Photographing pets with a point-and-shoot camera can be a challenge, but nothing says you have to be an expert photographer with an expensive DSLR to come away from your own personal photo session with nice website-worthy photos.
Lighting can be tricky with pets. Natural lighting is best, and photos outdoors on a nice day during mid-afternoon are ideal. Sometimes this is not possible and in those cases, you want to have a well-lit room, but preferably from an angle. A room with a sunny window or some good lamps off to the side is going to make for better photos than an overhead florescent light. Try to keep the room light enough to avoid a camera flash if possible — point-and-shoot cameras have flashes that tend to wash out a photo or create red-eye.
Camera Mode: Priority Mode, Portrait, or “Kids and Pets”
Many point-and-shoot cameras have various presets available on your camera; the trick is to get a fast shutter speed, particularly for happy, excited, active animals. Refer to your camera’s guide to see what options your particular model has since each is unique. Your camera may say “TV” on its dial for Priority Mode – this lets the camera select proper shutter speed. Portrait mode is almost universal on a point-and-shoot camera and often looks like a face in profile – this will focus in on the face. Finally, some cameras have “Kids and Pets” mode; this is specifically designed to capture active subjects.
Point-and-shoot cameras might have a bit of delay after you press the shutter; in these cases, setting your camera to ‘burst mode’ makes it more apt to catch a nice shot even during a lot of activity.
Be mindful of what’s going on in the background in your photos. Outdoor natural scenery can make for a wonderful photo but that’s not always an option. Try to be aware of what is going on behind your subject – cluttered rooms could detract from the animal and create a noisy or unprofessional looking photo. Lighter carpet, a wall, or a hallway or room absent of unnecessary household items will help keep the photo focused on your pet. Furniture, rugs, cat trees as props, however, create a good natural indoor setting. And as amusing as a cat in a sink might be, it focuses less on the cat, and more on the possible internet joke asking to be made.
Get Close & Get On Their Level
In most cases, we are looking down at our pet who is looking up at us. To capture more of your pet’s personality try to get close – take up as much of the photo as possible. Eyes are the most expressive part to pets, just like people, so see if you can focus in on the eyes. And whenever possible, get down on your subject’s level. This gives a better view of the animal’s proportions, and a unique angle and perspective.
Make It Fun & Get the Animal’s Personality
Is your subject a happy, energetic animal? Try to get photos of the animal excited and playing to truly capture the best of their personality. Preferably an assistant or the animal’s caretaker can focus on making things fun, and you can focus on capturing.
Dogs are often captivated by their usual toys or treats, and some photographers have had luck holding treats near the camera to get a dog’s attention. Cats, specially younger and playful ones may be tempted to chase around a feather toy or play their preferred game. Other animals may be less concerned at the presence of a camera – best to respond to the critter in question.
For calmer, more laid-back animals, capture this in their personality too! Get at their level and capture their easygoing nature. And don’t hesitate to include humans in the photo if it creates a better story or makes the photo more expressive.
Some animals might find being photographed a little stressful, especially if you are taking pictures of someone else’s pets – their people are a bit anxious an there is a stranger around, focused on them! Sometimes it is best to let the animal relax a little and get used to you.
Photographing pets can take time. Pets can be more excitable than children when a person with a camera shows up, and it’s harder to communicate to them just what’s going on. Be patient! Take as many photos as you can. You can sort through and crop them later.
Given a little time and calm confidence you can become successful at photographing pets with a Point-and-Shoot Camera, and perhaps with practice this can be another service to offer!