Pet Photography Tips and Tricks

Anyone who has attempted to take photos of pets knows how difficult it is to capture a pet’s personality and keep its focus on you. Here are some tips and tricks to aid you in pet photography.

  1. Use Natural Light – If possible always use natural lighting. Natural lighting usually gives photos a more realistic feel. Most people want their pet pictures to feel as though they were not staged and natural lighting is one of the most important factors for a realistic feel.
  2. Give the pet a personality – If you own the pet you are photographing aim for a picture that captures the pet’s character. After all no one knows its personality like its owner. If the pet is not owned by you either ask the owner to describe the pet’s character or observe the pet until it reviles a trait.
  3. Surprises – Pets, like some people, enjoy surprises. If the animal does not cooperate place a treat near your camera and the animal will likely ignore everything, except the treat. If the animal still does not pay attention whistle or call its name. This will capture the pet’s attention and naturally place it in an alert posture.
  4. Comfort  – If the animal refuses to acknowledge the existence of the photographer or reacts in a negative way, do not feel bad. The animal is likely uncomfortable, especially if you are a stranger. To fix this get down to the pet’s level. Once you appear to be at an equal height with the pet they feel you are no longer a threat and will be much more calm. Being down at the pet’s level is also a great opportunity to take pictures of the pet from unique angles.
  5. Have fun – Play with a pet if it has too much energy for a photo-shoot. It will eventually become tired and calm down.
  6. Be patient –  Pet photography requires massive amounts of patience. Allocate a minimum of an hour for a pet cat

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A is for Action

Action shots can be some of the most difficult and amazing photos a photographer will take in their career. Action photography can be done in many ways; however, today we will discuss action photography on the border of stopping motion and blurring motion.

An action photo on the border of stopping motion and blurring motion may sound confusing. One may ask, ” Well am I stopping motion or not?” The answer, in this case, is motion is slowed to the point that only certain parts of the photo appear to have slowed motion while the rest of the photo is frozen in time.

Swimer new

In the photo above the swimmer is clearly frozen in time and free of blur; while, the water in the air is partially slowed and not 100% free of blur. This effect was achieved at a shutter speed of 1/500s and an aperture of f/16. While scenarios in real life will almost certainly be different when attempting to achieve this effect, in terms of lighting and other environmental factors, the key component to slowing motion is shutter speed. The shutter speed one should aim for to capture this effect is between 1/400s and 1/600s.

As stated before action photography is not simple and will come with practice. Both time and effort must be given in order to capture great action shots; however, most will find action photography to be very rewarding and worth the effort.

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Flash photography trick: DIY flash diffuser

Direct flash is hard, sharp, and directional. Often shadows behind the subject will be obvious, and there is a  much greater risk of red-eye when shooting individuals.

To soften the light emitted by a flash, one may fit a flash diffuser on a external flash head. A wide variety of commercial flash diffusers are available, ranging from rigid plastic ones to larger collapsible units; however, these can be quite expensive,( up to $250). There are two tricks I learned that will diffuse light without having to purchase a commercial diffuser.

Firstly, one may simply find a nearby piece of thin white paper and place the paper over the flash. That’s it! The paper works, arguably, just as well as a commercial diffuser.

The second option works if one owns an external flash that is able to rotate. Simply rotate the flash so the light is not focused directly at your subject, but at the ceiling or wall. This technique is called bounce flash. As the name implies the light bounces off of a nearby structure and reflects onto your subject with less intensity.


The photo above was taken without a diffuser.

The photo below was taken with a piece of white paper covering the flash.


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Long Exposure Photography

Long exposure photography involves using a long duration shutter speed to capture an image. This technique of photography is used in many scenarios. For example, if lighting in an area is dark, one can simply increase the duration of their shutter speed so they can achieve a proper exposure. Another example of a scenario in which long exposure photography can be used is when one wishes to have a stationary subject in focus and have the surrounding area, (if it involves motion), blurred. We will now look at more in depth examples of the scenarios explained above.

Most photographers prefer capturing an image by using a long shutter speed rather than using a flash. This is because a flash can create unwanted reflections and uneven lighting if done incorrectly.  The image below was taken using a shutter speed of 2 seconds in Antelope Slot Canyon, AZ.

When examining the photo one can notice the lighting is, for the most part, even throughout the photo.

inside canyon

Next we will examine an photo that involves a stationary subject and blurred surroundings.

Calm river

In this photo one can see that the log in the background and the rocks in the foreground are stationary and in focus, while the rushing water in the stream is blurred. One may also notice the lighting is even. This was taken using a 2 second shutter speed in Zion National Park.

If one wishes to take long exposure photos it is recommend to purchase a tripod. This is due to the fact that one will move while holding their camera. This motion may not be visible when taking photos at high shutter speeds, but will be visible for long exposure photos.

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