Pet photography is my life’s work. My main mission is to exalt our experience with pets with a wealth of great memories through pictures. It is my vow to create images that are authentic, natural, meaningful, and all sorts of cute. So how do I do it?
Being technical about pet photography is not my style. These are the things I apply which you may find useful when taking pictures of your pets.
We want to be mindful about how we approach our subject with the camera. Be aware and carefully adjust the space between you and your pet, making sure not to startle or scare them away. We want to be mindful about how we approach our subject with the camera. Be aware and carefully adjust the space between you and your pet, making sure not to startle or scare them away.
Accept the fact that a good chunk of your pictures will come out blurry. What you could do is always take two clicks with each composition just so if the other is blurred then another might be sharp. If not, that’s okay. Try again. More than three bursts, however, and then you’ll have a hard time choosing and you’ll end up losing space
A good professional DSLR is good only if you know how to use it and if it suits your lifestyle. Point-and-shoot cameras and even cellphone cameras take great photos, too. As for the lens, I believe in mastering one type of lens so moving with it becomes almost automatic. Whatever camera you have, if you are using it, then that already calls for applause. I advocate regularly taking pictures of your pets.
Take pictures of a typical day with your pet. Remember that their lifespan is much shorter than ours. You will find that snippets of daily life with your pets could be the most memorable ones. Don’t stop even if they are wearing the cone of shame or if they’re sleeping.
Pet owners nowadays are really lucky to have pet events happening almost every month. I used to stalk pets on the streets and I end up looking awkward and all. With events, you are sure to have as many subjects to photograph. Take advantage of these events to meet new friends. Take pictures of your friends’ pets as well. If your animal companion likes to go out, then it will make for a good new setting or backdrop to make great memories. Personal events such as birthdays, rescueversaries and adoptiversaries are milestones worth preserving through pictures. Holidays that inspire decor could also be another photo opportunity.
My general rule is always focus on the eyes. Focus, hold still, and click and hold for a few seconds. You may also focus on the nose, butt, or paw if you want to highlight those parts.
I always advise my clients to groom their pets before a shoot. Tissues and wipes during the shoot are very handy as we want them to look their 100 percent.
Honor a pet’s individuality. I am a big believer in letting a pet’s character shine through. If a cat always hisses, then I’ll take pics of that. If a pet loves to steal slippers, then I’ll freeze that moment to be treasured forever.
The World Wide Web is a beautiful space with many avenues where we can post our pictures. I started with Bunspace (MySpace for rabbits), then LiveJournal, and then I created my website Petograpiya in 2010. I have since chosen Instagram as my main platform for showcasing my latest pictures and connecting with other pet lovers. Choose a platform (or two) where you can see and archive your most precious memories. It will allow you not only to reminisce but also to see how you’ve improved.
Just have fun
Taking pictures is an experience of being with your beloved. It is precious time spent to be with them. Make it fun for both of you.
Keep your memories forever
Always backup your files and choose a cloud service in case your computer or phone breaks down. You may choose to print some and display them around your home.
I cannot stress enough how luck just happens. I have years of experience and I still rely on luck most of the time. Of course, the more I do it, the more chances I get. Most of my favorite pictures happened by chance so I consciously allow for those miracle shots to happen.
Move fast like a ninja in changing positions to get your shot. We want to get different perspectives. Another trick is to move away but keep clicking especially when your subject starts to get annoyed (Hint: Works best with cats).
I like my pictures natural and candid. If I make pets pose too much, I will not have interesting stories to tell. I take pictures as they happen.
Wild life photographers camp out and stalk their subjects day and night, which may be a bit too extreme with pets (though I used to sleep with a camera beside me). Being attentive really helps in knowing what elicits a certain reaction. Being observant gives you a chance to predict moments.
The most important tip of all. I have eight years and counting of pet photography experience and I still get antsy before a shoot; so, I practice. If I don’t, I get rusty. Practice makes perfect and it boosts your confidence.
I always shoot with large (L) file format so I know I have high resolution pics. It is not necessary for me to shoot in RAW format as I take so many pictures. High resolution JPG files work well in my case. There is no need to go all serious and aim for National Geographic types of pictures all the time, but if that is your style, then you may do so in full abandon.
Remember that the point of photography is to capture memories. Make it meaningful by taking pictures of the things you love about your pet. Also, reward your pet after so they will have a positive memory about being photographed.
Our most valuable lighting equipment is the sun. Open curtains if you are shooting indoors. Make sure your space is well-lit for best results. I don’t worry if some shots are backlit because it makes for a cute silhouette. Sometimes, you will find that your cellphone flashlight is also useful. Try not to use flash with your pets to avoid red eyes in pictures and to minimize their discomfort.
Toys and treats
Nothing says fun and full engagement like these. They are not only pet photography essentials but also hold the key to keep the furry bosses happy.
Pets will be pets, therefore it is okay for them to be unpredictable. I love a good surprise and one might make for unforgettable photographs. Embrace the bloopers as well for they make the experience sweeter.
Whenever I can, I take pictures of adoptable pets from animal welfare groups so they can have many pictures to use for their adoption posts. It is a way to learn pet photography while helping and supporting organizations that need our help.
I meet clients who worry if a certain pet is shy. You will be surprised to know that more often than not, “shy” pets are very much picture-worthy and top model material.
(I know I’m cheating on this one but hear me out). Experiment with different lighting. Try different settings, places, and filters. Pet photography lets me express so much about myself and I end up improving my style when I try new things. (X can also stand for reviewing and deleting the bad pictures immediately so you are not faced with an overwhelming set of pictures littered with those that won’t make the cut. Delete and try again. Yes, I delete a lot, too.)
For technical things we don’t understand, there’s always YouTube. We are lucky to have some many avenues from which we can learn whatever we need whenever we want.
Breathe as you are taking pictures. Be in the moment with your subject. Stillness and calm make a difference and your pets will respond well to that vibe. When we get our zen on, we are patient, and we produce better pictures. Pet photography and the virtue of patience go hand in hand.
We love a good pet photograph because the memory of our pets have great value to us. May your shots be sharp and your beautiful pet memories be with you forever.
This appeared in Animal Scene magazine’s January 2019 issue.