5 Great Pet Portrait Photography Tips
As a photography journalist I get to see a lot of rather tenuous surveys from PR companies hoping to get column inches for their clients, but one from the National Office of Animal Health (NOAH) recently caught my eye. NOAH, a trade body for animal medicine in the UK, surveyed 2,000 pet owners across the country.
They discovered that the average pet owner takes a whopping 260 images of their pet a year! Even with the rise of smartphones this seems quite high, but even if the number was half of that, it's still a lot of pet photos – especially considering that 13 million households across the UK have 'animal companions.'
Needless to say, over half of the respondents said that they shared the images on social media, which also goes a long way to explaining the rise.
NOAH is doing a competition to run alongside the survey findings, and has also teamed up with wildlife photographer Victoria Hillman to offer some useful pet photography tips. Here they are in summary
1. Get on their level
A great portrait always focuses on the subject’s eyes, so get down to eye level with your pet
2. Patience is a virtue
Remember, this is a fun activity. Keeping your pet relaxed and in a natural environment can lead to capturing their best (and funniest!) qualities
3. Turn on the light
Good lighting is key, but avoid using flash. Your pet’s eyes are more sensitive than ours and you don’t want to startle them
4. Play to their strengths
You know your pet better than anyone else: their quirks, likes and dislikes. Use this intel to get a unique shot that shows off your special bond
5. Get colourful
Pics in colour can capture bright green eyes or a little pink nose – just make sure that background colours aren’t distracting and allow your pet to stand out
The importance of nice lighting
There are some useful tips here, but lets discuss lighting in a bit more detail As Victoria mentioned, on-camera flash pointing directly at the pet is never a good idea, but you may be able to bounce it off a white or pale coloured ceiling.
Using the bounce card in your flashgun (or a third party add-on) can also help to make colours pop and keep your pet's face sharp without the flash light getting overpowering. If you have a softbox or umbrella, you can also get great results by using off-camera flash with pet portraits, using the softbox or umbrella to soften the carefully directed light.
If all this seems too much hassle, just getting your pet to sit on a chair near a north-facing window can also work wonders. North facing window light has a soft quality that can be very flattering.
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