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Top Tips For “Fetching” the Perfect Pet Photo Shoot

by Casey Melnrick
featured, photo & video

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Despite what many photographers might think, portraits of pets and portraits of people operate under very different principles. In her creativeLIVE course Pet Photography, Arica Dorff outlines several tips for setting the perfect pet photoshoot. Arica is the founder of Pet’ographique, a luxury pet & family photography studio in Las Vegas.

Here are her tips:

Lighting

People often prefer a “flat” lighting when it comes to their animals. Whereas portraits of people demand a more dynamic light, which can create shadows to help give perspective, people often want a simpler, brighter light with their companions. This style of lighting helps pet owners see what they really want to see — their pet’s face. Meter your main light and use a little less fill light than you would with people. Remember: It would be a shame to accidentally mask that cute little brown patch with a shadow created by using more complicated lighting.

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Arica on set at CL

Focus

When taking portraits of just the pet, focus on those sweet, loving eyes. They are the focal point of the animal’s face. If you’re shooting multiple animals, or a combination of pets and people, you may have to play around some and decide on a focal point that brings them all together, especially as the animals are prone to wiggling. Experiment with a number of focal points and use your best judgement to decide what’s most natural.


Looking for some more expert advice for how to include pets in your family photography? Expert, Norah Levine has your covered! Her FREE class goes live on August 24th-25th, 2016. At the very least, watch it for some adorable animals!

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Posing

If you’re shooting indoors, have your subjects sit or lay down — they’ll look more settled and comfortable than standing up. Outdoors, you have more room to play and can consider letting them be move more freely.

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Apparel

Often, families want to be shot alongside their pets. And while pets don’t require a specific costume — unless the owners want them to wear something — people do. Encourage the pet parents to come wearing solid, complimentary colors with long or three-quarter sleeves and no collars, if possible. This uniformity in apparel among people helps to ensure that the animals are the focus.

If the pets are wearing collars with tags, make sure to turn them them so tags are on the back of the neck; the last thing people want to see is a list of vaccination records in their portraits.

Cropping

When cropping a head shot portrait of a single animal, crop above the “split area,” or what you might refer to as the “elbow” of the leg; cropping below that leaves extra space and draws attention away from the animal’s face. If you’re going to crop below the split, just use the full body of the animal in a photo.

If the pet owner is in the photo, you can crop in between the split area and the paws to ensure there will enough going on in the photo that the viewer’s attention will be drawn to the multiple faces or other focal points.

Coaching

Because pets don’t communicate the same way as human subjects, pet photography might take some extra coaching. Expect to get a lot of near-miss shots (perfect owner pose with a sneezing Fido, etc). Don’t let yourself or the owners get frustrated. Walk the owners through exactly what you need them to do — continue looking at the camera and being kind to the pet — and you’ll be able to get both people and pets to look at you for the family portrait your clients want.

Pets are a part of people’s family, and owners want a very specific portrait to show off and remember that family. Coach them through the process to get them a portrait they will love and always remember.


Looking for some more expert advice for how to include pets in your family photography? Expert, Norah Levine has your covered! Her FREE class goes live on August 24th-25th, 2016. At the very least, watch it for some adorable animals!

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Casey Melnrick

Casey Melnrick is a freelance writer out of Seattle, an admissions counselor for Washington State University, and is always looking for a good story, fact or fiction.