Most people's pets are family members. That means pet portraits are as important as those of the other kids. That, in turn, means there's plenty of work available for good pet photographers, so much so that it's become a specialty for many. You don't have to specialize to include it in your list of services, though. Here are a few valuable tips to help you add awesome pet portraits to your repertoire.
1. Get Out of the Studio
Those cute studio shots of pets all dressed up in their Holiday outfits are fine, but if you really want to capture people's pets at their best, start by photographing them in an environment where they're comfortable and happy. When a client wants pet photos, their home is a great location, with familiar surroundings and their pets' favorite toys.
A trip to your local dog park can be rewarding for you and the pet lovers there. You'll have plenty of opportunities to capture pets running, playing and interacting with each other as well as their 2-legged friends. Take a handful of your KeepSnap cards with you to give to owners and you're likely to make a few sales when you've uploaded the best shots of the day.
2. Get to Know Your Subjects
This just comes naturally to me, but for those who may be a little shy of animals, its a job skill you need to develop. Spend a little time talking with the owners about the animals, and then do your best to get acquainted with them yourself.
For the record, I'm not suggesting you walk up and give your client's pet bear a big hug or handle little Johnny's tarantula. Even with the most docile pets, common sense and caution should be your rules of thumb. Remember that animals may be very protective of their spaces, possessions and their companions.
3. Capture the Personality
One of the important things about the last tip is learning the pet's personality traits so that you can capture them in your photos. Your conversation with the owners will give you clues. Is the cat aloof? Lazy? Is the dog gentle? Lively? Find out what stands out, then look for ways to bring that out in the photos. The final images will be all the better for the effort and more meaningful to the owners.
4. Keep the Eyes Sharp
Like portraits of people, the eyes in a pet portrait help connect the viewer to the image. Even when there's no eye contact with the camera, keeping the eyes in focus will give the photo life and emotion.
5. Be Aware of the Background
Keeping the viewer's attention on your subject is an important part of any portrait and making sure the background isn't distracting will help do that. Adjust your point of view as necessary. If there's no way to remove the distractions, try putting some distance between your subject and the background, then using a wide aperture to create a shallower depth of field. You can also move in close, to eliminate distractions.
6. Turn off the Flash
Try to avoid using your flash. It's a distraction and the same effect that causes “red eye” with human subjects causes more pronounced green or yellow effects with pet eyes. Try to shoot in a well-lit environment and push the ISO up a bit if necessary. If you MUST use a flash, use it off-camera and with diffusion.
7. Shoot at the Pet's Level
There are a couple of good reasons to get down on the same level as the pet. First, hovering over an animal at your full height is intimidating and may even cause many pets to assume a submissive posture. Second, putting the camera at pet's-eye level puts the viewer in the middle of the fun, for a better connection.
8. Forget the Pose. Playtime is More Natural
Instead of working to get the subjects attention or restricting movement, just get some fun going and start shooting. Get the owner in on the act, let the subject relax and have fun, and the right shots will come. (Be sure to have plenty of room.)
9. Get the Family Involved
There's no reason not to include the family members in the action. Try to capture the love and trust in the relationship and those shots will be among the favorites.
10. Put Them on KeepSnap for Repeat Sales
Like pictures of people having fun, pet portraits belong in your galleries on KeepSnap. Not only is it a great way to let the families of the pets browse your shots and purchase those they like for download, but great pet shots may sell to several other people as well. You can increase their sales potential by having the pet owners share your card with friends and family, and of course, by adding the best ones to your personal portfolio.
Don't have a KeepSnap account yet? Find out why you should have one, here.