Capture your pet on film
By Liz Kaplan
We all know the red-eyed beast! It lurks inside every photo album taking the place of our cherished family pet. How can something so cute and fuzzy, so downright photogenic, be so difficult to photograph? Do not despair, as many tricks exist to help make animal photography a less daunting task. Here are a few of them.
One good technique to know is bracketing. For owners of point-and-shoot cameras, bracketing is a technique that unfortunately you will not be able to use. Point-and-shoots take much of the guesswork out of photography and for most photographic occasions take great photos; however, they do reduce some of the control you have over your photos.
Bracketing photos of any kind improves the likelihood of capturing the correct exposure. Start by allowing your camera’s light meter to automatically adjust the shutter speed as you manually adjust the aperture. After taking each photo, using whatever aperture you judge as correct, and then take two more photos using the apertures on either side. This way, if you misjudge the appropriate aperture, chances are that ne of the three photos should come out well. This uses up more film, but it is well worth the expense when you want to ensure a good shot.
Insufficient or inconsistent lighting also causes problems in many photographs. In questionable light make sure to use a flash if you think your photos may turn out dark or with shadows. Feel free to use a flash outside to eliminate any shadows that might show up in your photos.
Many of you may think flashes produce good results, but they are actually the cause of the glowing eye syndrome. To avoid this, detach the flash from your camera if you can and angle it away from wherever you point the camera. You can also try placing a piece of gauze over the flash or tilting a piece of black cardboard in front of it to angle the light away from your subject.
The great outdoors, where many people enjoy photographing their dogs, poses another lighting challenge. Different times of the day and different types of weather create different light. Dusk, dawn, and overcast days work best for photographing, as shadows are less of a problem. Midday photographs run the risk of harsh shadows and washed out areas.
Unfortunately, knowing the above hints can only help your pet photos so much. The key to a good animal photo lies in working well with an animal. Animal photography and child photography are similar in that the subject fails to comprehend the concept of posing. Therefore, in pet photography jus as in child photography, it helps to use an assistant to help maintain the animal’s attention. Before your assistant starts jumping and waving to get your dog to look up, make sure to place your pet at eye level with the camera. This means either getting down on the floor or lifting the animal up on a table.
You know your pet’s expressions and you should decide ahead of times which one you want to capture on film. You probably also know how to elicit this expression from your pet. Basically, you want to con your pet into exhibiting the desired reaction. Obviously, dogs may be easier to work with than cats. Talking to a dog during the session will sometimes hold his interest, as will whistling to get it to lift its head. If you’d like to get your dog to lick his chops smear a little bit of dog food on his muzzle.
As animals rarely pose when you want them to, it’s important to remain opportunistic about photographing your pet. If your Siamese is curled up in a windowsill with beautiful dusk light, run and get your camera. If your child is taking a nap with the dog, run and get your camera.
These tips should help eliminate the number of red-eyed demons, or even worse, rear-end-only photos from your photo album. The hints mentioned in this article comprise only a few of the many that exist. For more advice look in a good photography book. If you’re lucky enough to have a darkroom at home be sure to learn about various procedures to salvage or alter a negative during the development and printing process. Be creative with your photos and remember that a traditional posed portrait may not be the best way to capture the true spirit and energy you know and love in your pet.