Little Bulldog yawning

Photographing Animals

How to Perfectly Capture Four-Legged Friends

The sly look from your beloved cat, the big puppy eyes of the newest addition to the family – they sure make it simple for us to keep our four-legged friends dear to our hearts. Since house pets are quick to become full-fledged family members, it’s only natural that they should have their place in the family photo album. Depending on the animals and the surrounding environment, however, there are a few challenges and things that you, as the photographer, should keep in mind to ensure your animal photos turn out well. ifolor inspire has gathered the most important tips for you.

The Equipment

For photographing dogs, cats, and guinea pigs at home, even a normal compact camera will be able to take nice photos of your furry friends. System, bridge, or SLR cameras, with their larger sensors and higher quality optics, are of course always more preferable. If photographing on a farm or at the zoo, a good zoom lens will be an important companion. You’re sure to have more fun while photographing if using as fast a lens as possible with a focal length of 80 - 200mm. Many animals will begin to act unnaturally or even flee should you get too close to them. Other animals should be observed from a certain distance to ensure your own safety.

Movement and Speed

Animals in the wild flee when we get too close to them, dogs jump energetically through the air while chasing their tennis ball, and birds or squirrels can be tricky to photograph with their quick movements. A good zoom and a steady hand play a key role here. While a tripod is a useful companion for taking photos of landscapes or while at the horse races, it quickly gets in the way while enjoying time outdoors and is usually too static for most unexpected movements. Make sure to use as short an exposure time as possible in order to be able to capture fast movements. Should you trust using an automatic program more than yourself, go with your digital camera’s sports mode. The closer you zoom in on the animals, the more difficult it will be to make sure the image doesn’t turn out blurred. Sometimes it does help to seek support and stability by leaning on something like a large stone or a nearby tree.

Black and White picture of a dog and his cycling master

Good Lighting

Bright and harsh light, such as the midday sun, should definitely be avoided. The softer the light, the better your photos will turn out. Thus, when photographing outdoors it’s best to shoot either in the morning or afternoon. Pay attention to shadows in your surroundings, possible sources of reflection, and avoid photographing against the light. When photographing indoors, make sure you have enough indirect lighting available that doesn’t shine directly onto the people or animals you’re photographing. It’s best to use bright ceiling light to end up with soft and even lighting in the picture. We definitely don’t recommend using a direct flash. This will disturb both the harmoniousness of your photo as well as the animals you’re photographing.

Picture Detail

No matter how cute the animal you’re photographing may be, if something in the surroundings is obstructing your view of the animal such as the bars of the animal’s cage, the resulting photos will turn out only half as cute. Thus, it’s best to make use of the depth of field or use an alternative picture detail. The latter should be considered while photographing, but most image-editing programs will enable you to alter this afterwards as well. You’ll have won half the battle by focussing on the essentials and keeping the golden ratio in mind.

black and white picture of a kitten

At Eye Level and in Their Natural Environment

Animals, same as with people, should be photographed at eye level or slightly below eye level. Pictures taken from above or from behind usually look bland and expressionless. Fold-out displays with a live view or an angle finder for SLR cameras are very helpful when photographing small animals. Stay flexible and change your own position instead of trying to change that of the animal. You’ll end up with the best photos of your animals when photographing them in their natural environment. House pets should be photographed where they feel most at home, such as while playing with the kids, resting in their bed, or while snuggling with the family.

Luck and Patience

It’s easy to communicate with people or to move around objects, and you can easily adjust when photographing landscapes. You’ll need some patience when photographing animals since they’re a little more unpredictable in their actions. Animals either at the zoo or in the wild will, best-case scenario, not even take notice of you. When photographing pets, on the other hand, you can be part of the action. Create a little diversion and a relaxing atmosphere. Try to predict your pet’s next movements while photographing them. Should your photos not turn out as well as you had hoped, simply try again another day. A little bit of luck is always necessary when photographing animals.

Tip

Do you have a small child of your own or one of your friends does? Then create for them a small photo book containing your best animal photos. Real animal photos tend to appeal more to small children than a simple picture book. You can also use your animal photos for kid’s room decorations and create something like a photo canvas displaying a picture of the child with their beloved pet.

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