(ANIMAL PICTURES/PETS) Like a chocolate soufflé, pet photos are wonderful to enjoy but can be difficult to create.
Wish you could take perfect pictures of your beloved pet? Check out these expert tips from a professional pet photographer. — Global Animal
The New York Times, Roy Furchgott
Pets have such charm—why is it so few photos of them show it? In most snapshots, pets look stiff, posed and vaguely uncomfortable. Just — come to think of it — like most people in posed shots.
Grace Chon, a pet photographer in Los Angeles, has made a business of capturing a pet’s personality in casually artful portraits.
She has offered tips that any pet owner can use to immortalize the dog or cat with a mantel-worthy portrait.
1) Let the animal be an animal:
Photograph your pet where it likes to hang out, whether it’s the backyard or the foot of the bed. And give the pet its favorite toys. That’s one way to capture your pet showing its personality — have it doing what it likes to do best. It’s all about making the Rex or Whiskers comfortable.
2) Pay your models:
“I try to keep this as fun and engaging for the pets as possible. I use very high-reward treats,” said Ms. Chon. Her goodie bag often includes freeze-dried steak and dehydrated organic duck. “I call it doggie crack,” she said. “The pet is going, ‘Oh, my god! I have to pay attention to this lady! She has amazing food!’”
3) Get to know them:
Animals often find being stared at intimidating — and to them the camera can look like a big unblinking eye. Give your pet treats while you are holding the camera. Work up to holding the camera to eye level with the pet. If they flinch at the shutter sound, click the camera, then give them a treat until they adjust. “It’s all about getting them incrementally used to you.” Most of all, avoid using the flash.
4) Light lightly:
Outdoors, Ms. Chon prefers to shoot in full shade and indoors in a room filled with diffuse light. That way details, like individual strands of light-colored fur, don’t get lost to overexposure.
5) Be patient:
“Animals are so unpredictable. I don’t go in and say, ‘I’m going to shoot a dancing chihuahua today,’ although that has happened. Get in position with the pet, compose your frame, then wait. You have to be willing to sit until the pet is, say, done chewing its toy before you get the right expression. It can’t be rushed or planned unless …”
6) Shoot and repeat:
If the pet can be enticed to repeat a photogenic pose, don’t hesitate. “I will recreate moments,” said Ms. Chon “I am totally fine with, ‘Hey, lets do that again.’”
7) Stay focused:
Ms. Chon doesn’t carry a giant gear bag. She uses a Canon 5D Mark II professional camera, mostly with a 50mm f1.4 lens, which is crucial to getting those softly focused backgrounds. That way, the pet is at the literal and figurative focus of the shot, even if the family wants to make an appearance. “Owners like to be in the photos, but the pets are the heroes. So the owners are there, they are a part of the story, but the emphasis is always on the pets.”
8) Retouch with a catlike tread:
Ms. Chon shoots in RAW format, which she said could leave images looking a little drab. She gently increases contrast and uses the vibrance control to intensify colors, not saturation, which she said looks too artificial. “I don’t think your photos should look like you have done work in Photoshop,” said Ms. Chon. “You have to use restraint.”
While these tips can work wonders for pets, they may apply to working with any difficult subject, whether squirmy children or a cranky uncle. Keep those organic duck treats in mind.
More New York Times: http://gadgetwise.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/04/03/8-secrets-to-perfect-pet-photos/