Saturday, September 6, 2008

Animal Inspiration

Iso 100, f/5.6, 1/100, 250mm

Anybody who owns a camera has at some point taken a photo of fido or miss princess. Face it, our pets are often our favorite subjects. One they are readily available to pose on a moment's notice (well, except for mine - Mahala hates the camera) and two they are cute as as all get out (even the dog that won the ugliest dog contest!) I first entered into pet photography when volunteering with the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Animal Control Department. Interestingly we found that better photos of dogs increased the adoption rate by 20 - 30%.

Most people think that pet photography is easy - just find a cute pet, aim, and shoot - then everyone will swoon over how cute fluffy is even if her eyes are glowing yellow-green. Truth is that great pet photography takes patience and planning and patience again. Here are a few of the sites that I look to for new ideas on how to shoot:

Sit Stay Smile
Jill Beninato has a wonderful connection with our furry friends and it definitely shows in her work. Her and her husband Chris have 4 dogs of their own with the latest being a rescue from the much covered recently busted puppy farm. Not only does Jill provide some great photography, but she also provides her clients with some incredible digital paintings of their pets.

Michael Waine Pet Portraits
Michael found his way into professional photography like may of us by following a winding road through other careers until we eventually landed back on what we love. He takes pride in in his ability to pull out the character of each pet he photographs, traits that the owners have already come to know and love. Anyone that has attempted to capture the character of their beloved pet knows that this is no easy task!

Best Friend Photography
Emily Rieman simply has created some of the most stunning black and white pet images that I have witnessed to date (not to mention that her color images are just as fantastic!) For someone that started down the path of a photojournalism career, she definitely found her true calling with the furrier set.

Basic Tips for Better Pet Photos

1. Pets are not 6' tall! When you visit your friend's and family or even look at your own previous photo albums, make note of the angle in which the pet's photo was taken. More than likely, you will find that the photograph is shot looking down at the animal. Face it, our pets are not our height. The best photos are at eye level or, for an even more artistic approach, shot from an angle slightly below their height looking up, giving them a larger than life persona.

Iso 200, f/7.1, 1/125, 160mm

2. Prepare for the chase. Unlike waifer thin models from Ford Modelling, pet photographs tend to suffer when the photographer atempts to pose the animal. Granted, this works sometimes for the more inactive variety (think bull dogs) but for the most part, it looses that thing that makes the pet so special. Although primes are great for people portraits, I prefer a 18 - 200mm zoom for pet portraits. The range enables me to capture the shot whether the animal runs up on me or moves away.

Iso 200, f7.1, 1/400, 200mm

3. Enlist help! The best pet portraits typically (and I say typically because there is always an exception) have the pet looking attentive, eyes wide, ears perked up, and mouth open. The thing is that pets don't normally run around this way. Here is where an assistant comes into play. My best pet portraits came after enlisting the help of another to distract the animal, be it squeezing a toy, enticing them with treats, or guiding them into position.

Iso 200, f7.1, 1/320, 100mm

4. Green eye. If you do not have a studio or are proficient with off-camera flash, attempt to do most of your work in natural sunlight. Green eye is caused by on-camera flash bouncing off of the retina and reflecting back at the camera. While this can sometimes be corrected adequately in post, it is best to avoid it altogether.

5. Volunteer. Our animal shelters are desperately in need of volunteers. In addition to having a plethora of photography subjects, you can help out our four (sometimes three) legged friends. And as Bob Barker used to say, please spay and neuter.


Jill Beninato said...

Thanks for the mention Travis and for your kind words...I am really enjoying your new blog...I like all of the educational content, keep it coming!

Travis Owney said...

No problem Jill. I need to enlist you to do a tutorial on pet paintings. :-)