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Planning Your Photographs

Your portrait’s success will depend largely upon the images you supply. It can be difficult to almost impossible to accurately capture the coloring and markings, let alone the personality of your pet if the lighting in the photo is bad or if the image is blurry. Below are some tips you may find helpful in taking the best pictures possible to create the most successful portrait. Also, you can mail me actual printed photos, but it’s much easier and quicker to shoot digital photos and email them to me.

Resolution and clarity:

For those of you shooting with digital cameras, please make sure it’s set to the highest resolution. This will allow me to enlarge the photo quite a bit before it starts getting blurry, allowing me to get the finest detail possible. If you have a hard time getting a clear shot and your photos keep coming out blurry, it might be helpful to use a tripod. This is important! There is nothing I can do to work around a blurry photo.

A note for those of you using your cell phone cameras… I know it’s tempting to use the zoom feature, but don’t. It reduces the quality of the photo and I won’t be able to enlarge it very much without it becoming totally blurry and pixelated. To get a nice, close shot of your pet…get nice and close!

Lighting:

lighting

The best possible photographs will be taken outside in natural light. Indoor lighting can cast either a yellowish or bluish tint, depending on what type of light bulbs you use. The best photos are taken on a bright but partially cloudy day. If it’s not possible to take your animal outside, try taking your pictures next to a large window. Remember, when you’re taking photographs to always keep the sun at your back. If it’s a cloudy day, don’t worry. This light is diffused and you can usually shoot wonderful photos with minimal shadows. If the cloud layer is relatively thin, you’ll be able to capture images with a relatively small aperture (large f-stop value). If the clouds are thick and heavy, use a larger aperture (smaller f-stop value) or increase the ISO setting. If you have a simple point and shoot type camera, there should be an automatic setting for this.

If your pet has a black or very dark coat you may want to wait for a very bright day. Overexposure may reveal details in his face and coat that may have otherwise been lost.

Composition:

Go for different points of view! While straight on is fine, it can also be boring. Get down on the same level as your pet when taking photographs. Try the three quarter angle with its head turned towards the camera. Although sometimes, a pet gazing off into the distance can also make for a lovely portrait. Try to center your pet in the frame without cutting off their ears, tail or paws. In addition to your “master shot”, take a few close-ups of your animal’s face. The more close, detailed shots I have, the better able I am to render your pet without having to make stuff up.

Portrait quality photos need to be close and clear. (Photos courtesy of Frank Ewing & Gary Kopren)

Also, it is almost impossible for me to use images where your pet is way off in the distance. Make sure that at the very least, your pet’s body fills the frame of the photo.

Your pet and the camera:

If your pet has never seen a camera, give them time to get used to it. They may be curious and want to come towards the camera. Dogs especially will want to have a sniff first. It may be helpful to have someone help you with the photo shoot by using a squeak toy or treats to get their attention. This can be an excellent way of centering your pet’s attention and eliciting an expression from them. Take LOTS of pictures! The more you take the better the chances are of you capturing exactly what you want. And, I’d rather have too much than too little to work with.

Selecting your photographs:

You may decide you like one particular photograph over all the others or, you may decide you actually like a combination of several. It is possible to utilize more than one photo to create a single portrait under certain conditions. For example, if you wish to use the head from one photo and the body from another, the lighting and angle must be consistent in both photos in order for them to be combined. It is also possible to eliminate certain elements such as a collar or leash. But other items such as a jacket or ball in the pet’s mouth, are not possible to remove from the final portrait. In this case, it is better to not photograph your pet with these items in the first place.