; An Introduction to Pet Photography
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An Introduction to Pet Photography


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Photographing your pet can be an incredibly rewarding experience. Done well, it will
allow you to immortalize Fluffy or Spot - that significant member of your family - the
pet that shared you food, chewed your shoes, and brought you the newspaper. In fact,
the act of seriously photographing your pet will bring you both closer because the
process opens you to noticing the small, wonderful things that you might have missed
before - the way he wags his tail, etc. This is a grand adventure.

As with anything, it's best to proceed with a goal in mind so you know where to start.
What are you trying to accomplish? Are you trying to capture your pet's playful side?
Are you trying to setup a funny photo using a prop such as a birthday hat? Is this an
interactive portrait between your pet and your child? Sit down and put on paper this
goal, because it will help you in preparing properly. Nothing is worse than spending
an hour going to your favorite scene with equipment in hand and realizing your forgot
a favorite toy - do your self a favor, do not skip this step.

Now that you have decided on your goal, it's now time to decide the proper setting.
Indoors vs. outdoors. Near the fireplace with an open fire in the background, or in a
studio. At the beach or in the woods. As you think about the proper setting, think
about how your pet will respond to that setting. If you decide the public park is the
perfect place, you must think about your pet's resistance to distractions. Is he/she able
to resist running after another animal or person? The more you know your pet and
look through his/her eyes, the better off you will be.

Now you are at the critical preparation stage. You've set your goal, you've decided on
the appropriate setting - let's try to anticipate all that can (and will) go wrong. I use
the word 'wrong' loosely - try not be too rigid and to have fun - we will talk more
about that in a minute. Write out on paper every possible thing you can think of. Here
are some suggestions:
     Exercise your pet - just enough so they are still alert, but not hyper
     Lighting - outdoor is best, but flash will work too - should be natural lighting
     Grooming - only if it doesn't adversely affect your pet's mood - then do it days
     Props/Toys - favorite of the pet
     Food - favorite of the pet
     Be prepared for sudden movement - shutter speed about 1/125th and use iso 400
or 800 film (if indoors)
     Watch the scene clutter
     Have pet at least 6 feet away from background to reduce shadows
     Bring an assistant to help manage your pet
     Zoom Lens
     Camera, Film, Tripod, Equipment, etc.
Etc., etc. Are you getting the idea? The first time you make out your list, the process
will be a little tedious, but the beauty is that once the list is made, all you need to do is
modify it slightly for the next sessions.

On Location
Whew, you've made to shooting location - congratulations. Hopefully, you've brought
everything you are going to need, right? Right! Now, it's time for setup. Be organized;
get everything laid out in a logical fashion. The last thing you want to be doing is
fiddling around with equipment when you need to be shooting pictures - an animal
has a zero attention span and you have got to be ready to snap that picture when the
moment is there. How is you animal's demeanor? Is he/she super wound up? If yes,
then perhaps some light exercise would be in order - nothing too heavy, but just
enough to help him/her calm down. How are you? Are you stressed? Relax, and go
with the flow - animals are super sensitive to your mood. Give your pet some last
minute grooming - just touch- ups. If you are outdoors, how is the wind? Is it too
strong? Is the sun too bright? Remember, overcast is much better for exposure. Make
sure that your pet is far enough away from your background so as to not cast any

The Photographer's Mindset
Your mindset should be one of peace and serenity. I can't overstate that enough. Also,
you need to climb into the mind of your pet as best you can. What are they thinking
and feeling? Align your expectations properly. If you have never done this before,
don't expect perfection the first time out - that will just raise your anxiety level and
will stress out your pet.

One of the most important things to remember is to get down on your pet's level,
physically, as much as possible. A shot from above doesn't portray intimacy. In
addition, when you are at your pet's level, it's easier for you to empathize with it. If
you've never crawled around on the ground before, you might feel a bit foolish, but
trust me, it makes all the difference in the world. Make sure that you and your handler
work with each other - you have got to be in charge, but also try to be flexible - you
have a lot of variables that you are managing.

Be patient, and have a lot of fun!!!

Stan Beck is a self-proclaimed animal lover. He also runs the website

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