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Your pets are valued and lovable members of your family, so no doubt you will find yourself taking lots of photos of them. However, with a little thought and preparation beforehand, you will be able to take some imaginative and high-quality images that will give you many happy memories for years to come. These tips may help you to get the best from photographing your pet.

Be prepared
Photographing animals is tricky at the best of times, so if you can, enlist the help of someone else who can play with your pet, hold it, or call them from behind the camera to attract their attention. It may help to have a few ‘treats’ in your pocket, they get bored easily, or use a favourite toy to distract them whilst you are photographing.
Know your pet
Of course, sometimes you can get fantastic shots on the spur of the moment. However, as a general rule, you will want your photos to show the character of your much-loved pet, so take a bit of time to think before grabbing your camera. Is your pet a lively dog who enjoys running and playing? Or maybe you have a lazy cat who is happiest dozing on a sunny windowsill? Then set up your photo session accordingly; maybe take your dog to the park to capture action shots, or spend the afternoon in your living room with your cat.

Think about framing your shot
Careful framing of your shot can make the difference between an ordinary snapshot, and a great image. Getting on the same level as your pet helps to give a sense of perspective, and creates an unusual viewpoint. It’s often a good idea to get in close, and fill the frame, but sometimes ‘layering’ your image, maybe by having your pet bird in the foreground and trees in the background, can result in a ‘different’ kind of shot. You can also use the ‘rule of thirds’ – imagine your image divided into thirds, and keep the main area of interest off centre.

Use the camera settings
Modern cameras come with a range of automatic features, which you can use to help you. For example, maybe your camera has a ‘sport’ setting, with a fast shutter speed? The camera chooses the speed and aperture, leaving you free to concentrate on getting the perfect shot. This is fantastic for taking action photos, such as flying birds or running dogs. Most have a feature enabling you to take multiple shots very quickly – this is a handy way either to enable you to pick the best shot, or to create a montage of images.

Make use of lenses
Changing your lens is another way to add variety. A telephoto lens can be used to take distance images, for example your cat chasing a squirrel. However, you can also zoom in for close-ups without disturbing a sleeping pet, or one that is easily startled. Some telephoto lenses offer a wide range of shots e.g. a 28-300mm lets you take some shots relatively close in, but can also bring you closer if you are actually some distance away. A wide-angle lens can distort images, producing unusual views.

Alter the shutter speed
Automatic features can be useful, but eventually you may want to take more control over your settings. Altering the shutter speed opens up more possibilities for interesting photos. Animals are often unpredictable, so a relatively fast shutter speed (around 250), will help you avoid blurred images. However, longer shutter speeds can be used creatively; using a longer shutter speed and panning with a moving animal can keep your pet in sharp focus with a blurred background. Alternatively, keeping a sharp background with a blurred subject will accent a feeling of movement.

Play with the aperture 
Altering the aperture on your camera can also be a useful way to improve your images. For example, a pet with very dark colouring (e.g. a black cat) can appear as an inky blob, but opening the aperture to over-expose the image will create more definition. Conversely, under-exposing a white animal will usually create a better result. Altering the aperture also affects the depth of field. Do you want your background out-of -focus, to increase attention on your subject, or in-focus for a unified effect? To successfully photograph a ‘long’ pet such as a snake, you will need to pay careful attention to your focusing – using a smaller aperture will increase the depth of field.

Consider the lighting
Don’t forget to think about the background lighting, especially if you are using automatic settings, as it can result in your subject being under-exposed. Except in very specific circumstances, it’s better to avoid using flash – it can startle your pet, and also tends to produce a very ‘flat’ image without depth of colour or definition. Natural lighting is generally better, so changing the ISO settings can give you more versatility when taking photos. An ISO of 1500 will result in a slightly ‘grainier’ look, but probably not enough to ruin your photo.

Make use of bracketing
Learning to use bracketing to vary your images can also be helpful. You can use this technique to vary the light conditions, so that you can choose the best image. You can also use bracketing to vary the focus, which can be especially useful if you are working in close-up in a very small pet such as an insect or spider, as you can create a combined image with the whole of your pet in focus.

Manipulate your images
Lastly, becoming familiar with photo editing software lets you transform your images. You can crop photos to improve the layout of your photo, lighten or darken your shots to increase definition, and even remove ‘red-eye’ if you have used flash.
Of course, the only way to take outstanding photos of your pet is to practice continually, but these ideas may help you on your way to capturing your memories of your additional ‘family members’.

Attached Images:
  •  License: Royalty Free or iStock source:
  •  License: Royalty Free or iStock source:

Written on behalf of the Steven Brooks Wedding Photographer