Britain is a nation of animal lovers, so the saying goes and whilst I sometimes despair of the things I see and hear from animal rescue societies, I think generally it does apply. We currently share our home with 2 dogs and 3 cats and many of my friends and family are pet lovers too.
As a photographer, my ‘chosen’ charity is the Mayhew Animal Home and I have spent many a happy hour photographing their animals and events. In fact it was a trip there earlier this week that inspired this blog post. I love visiting the home, all the animals there deserve a second chance and the staff & volunteers are always welcoming and friendly. Whilst there we were chatting about needing particular types of pictures for specific uses and how to achieve that with the limited areas we can use. Space is at a premium, so a studio set up is not really feasible and of course some of the animals are stressed and upset at being in the centre anyway, so we need to keep them as calm and undisturbed as possible, which means photographing them in their runs, particularly the cats.
In many ways, this is no different to photographing your own pets at home, so I thought passing on some of the tips and tricks we use would help my readers get better pictures of their pampered pooches and pussycats.
Tip #1 – most of our animals are generally smaller than we are, so rather than pointing your camera down at them, try and get down to their eye level for a more flattering and realistic portrait. This can mean getting down on hands and knees, or even lying flat for smaller animals like Rusty here, a Mayhew resident we were lucky enough to walk round Little Venice for some pictures.
Of course you can still still do the looking down on them, look for interesting angles and fun expressions, such as seen here on Jack the Bengal.
Tip #2 – Backgrounds – generally, try and make the background as uncluttered as possible, a simple wall, grass in the garden, anything that will keep the attention on your pets rather than odd, fussy backgrounds. This is one of my own cats, Mumble, enjoying the sunshine.
…and his best friend Maisie
As an alternative, try and find a really good scenic background that flatters your pet, such as the picture of Rusty, or this one of the gorgeous Calypso in the same canalside location.
Tip #3 – Fill the Frame – this is really a follow on from the background tip – if backgrounds are very difficult to arrange, try to eliminate the worst of them by filling the frame with your pet. This may require you to change the camera to a different mode, maybe Macro [usually the little flower icon on the mode dial/menu] as you will need to be closer to your pet. Wilma from the Mayhew demonstrates this very well, she was in her run with toys, scratching posts, litter trays and so on in the background.
Tip #4 – ok, this is for people that have quite modern digital cameras that can fake the artistic background blur effect [known as using shallow depth of field] or have the understanding of their camera to be able to set it to do this properly. If the background is cluttered, using this technique of making it as blurry as possible can be very useful. This beautiful tortoiseshell kitten was residing in an office at the Mayhew until she was old enough to go for adoption so I used her cushion which matched her colours beautifully, but used the blurring effect to put the focus firmly on that pretty face.
Tip #5 – get confident and try some action shots, especially with dogs who love running around and playing games, just set you camera on ‘action’ or ‘sport’ if it has such a setting, most compact digital compacts do and get snapping, have some fun!
Tip #6 – for dogs, having some treats to hand can induce those keen excited looks, for cats, try toys with bells in or something to make scratchy noises with.
Tip #7 – finally, probably the most important tip of them all – FOCUS ON THE EYES! Your pet cannot talk but we all know they can say so much with those soulful eyes, so make sure they are the focus of attention in your pet pics to really get that awwwwww factor.
This is by no means an extensive or exhaustive list of how to photograph your pets, but is just to offer some help and guidance for improving your pictures. The main thing is to enjoy yourself and if your pet seems in anyway upset then put the camera down and try again another day.
Now if no one objects, I think I might indulge in showing off a few more pretty pooches and handsome cats as well as some of the Mayhew rescue animals looking for new homes. Even if you can’t offer any of them a home right now, they do an amazing job and if you can make a donation I know they would be hugely grateful. Just click HERE for full info on how you can help to make a difference.
Mayhew matching pairs!
It is not often I get my two terrible terriers to sit still on a walk
Seriously, Ella, our Maine Coon kitten isn’t normally allowed on the dining room table
Tashi is another Mayhew resident looking for happy, quiet retirement home – can you help?
This very handsome boy Reggie is looking for a special new home with experienced dog people.
Of course, you can always get a photographer in to take some pictures of your pets… perhaps go a little mad…