shots while resting near a window at first. If they are outdoor cats, try to take similar resting shots to start.
Camera type, lenses, film
All these will have an effect on the type of photograph you can produce. Different lenses will give completely different perspectives when you look through them. Wide angle lenses, zoom lenses, portrait lenses can all produce amazing results when used with some knowledge. Black and white film is always a great way of getting an ‘artsy’ photograph of your pet. There are even black and white films processed in the same way as common colour films that can be printed in black and white or even in sepia (antique brown).
35 mm SLR cameras are recommended for the amateur photographer who wants to have precise control over focusing, and the ability to adjust each exposure if desired. 35mm cameras can also be put on complete automatic, even auto focus and yield fantastic results. Smaller point and shoot cameras are more convenient and well suited to the casual photographer. Although they often produce acceptable results, their limitation is that the camera is doing the focusing for you. The camera can™t always be sure if you wanted your dog or the tree it was standing in front of, to be in sharp focus. You also have no control over other technical aspects like shutter speed. Digital cameras come in all sizes and qualities and have the huge advantage of being able to see the image right on screen before you record it.
The most important thing is to shoot and have fun. Your first roll of film won’t be the best but there will still probably be a few shots that you are proud of. Practice makes perfect.