pets for your
Seven steps to better
often provide the prettiest natural indoor light.
For even more control, try using a reflector board to “bounce” light back onto the subject. A reflector board doesn’t have to be
fancy—even a piece of white poster board can
make an effective reflector—but it can make a
big difference in helping you obtain enough
light for your portraits.
If you still can’t get enough light, you may
have to use your flash. But you can easily
soften your flash’s harsh light by simply placing a piece of tissue in front of it. This diffuses
the light and helps eliminate some of the hard
shadows that usually come with flashing.
While on the subject of light, let me talk
for a moment about bird photography. Birds
generally move with quick, sudden motions,
and they have a third eyelid. For these reasons, it’s important to photograph birds
using a high shutter speed that is capable of
The Costco Connection
Costco and Costco.com offer point-and-shoot
and DSLR cameras, as well as other photo
supplies, for photographers at any level, and
Costco Photo Centers provide great print
options. Costco and Costco.com also offer a
wide variety of pet foods, treats, beds, crates,
and grooming and health-care items.
By Daniel Johnson
THERE’S NO DOUBT that we’re a photo-snapping society, and family members are
among our favorite subjects—four-legged
family members included. But while many
pet owners enjoy photographing their pets, it
can be a challenge to capture a quality pet portrait, especially when Fido is more interested
in chasing a ball than in posing for a photograph. Luckily, several simple techniques
can help improve your pet photography
skills and increase the quality of your images.
1. Get down to the pet’s level. As a
professional pet photographer, I’ve had the
pleasure of photographing thousands of pets,
from dogs and cats to fish and ferrets. One of
the simplest yet most beneficial things you
can do to improve your pet pictures is to get
down and dirty.
When you take pictures of people, you’re
usually photographing subjects that are similar in height to you. But when you’re taking
pictures of a dog or cat, resist the temptation
to point your camera down at your pet and
ask him to look up at you—this can make for
an awkward, unflattering image. Instead, get
into the habit of lowering yourself and your
camera to the ground so you can shoot at your
pet’s level. Your photographs will be more successful because your pet will clearly be presented as the main subject.
Certain small pets that have eyes on the
sides of their faces, such as rabbits and guinea
pigs, need special attention. To create flattering
images of these pets, try photographing them
slightly from the side, rather than straight on,
so one of their eyes is entirely visible.
2. Back up, zoom in. Your camera’s
3. Find natural light and avoid ;ash.
zoom lens can have a large impact on the look
of your photos. Contrary to what you see
when people take “selfies,” it’s often more
attractive to take portraits of a person or pet by
stepping back about 6 or 8 feet and then zoom-
ing in until your subject fills the frame. This
makes your pet stand out in the picture and
prevents unflattering wide-angle distortion.
Good lighting truly improves photos. When
I’m teaching new photographers, I often tell
them, “Trash the flash.”
While it’s true that your camera’s built-in
flash unit can sometimes be useful for add-
ing light to a dark scene, in most cases the
flash does more harm than good. It’s chal-
lenging to use the flash properly, and it’s easy
to ruin a photo by blasting the subject with
too much flash. Instead, take control.
For dogs, go outside and hunt for beautiful light. The best light can often be found
early in the morning or late in the day, so
avoid shooting in the middle of the day when
the shadows are harsh and distracting. Bright,
cloudy (but not murky) days have shadows
that are limited or nonexistent, and the colors
in your photos will be vibrant and bold.
For other pets, you’ll probably want to
shoot indoors. Keep the flash off, and try to
replace its light by photographing your pet near
a window. Don’t include the window in the
photo—just use its light to illuminate your pet.
North-facing windows (away from the sun)
In our digital editions
Daniel Johnson offers additional
tips for taking quality shots of
pets. (See details on page 10.)