How to Take Better Pet Photos

I was going through some old work, and came across this piece I wrote for my magazine writing course on taking photos of your pet.

Turn your dog into a supermodel. Here are six simple steps to take better photos of your canine companion.

• Go outdoors
Instead of photographing your dog chewing a bone at home, take advantage of Chicago’s pet-friendly parks and beaches. “Seeing him playing in the water and running towards you shows energy and personality in a natural and fun state,” says Albert Ellenich who owns Albert Ellenich Photography in Chicago.

And owners prefer these settings.

“I have pictures of Cassie by the river playing and I can tell she’s looking happy and comfortable,” says Emily York, 29, a food writer for the Chicago Tribune, who rescued a German shepherd mix.

• Get down to his level
Often, when amateurs take photos, they stand a mile away, says Renny Mills who owns Renny Mills Photography in Chicago. “When they do that, you can hardly see what they’re photographing.”

You should fill the frame of the photo if it’s a close-up. But if it’s an environmental shot with scenery in the background, look what’s beyond your pet. “If you’re photographing in your house, you don’t want the mail or the garbage can in your shot,” Mills says.

The backdrop needs pizzazz. A red brick wall works better than a blank wall. “But it’s always about what appeals to you.”

• Know how to use your camera
Read the manual. You may get a great shot and need to know how to duplicate it.

If you’re taking photos on the beach, it’s best to have the ability to shoot with a fast shutter speed so you can stop the water, Ellenich says. “A lot of people have digital single-lens reflex cameras and those give you the functionality to do so.”

But York uses her camera phone exclusively to snap close-ups. “My next thing is to buy a good camera because everything now is taken with my iPhone,” she says. “If I had a better one, I would take further away, action pics.”

• Turn off the flash
Animals are prone to red eye, too. Shooting in bright natural light reduces that effect, says Ellenich. Even consider using a reflector – a big white or silver card that reflects sunbeams into the subject.

• Have fun
If your dog is attached to a toy that defines his personality, bring it in the picture. “It may be something that’s really close to him like a guy with his car or motorcycle,” Ellenrich says.

If it’s around the holiday season, consider crowning your pup with a Santa hat or placing a stuffed candy cane in front of him.

• Make yourself invisible
Capture a photo when he doesn’t know you’re there. “The minute you try to make a dog sit still is when he’s going to be the most antsy, Ellenich says. “He’s just like a child.”

The best photo is when the he’s looking right at the camera. Use a clicker, or noisemaker, to garner attention, Ellenich says. “The bonus is that he may perk his ears up or cock his head one way.”

Dalmation at Eden Park, Cincinnati

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