Want to shoot a Perfect Pet Portrait? Read this
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Old 07-23-2011   #1
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Default Want to shoot a Perfect Pet Portrait? Read this

I need help! I have a confession to make right off the get go. I am not a photographer by any stretch of the imagination. Sometimes I get lucky and the photo turns out, but most of the time they go down the drain. I know there are some excellent photographers on here with the quality of the photos I see posted.
I want to shoot a nice portrait of my pets. What do you recommend that I do? Should I use a studio setting or shoot outdoors spontaneously as I play with them. Should I worry about lighting or rely on just on or off camera flash? What should I do?
Please give me some suggestions when you have a few spare moments

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Old 07-23-2011   #2
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Default re: Want to shoot a Perfect Pet Portrait? Read this

Very good question! About the only lame suggestion I have is to use fill flash at times.
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Old 07-23-2011   #3
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Default re: Want to shoot a Perfect Pet Portrait? Read this

Anxious to hear the feedback so I can learn too.
I take loads!!! and pray for a good one.
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Old 07-23-2011   #4
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Default re: Want to shoot a Perfect Pet Portrait? Read this

The little on camera pop up flash is good for fill outdoors during candid/casual shots. It gives enough light to make nice catchlights in the pet's eyes.

Most of my dog shots have been spur of the moment, but then my camera is always close by.....on the other hand, some times I have intentionally taken my camera with me on our regular outings.
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Old 07-23-2011   #5
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Default re: Want to shoot a Perfect Pet Portrait? Read this

Good advise, Michael. I think catchlights can sometimes make or break a good image.
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Old 07-23-2011   #6
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Default Here are a few things which might help...

First, unless your pet is exceptionally well trained, you will be better off working in tandem with an assistant to get your pet images. This is especially true if your helper is familiar to the dog (O.K., Although I have shot cats, I primarily do dog images).

Shooting outside:

You can either shoot the dog as it plays or rests or you can shoot the dog posed.

I like to use a long focal length lens for either style of shooting. The long focal length lens will not distort the dog (shooting a dog up-close with a wide lens will make the muzzle look longer). Dog owners of some breeds are ultra sensitive aboutthe length of the dog's muzzle.

Shooting with a longer focal length lens will allow you to shoot from a distance and perhaps get some shots without the dog paying a lot of attenton to the photographer.

Shooting with a long focal length lens will also allow you to use selective focus and separate the dog from the background.



I love using my 70-200mm f/4L IS lens for outdoor dog portraiture and I always use a flash for both fill and to open up recessed eyes or achieve catch-lights in the eyes. Fill light is important, especially with dogs that have deep set eyes such as my Goldendoodle...



I like shooting dogs from their level rather than shooting down on them. Since I have arthritis and bending or squatting is difficult, I will often try to place the dog in an elevated position. By the way, always be ready for a grab shot like this one...



Shooting indoors, I will either set up two or three studio strobes and umbrellas or I will simply bounce my 550EX flash using a Joe Demb Flash Diffuser Pro to modify the light. Backgrounds can either be commercially purchased canvas or muslin or you can use a piece of velvet or a Vellux blanket.

Getting a full face portrait of a dog is often a good idea...



I will use a thin "show lead" for holdingthe dog in place. This can easily be "Photoshopped" out.

BTW: Shooting multiple dogs is geometrically more difficult than shooting a single dog. However if you have helpers or well trained dogs, it can be done...



A good trick is to buy a few of the plastic squeak-toy inserts made to sew inside stuffed animals. They are dirt cheap at places like Michaels Craft Stores. I usually hold one between my teeth. Squeaking it attracts the dog to look directly at the camera.

Shoot lots and lots of images.

I always like to have a camera handy because I never know when a good image will come my way. One afternoon, I walked out in my yard to see my Goldendoodle sitting among jacaranda blossoms. Having the camera set up and handy allowed me to get pictures like this...

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Old 07-23-2011   #7
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Default re: Want to shoot a Perfect Pet Portrait? Read this

Dogs are hard to photograph unless they are really obedience trained to sit/stay. I have a Westie and the best shots of him have been candids using ambient light. I do find that after taking a photograph converting it to a painting using Corel Painter or Painter Essentials works out pretty good. Following is an example.
In this example he was on one of our chairs and the light was coming in from his rear right and camera right high. He had captured his ball and was waiting for me to come for it:
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File Type: jpg Darby121404_Painting2.jpg (42.3 KB, 165 views)
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Old 07-23-2011   #8
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Default Addendum...

As with all portraiture, ensure that the background doesn't compete with the subject...



If the dog is having fun, you can often shoot candid images...



Shooting running dogs takes a bit more skill and better equipment. I have better equipment than I have skill...



Images of dogs interacting with the people they love are great...



You don't always have to have the dog or dogs looking at the camera. Also, a parent with a puppy can be a cute shot...



Sometimes props work, especially for holiday shots...



Finally, as it is easier to shoot good wedding pictures of a pretty bride, shooting a cute dog is also easier...

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Old 07-23-2011   #9
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Default re: Want to shoot a Perfect Pet Portrait? Read this

Wow! Richard you are one of the fellows I was looking for. Your posts were very informative and using photos helps even an old guy like me understand the concept.
Now all I have to is get my dog and head outside.
I never thought of using a longer lens, but it makes sense.
Thank you so much.
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Old 07-23-2011   #10
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Default re: Want to shoot a Perfect Pet Portrait? Read this

Heaterguy, Thats a beautiful dog you have there and love the way you present the image. I have never used Corel. PS's learning curve was steep enough!!


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Sigma 105mm f/2.8 EX DG Macro
Nikon 18-200mm f/3.5-5.6G AF-S ED VR II
Kenco 1.4 Teleplus Pro 300 DGX
Nikon 105mm Micro 1:4 AI
Nikon 60mm Micro F:2.8 D AF-S
Nikon AF 28-80mm 1:3 3.5-5.6 G
Nikon 55-200mm F:4-5.6 G VR DX AF-S ED

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