M.Lari Photography » film photography for families

photographing your own pet


maybe amidst the holiday bustle you couldn’t find time to schedule a professional photography session for your annual card.  that’s okay; save it for when you have time to enjoy the process with fido – and with me, your friendly neighborhood pet photographer.  because it really is fun, and you should treat it like a spa day and savor it.  but what do you do about that card?  your friends’ cards came rolling in with glowing photographs of their perfect offspring doing adorable perfect things and wearing adorable perfect hats.  you want to send a new year’s card, but you don’t want it to be lame.  here are a few tips to help!

  1.  choose a place for the shot where your pet is mostly contained, and is comfortable and relaxed.  if your pet is small, try stuffing him in a container of some sort – a basket, a box, a bowl.  anything starting with the letter “b.”  just kidding.  if your pet is larger, just get her somewhere where she’s unable to run off in the middle of your shoot.
  2. if you have a partner / spouse / roommate / helpful friend, enlist him or her to wrangle your pet.  it’s really hard to set up the shot, style the pet, get the pet’s attention, and shoot all at the same time.  trust me.
  3. for dogs and food motivated cats, use top drawer treats to get their attention.  hot dog chunks, cheese, chicken – something that floats your pet’s boat that s/he doesn’t get very often.  for most cats, use teaser toys.  again, breaking out a special one for the occasion will help a lot.  i like to use the cat dancer – it never seems to get old.
  4. focus on your pet’s eyes.  if they’re sharp, the picture will work.
  5. don’t aim flash right in your pet’s eyes – they’ll turn blue or green or even tan in the photo.  it’s the pet version of redeye, but it’s the reflection of the light off the tapetum, the membrane at the back of their eyes.  its color depends on the species and breed, but it’s never a good look.  if you can’t use natural light, aim the flash at a white ceiling to bounce it.
  6. speaking of eyes, get down to your pet’s eye level, or raise your pet up so that you are shooting straight at her.
  7. try to find a plain background without lots of stuff in it.  change your shooting angle to eliminate unwanted elements.  if your pet is small enough to lift, you can use the sky as background – have your assistant hold him up in the air and shoot up at him, zooming in close to crop out the assistant’s arms.
  8. props can be cute, but choose one.  don’t put fifi in a santa hat, next to a wreath, eating a candy cane, wearing a red bow.  just do the candy cane and a plain white background – it will have much more visual impact and still say “christmas” just as loudly.
  9. if you’re outside with your dog, be safe – don’t take the leash off for the shot and then stop paying attention to what’s around you.  this is brooklyn – there could be a killer dog behind the next tree waiting to eat you both.  or a crocodile.

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