Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Photographing Your Pets

By Dave Johnson, PC World

Five great tips that cover everything from shutter speeds to posing your animals.

Halfway through reading Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner's fascinating book Freakonomics, I've started looking for patterns everywhere. So last weekend, I started dividing Hot Pic of the Week photo submissions into categories. The most common subject? Pets.

Honestly, that didn't surprise me. I've seen your cats and dogs in all sorts of adorable poses. So this week, I thought I'd weigh in on how I thought you could make your pets even cuter--on film, at least.

Put Them at Ease
This might seem like common sense, but what I really mean is to photograph Fluffy in a way that makes her comfortable. If she's bouncy puppy, don't keep ordering her to sit while you frame the shot. Nope, take the camera outside and get some shots of her rolling around in the grass with the kids. If Fluffy is a cat, your best chance of getting a great photo is when she's napping in the bean bag--which means you have that opportunity about 18 hours each day.

Stoop to Their Level
Animals sit and stand much lower to the ground than we do, and a good general rule of photography is to shoot from the same perspective as your subject. To really get the essence of your pet's personality, you might want to lie down on the floor.

Of course, you can also get great results from unusual perspectives, too. For example, you could try getting directly overhead and pointing the camera straight down.

Watch Your Shutter Speed
Animals tend to change their mind without much warning and dart around a lot. To be ready for that you'll want to shoot at the fastest shutter speed possible. I recommend setting your camera to Shutter Priority and dialing in the highest speed your camera can muster, or, if your camera doesn't have a shutter priority control, try its Sport or Action setting.

Don't Be a Pet Paparazzi
When it comes to photographing pets, remember that the camera flash is not your friend. Turn off the flash and use natural light whenever possible, even if it means increasing the camera's ISO setting, which controls its sensitivity to light.

Why? Two reasons, really. First, bright flashes of light tend to scare animals, and the last thing you want to do is freak out Fluffy. Second, camera flash tends to cause the red-eye effect in animals, just as it does with humans. The red-eye reduction feature built into cameras is designed for people and isn't as effective on dogs and cats. If you really do need to use a flash, consider using a snap-on diffuser or a bounce card (available at any photo shop) to reduce the light's impact.

Share the Cute
When you're done taking pictures of your favorite pet, share your joy with the world.

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