I was asked to contribute a blog for this site. Someone came up with the idea of doing one about taking pet photos. Heads nodded (not mine) and then fingers were pointed (not mine) in my direction. I guess I was a more obvious choice than my husband who would rather poke himself in the head with a fork than discuss photography. So here I find myself writing a blog about taking a pet photo.
There is a wealth of technical information on the internet already, put there by clever folks who are happy to share it. While being happy to share, but most certainly not as clever, I did think it a moot exercise to rework those words. So rather than write for someone who reads those technical sites already, I am writing this piece for someone like my mother-in-law who doesn’t know what an f-stop is …. and perhaps doesn’t care to know.
I thought we might look at making one image of a pet on the move. Often when you take a photo of something on the move the subject ends up a bit blurry. So below are some pointers that might help get you a sharp picture of your dog (or agreeable cat) moving towards you.
If you are like my mother-in-law then your camera will be set to automatic mode (program mode). Have a look through the menus and see if there is a sport setting and select it if it’s there. Turn off your flash if you can (sorry this does entail a small level of camera function understanding but this is about the extent of it).
Choose your day
Wait for a cloudy day – but still reasonably bright. On a cloudy day you won’t have to worry about shadows but you will still have enough light to be able to shoot on sport mode (if you found it) and freeze movement.
Choose your location (‘line’/path)
Choose a garden path, a driveway, or just an imaginary path on the ground. The idea being that your pet will walk or run up the line towards you.
When you choose your location, really look at it. Is the background simple with uniform colour and detail (like a hedge or fence)? Simple is often best as it means the animal will stand out as the feature of the image and not compete for attention with the background.
Pick a spot
You need to choose a point along the line that your pet will pass, and as it does you will take the photo. It might be a bush along the path. It might be a crack in the concrete.
Get low for your shot. Get as low as you can. It will make for a more dynamic image as you will be either looking up at your pet or at least at eye level.
Focus and take a photo
When you have found your spot on the path, focus your camera on that point and hold your finger half way down on the shutter button so that the focus is locked. As soon as your pet passes the spot you identified, press the shutter. Ideally if your camera shoots a burst of shots then start taking shots as your pet approaches the spot, and until it is past the spot. With any luck when you go back and look at your images you will have one in sharp focus. If the spot you chose as your marker is on the side of the path then focus on that and then with finger on button to keep it locked, recompose your shot.
Getting your pet to cooperate in order to take a photo
When you get comfortable with focusing on a spot and waiting for the animal to run through it, you will be able to do it when you are out and about. You will be able to anticipate when your pet is going to run in your direction and prepare. But in the meantime when you are practising it’s great to have a helper to lead your pet to where you want it to start and hold it until you are ready (unless you have a super obedient dog who will sit and wait to for your instruction to come).
When you want your pet to come to you, a pet treat or a squeeze toy might be a way to ensure it runs to you and not in any other direction.
If you are comfortable with holding your camera longways (portrait), so your picture will be taller than wider, then give that a go.
If it is just awkward to hold the camera that way, then just stick with it ‘across ways’ (landscape). You are going to have space on either side of the animal in this case. So it is really is your choice about where you place your pet in the frame.
You could choose to put it dead centre and have even amounts of space on either side which will be ok in some instances, especially if things in your frame are symmetrical (eg a hedge on both sides of the path). It can also make for an interesting composition to have the dog on one side or the other of the frame – but not too close to the edge.
You will have to play around a bit to get things right. Your pet might be too big or too small in the frame to start with so you might have to adjust your position. Hopefully you will end up with a shot that that makes you smile.
Pet-On-The-Move Photo Competition
Now for the fun part! We are running a competition for the best shot of your furry friend on the move.
Post your shot to https://www.facebook.com/pureandwholesome/ by 1st October 2017 and our favourite will win $300 worth of goodies for your pet. Open to NZ and Australian residents. Happy shooting.
Blog and photos (except camera shot) by Jay Drew https://www.facebook.com/JayDrewPhotography/