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How To: Pet Photography

Last week I wrote about making sure I photographed my own dogs more often. I've been talking with several of you who got new cameras for Christmas, so what better segue than a crash course in photographing YOUR pets?! Here are five things I try to keep in mind when working, and the thought process behind some of my images. I'll also include camera settings under each image, so you can get an idea where to start. Keep in mind, everything is variable with the amount of light, the scene, and so much more.

1. The first rule of pet photography, is PATIENCE. I have so many wonderful clients get stressed out that Fido and Rover aren't sitting still, and dogs feed off of our energy. It is so important to stay calm and collected, and this is really where my lengthy background in working with and training dogs comes in to play. Besides - some of my favorite shots are the imperfect photographing three Great Pyrenees, a Chihuahua, and two kids!

Great Pyrenees with kids | pet photographer

Canon 5D mark iii, Canon 70-200 2.8 ii, ISO 160, f/3.5, 1/250

2. My next rule is PERSPECTIVE. Photos of animals are so much more interesting when taken at their eye level, instead of your own. You walk around every day seeing things from 5 feet up - get down on the ground and see what it looks like to your dog! Here's Mickie, the shepherd mix's perspective.

Shepherd mix | pet photography

Canon 5D mark iii, Canon 70-200 2.8 ii, ISO 200, f/2.8, 1/125

3. Rule #3? PLAY! Pet photos are so much fun when they're goofy! Unless your dog is more content snuggled on the couch and that's the personality you want to capture, get him outside and play around with some fun angles, lenses, and expressions! Camille the German Shepherd was no shortage of silly.

German Shepherd | pet photography

Canon 5D mark iii, Canon 16-35 2.8 ii, ISO 100, f/2.8, 1/2000

4. I think I'm out of P words. In any case, one of the biggest things I take into consideration when composing the photo is LIGHT. In general, you will want to photograph your dog with the sun behind you. This will give you that beautiful sparkle in his eyes, known as catchlights, that Buddha the black Lab is sporting.

Black Lab at Balboa Park | pet photographer

Canon 5D mark iii, Canon 70-200 2.8 ii, ISO 500, f/3.2, 1/640

Once you're comfortable with how the basics of light work, you can delve into shooting into the of my favorites! This picture of Jake, my Bernese Mountain Dog, was taken just as that golden ball of sun dipped below the horizon, and made for a great sunburst.

Bernese Mountain Dog at the beach | dog photographer

Canon 5D mark iii, Canon 16-35 2.8 ii, ISO 100, f/14, 1/200, with flash

The same can be achieved in daytime, too! Here's Nala, the Belgian Malinois, showing off her camouflage skills.

Belgian Malinois at Balboa Park | dog photography

Canon 7D mark ii, Canon 16-35 2.8 ii, ISO 320, f/4, 1/200, no flash