“For cryin’ out loud, Lady, don’t you have enough pictures of me?” Nipper asked, opening one eye long enough to shoot me a dirty look; annoyed that I was trying to take a photo of him snoozing on the sofa.
“But you look so cute all snuggled up like that,” I sighed, snapping off a few more shots. “Hold still. My Facebook friends will go insane when they see this.”
“I’ve seen you naked trying to squeeze into a pair of control-top panty hose,” he replied, jumping down from the couch, “That doesn’t mean I took a picture and posted it on the Internet.”
“That’s only because you don’t have opposable thumbs.”
“I don’t know why you have to keep throwing that in my face,” he sniffed over his shoulder, stalking off to find a more private spot to continue his siesta.
Maybe I am guilty of stalking Nipper like a member of the “pup-arazzi.” But, if you are anything like me, through the years you have taken hundreds of pictures of your pets because they never seem to turn out “right.” Your dog won’t hold still, the cat won’t look into the camera or even if everything else is right, their eyes end up glowing like they are possessed by some demented evil spirit.
My husband and I always joke that we have more photos of Nipper than we do of ourselves. Our friends and family admit that they are the same way about their pets. But who could blame us? Our four-legged friends do so many funny things it is hard to resist capturing the moment.
In these days of point and shoot digital cameras it is easier than ever to take good photos of your pets, according to Ashley and Matt Johnson. The husband and wife team own Love Mutt Photography (www.lovemuttphotography.com), a Cincinnati-based fine art pet photography studio. In the five years that they have been in business, the Johnson’s have become known for their clean, distinctive style and ability to capture animal personalities. The couple have mostly photographed dogs and cats, but have also worked with more exotic pets such as rats. So they’re not pulling our tail when they give advice.
So, what are their tips for amateur pet photographers?
1. Use natural light. Never use flash when taking photos of your pets. It casts too harsh of a light on your subject, giving a “spotlight” effect. Flash makes the background too dark and causes the dreaded “laser” eyes and overly-shiny fur.
Also, use the existing light to your benefit. When you are taking photos, stand with your back facing the light source (either lamplight, windows or the sun) and have the pet face you. Never shoot directly into the light, that will cause the photo to appear “washed-out.”
2. Practice patience. “Show respect,” Matt counsels, “Let the pet check the camera out, with the lens covered, before you begin. This will go a long way toward getting them to hold still and be cooperative. You might even put some treats on the camera. The more they see it as a positive, the better photos you will get. If you do this, you will be 90 percent ahead of the game by reducing their fear.”
3. Shoot from different angles. Get down on their level, the Johnson’s suggest. “You shouldn’t just stand and shoot down on them from the typical human to dog 45 degree angle,” Matt says, “It’s not interesting. Try shooting up at them.”
4. Bribery is good! Treats are a good way to keep a pet’s attention. “We joke that every dog has their Kryptonite,” Ashley explains, “There is always one thing that they can’t resist and that goes for all pets.” Hold the treat or toy directly above the lens of the camera or where you want them to look for the photo.
5. Work with what you’ve got! Use your pet’s personality to your advantage. If you are trying to take photos of an active dog or cat, don’t try to make them sit still. That will just set you both up for frustration. Let them do what they do naturally. “It might take 20 frames to get one that you like,” Matt says, “But nowadays with digital photography, you can afford to take a lot of photos.”
So, pick up a camera and start snapping away!
I’d like to see your photos. Send them to me along with your name, your hometown, the pet’s name, age, breed and a short explanation to firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll post them on my new Web site. Also, if you have any ideas for stories, I’d like to hear them as well.