Our fine furry friends

I recently had an assignment to photograph Chenda Ouk of Stockton who had adopted a cat named Cupid from the Stockton Animal Shelter. Cupid had been shot in the head with an arrow and was saved by the shelter. The cat was understandably a bit skittish and I managed to get just a few frames off before the she bolted from Ouk’s arms. The frightened feline ran into a bedroom and hid under a bed. Ouk managed to coax Cupid out with some treats and we tried to get a few more photos but the cat had decided that enough was enough and that the photo shoot was over.

We consider our pets as our friends, companions and sometimes even as family and it’s only natural that we want to take pictures of them and their antics just as we would any other member of the family. This month’s Readers Photo Challenge assignment is: Pets.

The basics of pet photography is much like taking photos of humans.

Get in close. With almost any genre of photography to closer you are to your subject, the better the picture will be. Photos of your pets are no different. Getting close will help to bring your pet front and center in the photo. Also watch your backdrops. Make sure to eliminate distracting elements in the background to keep the visual attention on your pet.

Focus on the eyes. Getting a portrait of you dog or cat is similar to photographing a person and with people, as the saying goes, “the eyes are the windows to the soul.” Concentrate on your pet’s eyes and you can have a portrait to make them look almost human.
Capture its personality. Only you know what make’s your pet special. Concentrate on its personality. Some pets may be energetic or mischievous. Others may like to laze around the house. Try to bring out what makes your pet a member of your family.

Use a fast shutter speed. Many pets can be pretty active and elusive. If you’re lucky your pet is a ham and likes having its picture taken. Some pets can be a bit camera shy. They’ll look away or even run away when you bring out the camera. You have to quick on the draw to capture a photo of those animals. A fast shutter speed can ensure not only getting a quick shot and stopping the action but avoid camera shake as well.

It’s best to use natural lighting. Try to get your pet outdoors if you can, preferably in some open shade. Bright sunlight will tend to wash out light colored animals and you may have contrast problems between light and shadows with black or darker pets. Indoor artificial lighting tens to be bad and there usually isn’t enough of it. If you’re indoors try using window light. Try to avoid using flash. Dogs and cats eyes are more attuned to seeing in the dark and have larger irises. This makes the problem of red-eye even more prevalent in animals than people. Advanced/pro photographers know how to used off-camera flashes but your average shooter probably doesn’t, so unless you want your pet to look like the night of the living dead, turn your flash off.

Be patient. Photographing pets can be like herding cats (pardon the pun). They tend to have short attention spans and don’t always take direction very well. You can tell a person to sit here, look there, and smile. With a pet, not so much. Patience is the key here and being ready with you camera for when the right moment happens.

Go down to their level. Photographing pets is also similar to taking pictures of children. They are usually smaller than us so we’re always looking down on them. Try getting down to their height to get and eye-to-eye look.

Now this is a photo challenge so the entries have to be more than a picture of a cute pet. The photo has to rely on more than just cuteness alone. Keep in mind of the elements of what makes a good picture: getting in close, sharpness, and clean background. Then apply them to photos of your pets. Good luck and have fun shooting!

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Here are the rules:
1. Emailed entries to coto@recordnet.com. Type in “Pets” in the subject line.

2. Photos have to be shot between June 9 and June 22. They can be posed or candid.

3. Include your name (first and last), hometown, and the kind of camera/lens you used (eg: “John Doe, Stockton. Canon EOS Rebel Ti with 18-55mm lens”)

4. Please identify your pet in the photo (breed, age, male/female). If there’s a person in the photo please identify them as well (name, age, hometown) and where the photo was taken (eg: “Photo of 2-year-old male golden retriever Fluffy with owner John Doe, 12, at their home in Stockton).

5. The entries are limited to pets only (they can be yours or other people’s). No wild animals or cattle or animals at the zoo. They can be yours or someone else’s, but they have to considered pets.

6. Please feel free to include any interesting anecdotes or stories on how you took the picture.

7. The deadline for submission is Sunday, May 25. The top examples will be published on Sunday, June 29 with an online gallery of all the photos on the same day.

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  • Blog Author

    Clifford Oto

    Clifford Oto, an award-winning photographer, has been with The Record since 1984. Through the changes from black and white to digital photography, he’s kept his focus on covering the events, people and life of San Joaquin county. This blog deals ... Read Full
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