A family photo session involving pets is fun and tricky at the same time. We collected 11 pet photography tips that can help you capture the best shots.
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11. Prepare the Owners for the Photo Session
A family photoshoot that features pets needs preparation. If you are shooting for clients, inform them about the session in advance.
Find the location and time of the photo session. Shooting outside is better because the pet has more freedom to move around. You also have better light outdoors.
Try to find a place where the pet feels comfortable. It can be the dog’s favourite park or the family’s garden.
Ask the owner of the pet to do the same at home. You want to start the session with a pet that is not afraid of the clicking sound and your camera.
Make sure that you or the owner cleans the pet. While cats are very clean animals, dogs can get muddy and dusty even after one walk. Ask the owner to comb the dog’s hair and clean them for the session.
10. Get to Know the Pet
Every pet is different, and some of them are shy in front of strangers. If you are the not the owner, take time to get to know the pet. If they are familiar with you, they are more relaxed and comfortable in your presence.
Take the dog for a walk or play a few tricks with him. Let the cat approach you and sniff you around.
Some dog breeds are very friendly, while others are scared of unfamiliar people. Or they can get protective if they think their owner is in danger.
Make sure you and the client have a friendly tone and show the dog that you have good intentions. For pet photography, you have to be a dog person AND a people’ person.
9. Make the Pet Happy Before the Photo Session
You cannot work with a pet that is hungry or needs to take a walk. Make sure that the dog gets his exercises before starting to take photos. Otherwise, you won’t have an easy time trying to capture it running around.
If you photograph cats, make sure they go out for a wander before the sessions. Cats can be desperate when they have an urge to be outdoors, and they won’t stop meowing at the door.
Don’t exhaust the pets, though! A sleeping animal won’t look very exciting in the family photos.
Feed the animals before the photo session.
If you photograph puppies or kittens, play with them a bit before starting to shoot.
8. Use Treats and Toys to get the Best Pet Pose
Always have treats and toys with you for pet photography sessions. You can direct and reward a dog with snacks. You can play with a cat and get its attention with a feather or a rope.
When you give treats to the animals, don’t overuse them. You want to keep the pets’ interest as long as possible. If a dog has a favourite toy, use it during the session. Ask the other members of the family to bring their favourite objects to. This will help to make the family photo even more personal.
Some dogs get very excited when they see the toy they like. Take it out only when you are ready to take photos.
7. Learn Tricks and Commands
Even if you are not a dog owner, learning a few basic commands can improve your pet photos. ‘Sit’ and ‘stay’ work like magic and result in a few extra calm moments.
When it comes to cats, there are not many commands you can use. Some owners teach tricks to their cats. But these animals are very independent, and they behave as they like.
The best trick to use with cats is their sleep time. They spend most of their day sleeping or getting ready for a nap.
When they start to clean their body, you have a few minutes to take photos before they pass out.
6. Be Patient and Spontaneous
Patience is the most important trait when you take family photos with pets. A dog can be the smartest and most obedient creature and still change its mind about staying still.
You can prepare for pet photography sessions, but you cannot plan them. You have to be spontaneous and ready to capture the moment.
Don’t let the photography session last long. Animals become bored, and a dog needs to go for a walk every few hours.
It helps if you own pets at home and you know how they behave.
When you take images of your own animal, it’s better to have the camera always ready. You don’t have to schedule a photoshoot because you can turn any moment into one.
5. Use Burst Mode to Capture the Action
Being spontaneous means you are always ready for some action. Switch your camera to burst mode so that you can capture lots of pictures in a short amount of time. The odds of getting a successful image increases.
Use continuous focus to keep moving subjects sharp in your photo. In this mode, your camera is following the pets’ movements and refocuses accordingly.
Fast shutter speed will also help you freeze the moment. Find a shooting location where you have enough light for quick shutter speed.
4. Find Natural Light
Using artificial light would be difficult and even dangerous. The animals can knock over the lights and burn themselves.
Avoid using flash when taking a family photo with pets. The sudden light can spook or annoy the animals.
Try to find a place where you don’t have a weird mixture of light and shadows. A picnic under the tree can turn into a great location for photoshoots.
3. Highlight the Pet’s Personality
Every pet has a different personality. Highlight that in your images and let them be themselves.
We have two cats at home, and they have the most contrasting personalities. One is so easy to photography because she feels comfortable with being touched all the time. We can only touch the other one if she is in the mood. I always have to adapt my photoshoots to the more sensitive cat.
If a dog has a favourite position to sit in or has a certain way of asking for food, show it in your photo.
My sensitive and less approachable cat has two weird habits. She jumps into the empty bathtub and waits until I open the tap so that she can drink from it.
She also likes to come to me or my father when we work in front of a computer. It happened many times that she walked over my keyboard and typed in something.
If you or your client have a pet with similar habits, set up the scene around it.
2. Show the Relationship Between the Pet and the Owner
A family photo feels personal when you can spot the intimacy and relationship between the family members. Apply this for pet photography sessions too.
Encourage the family to give belly rubs to the dog or play with the cat. Capture hugs, kisses or cuddles. Let the animals jump on their owners or sit in their laps.
Many people say that the dog and its owner look alike. You can create amazing and funny images based on the similarities. Ask the family member to dress up the dog in similar clothes. You could even take one portrait of the dog and one of the owner and create a diptych.
Convey as many emotions and connections as possible. You want to end up with real family photos and not with a posed Ikea catalogue.
1. Have Fun and Let the Pet Enjoy the Session
Having fun is among the most important pet photography tips. The theme is about being free and having a good laugh with the animals. Never force anything on an animal. The main point is to show them in their natural family setting.
If a dog wants to dig out the flowers, don’t stop the session. Capture the sheer horror on the face of the family. It will present a good contrast with the dog’s happy excitement.
Family photos with pets need a lot of patience and spontaneity. It’s a kind of genre that you can only enjoy doing if you love animals. Our tips can help you improve your pet photography.
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