I find myself doing more and more pet photography these days. I photographed some friends’ dogs on a recent trip to Las Vegas, where they live. These little ones are Cavalier King Charles Spaniels, and they have the wonderful trait of remaining cute even long after puppihood. They both had a very sweet disposition and were relaxed and easy to work with. I didn’t try to pose them at all or add props – they were cute enough just hanging out and snoozing! Too see all the photos of these two buddies, be sure to check out the gallery here.
These are very impromptu and informal shots, but even if you are not creating a full studio setup, there are certain things to keep in mind to improve the photos. Most importantly, put the camera at eye level with your subject. This is a good idea for any time of animal photography (and people too!), but with pets, your environment is controlled and you really have no excuse not to. If the dog is lying on the floor, this usually means you are too. But the sore knees is worth it in the end.
Next, and again this is a general rule for many types of photography, use a tripod whenever possible. As I didn’t have a studio setup for these shots, I was relegated to normal home lighting, which can be quite dark. I stayed away from using a strobe as I didn’t have any diffusers or bouncers with me, and I was too lazy to create a make shift one. This meant that longer shutters and a tripod were a must.
Finally, if a pet is active or energetic, tire them out before any photography session. For Gidget this meant fifteen minutes of playing fetch with a ball. She was already pretty calm to begin with, but after a fetch session she was very relaxed in front of the lens. A tired pet will allow the photographer much more freedom in posing, props, or just making sure the pet will sit still.
Pet photography can be a lot of fun (in fact, I think I enjoy it more than taking people portraits!) and the results can be treasured keepsakes for loving owners.