We spend a lot of time discussing how to best take photos of your kids, but what about the other members of your family? Your pets, fur babies, critters, four-legged friends? Photographing animals is very similar to photographing children. They’re unpredictable, move fast and are easiest to photograph if you plan around their routine; however, today we’ll discuss a few tips we’ve discovered that will make photographing your furry friends even easier.
SET REALISTIC EXPECTATIONS
We’ve said this as it relates to photographing your children, but photographing your “fur babies” carries the same advice. Portrait photographers often receive requests for a pet to be included in a family portrait. Most photographers are up for the challenge, but keep your expectations low.
If you have a cat, forget it. However, if you want your dog to be involved, you may be okay depending on a few variables. It’s our experience that larger and older pets seem to handle photo sessions better than smaller or younger animals.
Even if you’re trying to photograph your kids and pets on your own, be sure to set realistic expectations. Our furry friends have minds of their own. Just because our kids don’t want to be photographed, doesn’t necessarily mean that our pets want to be our photography back-up.
This may seem like a no-brainer, but photographing animals of any kind requires a strong dose of patience. You would think that an animal who spends most of the day napping would be easy to photograph, but animals are unpredictable, and they certainly don’t care about your desire to take a picture.
Therefore, if you’re trying to photograph your pets, be sure to allow enough time to get the shot you want. Even better, practice photographing your pet often so that over time you have a hand full of shots that you love.
This particular word of advice is even more important if you’re attempting to photograph your pet with your young children. Babies and toddlers don’t seem to understand that their favorite cat or dog doesn’t like to be pulled, poked, or beaten while sitting beside them. For you and your kids, be patient.
USE TOYS AND TREATS
If your pets are anything like your kids, then they will enjoy being in front of the camera more if they feel comfortable. If possible, take your pet somewhere familiar to be photographed (with or without the family). This will keep them as calm and relaxed as as possible.
If you’re not able to take your pet to a familiar location, consider keeping them on a leash. Alternatively, bring some of their favorite toys and allow some time for your pet to “warm up” before taking any formal shots. You’ll want to be sure to capture some great action shots while they enjoy running and playing.
Also be sure to reward your pet with a treat after the session is over, much the same way you might take your kids for ice cream for good behavior during your family portrait session.
If you have a cat, the quickest and easiest way to get them to stay in one place is to throw a little cat nip on the ground. Granted, they may not sit in place, but you’ll have one happy cat.
CONSIDER TIME OF DAY
Just as you would plan any portrait sessions with your kids around their nap or meal times, it’s equally important to consider your pet’s routine.
Avoid any formal photography sessions during your pet’s mealtime or when they would normally be going for a walk. However, a great time to plan a session would be shortly after a meal or walk as your pet is much more likely to be relaxed.
It’s also important to consider the time of day as it relates to light. We’ve said this a few times, the best light is the hour after sunrise and the hour before sunset. That timing is the same whether you’re photographing your kids or your pets. Not that you can’t photograph your pets at other times of the day, but avoid using your flash if at all possible. This means, get outside and stay in the shade to avoid any direct sun; or shoot in a room in your house with beautiful natural light.
If you really want to get a shot worthy of hanging on the mantle, you may want to consider hiring a professional. There are many professional photographers who specialize in photographing animals or pets. These guys know what they’re doing and you’ll finally have your entire family in one photo.