Next to children, pets are probably the subjects people want to photograph most often and for a lot of the same reasons. They’re an important part of the family and you want to capture them for posterity. Also, a lot of them simply look cute and make great subjects. Fortunately photographing pets is a whole lot easier than wildlife photography and here are some tips to get the best possible shots.
Think about what makes your pet special
Everybody knows their pet is special, just as everybody knows their child is special, but if they weren’t your pet (or your child), what would you like about them? Some pets are full of fun, others more laid back, others definitely have a sense of mischief. What individual habits do they have? This is your starting point for shots that aren’t just of a dog or a cat, but of your pet.
Forget about getting pets to pose
A pet is not going to hold a pose the way an adult will, which is why you need to be observant to realize when a great photo opportunity is going to come up. Of course, a few strategically-used treats can help matters along, particularly if you can enlist an assistant. If your dog likes to jump, then get everything ready and then have an assistant dangle a treat enticingly. You’re just helping to manage the timing of something your dog likes to do anyway.
Cats and dogs can be photographed together but not necessarily with other animals
Cats and dogs who already know each other can often be photographed together. Realistically unless they are in the habit of playing together then these are going to be shots taken at rest. In fact, more accurately, the easiest approach is usually to wait until the cat is at rest and then fit the dog around the cat.
Cats and other sorts of pets are generally not a happy combination for obvious reasons. Even if the cat is not actually a hunter itself, small pets do not know this, so they are very likely to get upset.
Dogs are a slightly different proposition in that they are more likely to interact with other pets and this may mean that some smaller pets will tolerate them, but they may not. As a rule of thumb, if a dog gets on with another animal, it’s probably OK to photograph them together, but cats should only be photographed with dogs, never with small pets.
Think about background and perspective
Although there’s precious little chance of getting a pet to pose, they can often be induced to stay in one place for long enough for you to get a great shot. Food is usually the way to go about doing this. As with children, aim to take shots from their perspective rather than yours, i.e. be prepared to get down to their eye-level. It’s OK to use plain backgrounds, even for small pets, as long as you capture the animal’s personality; even photos of a tiny hamster can be turned into photo canvas prints!
Although the author earns her crust by writing and translation, she’s a keen photographer and enjoys photographing urban landscapes and animals, particularly pets. Her favourite subject is her collie dog. When she’s not working she enjoys taking him for walks and playing poker. She also enjoys reading books by Ian Rankin and Terry Pratchett.