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Tips on Photo Shooting with Animals

7 min read

We’ve been talking about the different life advice for some time already. With this article we will get into one specific life sphere.

Models, exhibition participants, competition champions and full-fledged family members. There are many reasons to arrange a photo session for your furry friend. How to properly and beautifully photograph a dog, cat, or other pet at home or on the street? We have collected some useful tips in this article.

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General recommendations for pet photo shootings

– Before shooting, the pet must be bathed, dried and seen by a groomer (if possible). The model must be clean, tidy and healthy.

– The condition of the pet. Working with a photographer is a close contact. Get to know the animal in advance. If this is their first shoot, they might get scared. This is especially true for animals that rarely go outside and meet strangers.

– Place. A studio, a bright flat with a nice design or the streets. The location should be without distracting objects, clean and tidy. Even the most beautiful photo of a cat or dog can be spoiled by scattered things or garbage in the background. Think not only about how to photograph the cat or dog, but also about what surrounds them.

– Long-haired pets can be shot with a backlight. For example, you can use an umbrella to illuminate the back and a reflector for the front. This will help to focus on their chic fur coat. For shorthairs, you can use a standard reflector that will sharply emphasize it.

– Before shooting, familiarize the pet with the location. Take them for a walk there, let them get used to it, sniff it. 

– Use tracking autofocus – Canon’s AI Servo, Nikon’s AF-C, and Olympus’ AFC+TR. 

– Get down to the same level as the pet (eye level). If you shoot from above, the proportions will be distorted. 

– Focus not on the nose, but on the eyes. 

– If you want to photograph a dog or cat in motion, while running or playing, choose a shutter speed of 1/250 s.

How to take a good picture of a cat

Purring furry models are often finicky. Many do not like to be photographed at all and run away at the sight of the camera. We have collected several recommendations that will help you photograph a cat.

– Background. No multi-colored bedspreads that distract attention from the model. You can use specialized backgrounds, plain fabric (clean, ironed).

– It’s nice if the background color is combined with the pet’s color. For example, for a ginger cat – green, for a British cat – blue, for black cats – white, red (you can use black, but it needs to be highlighted). The background color can also be combined with the shade of the eyes.

– The position of the pet when shooting is very important. It is better to shoot in “noble” poses. For example: “sphinx”, stretching, standing (front, side), sitting (full face, profile), playing. 

– Accessories. Usually, people use a basket, a ball, a toy, a scarf, combined in color with the background.

– The flash should not be directed at the muzzle. It is better to take softboxes and put them on both sides of the frame.

– If the pet is moving, the shutter speed should be as short as possible (from 1/200 s).

– Shooting at a wide aperture (e.g. f/2.8) will help create beautiful bokeh and focus on the model. A good option is bokeh in the foreground. To do this, you need to put an object between the cat and the lens. For example, a garland.

How to get a cat’s attention?

For this you can use:

– a favorite treat: many cats even react to the sound of the package being opened;

– a toy: a squeaking mouse, a stick with a fluffy tip. 

How to take a picture of a dog

Shooting them is easier (on one side). If the dog is trained ( these are more common than trained cats), there will be no problems with behavior, etc. Still, taking beautiful photos of different breeds of dogs is more difficult than it seems. But we will share some tips with you. 

– Shooting point. If you need to emphasize the size of a dog (Japanese Chin, Pomeranian, Maltese), you can take a shot from above.

– Do not shoot the animal from behind. It will appear short.

– Broad-chested breeds (bulldog, boxer, rottweiler) need a full face picture. You can use a wide-angle lens for shooting, recommends PCMag. It slightly increases the volume of objects, so that a wide-chested dog will look more expressive.

– If the goal is to make the animal look more compact (for example, the Irish wolfhound), you can shoot it in three quarters.

– Large animals (Mastiff, Newfoundland) can be photographed from behind and below. This angle will emphasize the greatness, the powerful paws, the slender neck. 

Important: this angle is beneficial for breeds with a massive head. If you shoot a sophisticated Greyhound like this, their head will seem even smaller.

A good choice of lens for a large breed is 50mm, for a small one – 85, 105mm.

There is also the science of zootechnical photography. This is a separate genre. Such photos demonstrate the pedigree exterior (exhibition, club). They show that the dog is a worthy representative of its breed. The pose and angle are fixed. The animal is shot in profile, from the left side. The photographer is at the level of the dog.

Shooting rats and other rodents

It is sometimes very difficult to take a photo of a rat, a hamster and other small animals. They:

  • are not always ready to pose;
  • move quickly – you need to spend time to make a good shot;
  • can get scared, run away, hide.

We’ve put together a few helpful tips for working with them:

– the place. The main thing is that space is limited on three sides. There should also always be an assistant at the ready, if there is a need to catch the fugitive;

– rodents should not be shot on the street. Since these pets are very sensitive to drafts, sunlight and air temperature. Hamsters can even die, frightened by a loud sound;

– light. A bright lamp aimed directly at the rodent will at least frighten and blind him. Therefore, natural lighting is better. Still, you can add a softbox. The main thing is not to place it too close. It is better not to use a flash (so as not to frighten the pet ). If you still use it, direct it at the ceiling, to the side;

– decor. A simple way to interest a rodent is to give him a treat or a toy, something he can interact with. On the photo table, you can lay out things that the animal is usually interested in.

– it is better to shoot at a short shutter speed (1/120–1/200 s) with a sufficient amount of light, otherwise the photos will be blurry (see why here);

We hope that the tips collected in this article will help you take beautiful pictures of a cat, dog or rodent. The main thing to remember is that it is important to find a common language with such an unusual model. Let the animal calm down, relax and behave naturally. Then, you will definitely be able to take some beautiful shots.

For more photography tips, check out this article – https://www.criticalhit.net/technology/beginner-travel-photography-tips-you-should-know/

Last Updated: May 29, 2023

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