Pets can quickly make a place in their owner’s hearts, who enjoy having framed pictures of their pets on their wall or desk. However, capturing endearing animal portraits can be quite difficult. Although professionals make it look quite easy, anyone who has tried to take a picture of an animal knows how difficult it can be since, unlike humans, they don’t really understand what we want them to do and they won’t just pose for a camera. However, with a few tips and techniques, you can also take great animal photos.
Tips for Capturing Great Animal Portraits
Animals can be considered as emotional sponges that reflect what you feel. For instance, if you feel anxious and stressed, the animal will feel anxious and stressed too which won’t look good in pictures. Just take a deep breath, relax and have fun with the animal.
Animals should never be forced into something because if they are not happy, it will show in the picture. You have to let them do what they like to do and take a shot when a special moment appears. It could take 10 minutes or even an hour to get a great shot, so the key here is to be patient and ready for that special moment. That special moment may last only for a brief moment, so it is extremely important that you stay ready.
Use Natural Light
When capturing baby animal portraits, use natural light whenever possible. Try taking pictures outside or in a well-lit room since it is vital to capture the catchlights in the animal’s eyes (the white reflective part in the eyes). Avoid taking photographs on heavily overcast days or in dark rooms. Also, refrain from using your camera’s flash or point the flash directly on the animal. It will not only cause red-eye, but also scare the animal away. Instead, use a diffuser with the flash to fill in the shadows and freeze the subjects. You could also try pointing the flash up at the ceiling if the ceiling isn’t too tall.
Do Some Stretching and Be Flexible
If you have ever seen a professional photographer taking pictures of an animal, you must have noticed that they crawl, crouch, twist, turn and do practically anything to get the perfect shot. It’s much better to reach and lean than making some large movements that could move the pet from its perfect pose. Be prepared to work your muscles so that you can get a great picture.
Focus on the Eyes
The eyes of an animal can be very expressive, so if you want to capture engaging portraits, always focus on the eyes. Don’t let the camera control the focus; make sure you know which focus point is active and have that focus point on the animal’s eyes.
Get the Animal’s Attention Using Sounds
You can get an animal’s attention using its favorite food or toy, but some animals are not interested in either of them. You could use a squeaky toy to draw the animal’s attention or you could use a squeaky toy app or an animal noise app on your smartphone. Making a strange noise may get the animal to look at you, but some animals may run towards the sound which could ruin your picture. It’s a good idea to test the sounds before taking a picture to see what the animal does. Every animal is different and requires a different approach.
You should also take care not to scare the animal away. Make sure that the noise you use won’t elicit the wrong reaction from an animal. For instance, a dog may not be comfortable with hearing a wolf howl and it may run away or start barking.
Shoot in the Animal’s World
To capture really endearing animal portraits, get down to the animal’s level. Everyone knows how a dog looks when viewed from above, so show everyone the animal’s world. Sit down or lie on the ground and shoot from its eye-level or below. This not only gives a unique perspective to the picture, but also adds intimacy.
Reward Your Model
An animal will need some motivation to look at you during the shoot or else they will become disinterested and wander off. You can pique their attention by providing some sort of ‘payment’ throughout the shoot. For instance, you could give treats to a dog or tuna fish to a cat. It all depends on what your animal likes. Be creative with paying your model and they will reward you with endearing shots.
View animal portraits below and see what you can do too by following these tips.