If you have a pet, there’s a good chance you’ve photographed them. Whether this is just a hobby, or you’ve turned it into a lucrative business, your pet photography can benefit from learning how to use perspective in pet photography.
Perspective in photography refers to the sense of depth or spatial relationships between objects in the photo, along with their dimensions with respect to the viewpoint (camera lens or the viewer).
It’s one of the contributing factors to composition, along with things like the rule of thirds, golden ratio, etc. Remember, a 2D image (like a photograph) is nothing but an illusion of a three dimensional scene.
We use perspective to tell a story, make the audience observe something in a new way, or to trick the eye. The wonderful joy of photography is being able to influence the viewer with our images.
A simple change in perspective can alter the emotion an image can pull from the person looking at it.
In order to take advantage of perspective in pet photography, think of the following.
How often does the average person view their pet (or any animal for that matter) in any new or unique angle?
Will a pet owner lay down on the floor to stare at their dog from above on a daily basis?
What about looking at their pup from direct eye level when their pet is a chihuahua? Not very often.
This is where there is a grand opening for the pet photographer to exhibit the beloved furry family member in a brand new light.
[ExpertPhotography is supported by readers. Product links on ExpertPhotography are referral links. If you use one of these and buy something we make a little bit of money. Need more info? See how it all works here.]
There are two different types of perspectives in photography: composition based and equipment based (sometimes a mixture of both).
Composition based perspective is when your perspective is dependent upon your physical position or the arrangement of elements in an image.
Equipment based perspective is perspective that is achieved from specific kinds of lenses, such as distortion lenses, fast lenses, or other such products.
The most effective perspective is to photograph the pet from their eye level. Viewers are more empathetic and attracted to images from the same perspective as the subject’s.
For pet photography, this means seeing life from the viewpoint of a dog or a cat or a horse. This is intriguing to us humans.
A good way to make sure the eyes are in focus is to use the focus points on your camera. I personally like to set them straight in the middle.
Then I focus on the eyes, keep holding the shutter down half way to lock the focus, and proceed to move my camera to my ideal composition. Setting the aperture a few stops higher can also take some of the difficulty out of focusing on the eyes.
A cool change of scenery can be as simple as laying on the floor. With a wide angle lens or a lens that allows a close focus range, laying down and having a pet stand over you can make for a very fun shot.
A very popular and beloved shooting perspective for cats is placing a curious feline on a glass table and photographing from underneath, creating an almost spaceship like form. These perspectives are very uncommon and viewers love them.
The cutest of looks is a dog looking up at you begging for a treat. Most definitely a fan favourite, shooting from up above looking down can create a very cute portrait. Make sure the eyes are in focus!To get ears up and an alert facial expression, use a treat, toy, or odd noises.
If you’re using an object like a toy or treat, place it directly above your lens (you can even rest it on the top of your lens) in order to get the pet looking in the correct spot.
A brilliant story telling shot would be from in between the ears of a pet. Whether it be a dog, a cat, or even a lizard – this allows the viewer to become one with the animal and see the world from their perspective.
Similar to why people strap GoPros or small cameras to the head of their pets, photography allows you to view life through the eyes of another being. Give this a go in a very atmospheric location and watch how the audience responds to your image.
Sometimes the location itself is the most powerful element in an image. As such, keeping the subject a small part of the landscape is a form of perspective in pet photography.
This creates a very vast, cinematic look to your images and immerses the viewer in the nature of the shot. The pet is suddenly thrust into a wonderful story.
Although a photograph is frozen, the viewer can still imagine the subject’s next step. Leaving enough negative space in the direction you expect your subject to continue moving in, will make it seem like it’s bouncing off of the photograph.
If the photograph is cropped in such a way that there is little negative space, the image will feel claustrophobic and caged.
You can play with negative space to create a new photographic perspective, such as skewing your subject very far off to the side or playing with off-centre compositions. A silhouette can also be a way of playing with negative space.
Photography has the wonderful ability of making small, minuscule details absolutely fascinating. Have you ever truly looked at the texture of a dog’s nose? Or the roughness of a cat’s tongue?
Shooting such things close up is a way to breathe new life into the simplest characteristics of a pet. The benefit of close up work is that pet owners find such factors of their pet’s physical appearance to be incredibly endearing.
All lenses have different focal lengths and f/stops. The focal length is the distance between the lens and its focus. It affects the perspective (for example, a focal length for a 16mm lens will show a much wider frame than a 200mm lens).
The f/stop, also known as the aperture, tells you how wide the lens can open. The wider the aperture (which means the number is smaller), the more light it lets in and the shallower the depth of field.
The smaller the aperture (the larger the number), the less light it lets in and the deeper the depth of field.
Wide Angle Distortion
Wide angle lenses, as the name implies, have a much wider view than normal lenses. You can get super creative and play with angles and compositions.
Wide angle lenses distort perspective significantly, which makes for a cool effect. You can see wide angle lenses used often on large dog breeds such as Great Danes to accentuate the dog’s massive size, and on horses to show off their long legs.
However, wide angle lenses can be more difficult to use because of the amount of distortion. In order to capture such a wide view, the glass of the lens is curved or rounded. This creates an unusual look when the subject is not at the correct angle.
A common wide angle lens focal length is the 16 -35mm.
Also known as normal lenses, standard lenses are ones which produce an image that roughly matches what the human eye sees. The image looks natural to the viewer.
Standard lenses have an angle of view of around 50 to 55 degrees diagonally. They are some of the easiest lenses to use, because you do not have to factor in any form of distortion. The perspective with these lenses mimics that of our organic way of viewing.
However, these lenses also tend to have wide open apertures, making them great for shallow depth of fields. Which brings me to my next section…
Shallow and Deep Depths of Field
A unique and beautiful perspective is that of soft photographs and a creamy bokeh. For those who adore dreamy, ethereal, or soft photographs, a wide aperture will quickly become your most trusted friend.
Filmmakers consistently utilize wide open apertures in order to create a soft focus with a shallow depth of field to give the viewer the illusion of a dream-like state.
As much validity as there is in the shallow depth of field, deep depth of field is equally appreciated and admired. Deep depth of field allows the subject to become a part of an impressive landscape or location.
This is a totally different kind of perspective as the subject is not isolated, but instead, integrated into the image.
With these perspective ideas, go out there and experiment! Whether you’re photographing your pet for your Instagram account or photographing a dog show as a professional, using these perspective tricks will definitely come in handy.