Photos courtesy of Andrew Darlow.
The air is crisper, sunlight slanted, blankets are heavier. It’s fall and that means that there’s nothing more satisfying than heading to the store and browsing the freshly stocked racks for this year’s cutest. . . pet costumes. After all, you may be too old and mature to dress up as Batman, but that doesn’t mean that Mr. Muffins ever will be.
To get you ready, I chatted with veteran pet photographer, Andrew Darlow, to get a couple key tips on making this year’s shoot with your favorite fur ball really pop. Andrew has been in this line of work for over 22 years and is a professional pet photographer, photography teacher and author (I first met Andrew while editing his book Biscuit for Your Thoughts. Yes, it’s adorable.) Andrew first became interested in pet photography working the “benching area” back stage at the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show, probably the world’s best place to cut your teeth as a pet photographer. Here’s what he had to say about getting the perfect shot.
KR: What is your experience with owners who like to dress up their pets? Do you find some pets really like wearing outfits?
AD: I’ve only met one pet who seems to really enjoy getting dressed up, and that’s a little chihuahua named Teekee. Most pets do whatever they can to shake off hats, bunny ears, sunglasses/goggles and anything else that is not a treat or interesting to chew on. On that note, for safety reasons, I would recommend being very careful with any costume or accessory that has sharp edges or easily removable small pieces that might be eaten by a dog or cat.
KR: What are your top tips for amateur pet shutterbugs looking for that perfect shot?
AD: Here are a few tips for getting great pet photos:
- Dogs with dark fur and faces can be challenging to photograph. The secret for these types of photos is to have strong light from one direction, such as light from the side coming from a window, or light from the late afternoon sun. For example, if you are facing your dog, then the light should come from about 4 to 5 o’clock (or 7 to 8 o’clock). That lighting will help to show more detail while still illuminating the face and eyes. There are also things you can do to improve your exposures. For those with higher-end cameras, look up “exposure compensation” so that you can explore how to tell your camera to allow more or less light in so that your photos look their best.
- If your pet always just wants to play when you take out your camera (making it impossible to take a good picture of them), a tip I’ve used a lot is to stand next to someone who plays the “designated treat holder.” They then hold the treat right over the top of the lens, and because dogs usually love treats, they will usually focus intently on the treat. For cats, a toy on a string often works best. You can get great jumping/action photos this way with both dogs and cats.
- Another secret is to photograph pets when they are taking a nap, then wait for them to wake up to get photos with their eyes open.
- Another tip that I use all the time is to get on the pet’s level (or even below them if they are on a table). That will make them look bigger and more important (that’s known as the “hero” pose).
That last tip is one every pet-owner should know well. As any pet owner naturally feels, there’s nothing more important than making your dog or cat seem, well, more important.
If you’re interested in more of Andrew’s pet-photography tips, check him out at candidcanine.com, imagingbuffet.com or through his books “Pet Photography 101” and “Biscuit for Your Thoughts”.