Alright, as promised, today we are going to chit chat a bit about how to photograph our canine (and feline) pals. This is going to be rather condensed but it should give you a fair number of tips. First tip is that although I will mention “rules,” photography is an art and as with other arts, the rules under some circumstances can be broken and still produce awesome images.
I don’t have one of those fancy cameras, there’s no way I can take quality pictures…
Not true. I shoot with a 4 year old digital SLR when I’m actually going for nice quality shots and have the time/hands to fidget with and carry a much larger camera. When I can’t/don’t want to carry/fidget with the big camera, I carry a 2 year old low/mid range point and shoot. If I’m just casually documenting an experience, it’s just the point and shoot.
Basic Composition Tips:
Get Close--use your feet to get somewhat close to your subject, don’t overly rely on using the zoom.. with the point and shoot’s, once you get past the optical zoom distance the quality of the image with “digital zoom” diminishes. A lot of what makes photos look so nice is getting close and really filling the frame with the subject
Get Low--For pet pictures you want to be on the level of the dog or lower… so kneel down, sit down, lay down etc. When I’m photographing my dogs I am quite frequently laying on the ground rolling around… while you CAN make taking a shot from above look good, it takes a little more skill to get that type of shot to work well if it’s not done well.
Look before you click— Before you snap that photo take a second to look in the background.. check for poles coming out from behind a head, or other funky things. If there is a wonky background MOVE! Change the direction at which you look at the subject, or if you can, ask the subject to move. Also, check to make sure the camera is level before clicking (unless intentionally skewing the angle).
Take lots of pictures–When I’m snapping photos with the dogs (either point and shoot or DSLR), I take tons of photos and end up using only a small number of them. Sometimes the lighting is funny, or the dogs turn their heads, or whatever… but since I took so many shots, I know I’ll get at least a handful that are the quality I like.
More advanced (but equally as simple) composition tips:
Rule of thirds (1/3’s)–One of the easiest ways to pick out newbie photography is that the subject of the photo is almost right smack-dab in the center of the image. While this is not unappealing to the human eye, it is not terribly interesting to the human eye either. Again, there are ways to make it work where the subject is smack-dab in the center.
So what photographers tend to do is follow the rule of 1/3’s. When they look into their view finder or on the viewing screen they break up their image into thirds vertically and horizontally, they will place a main subject on one of the vertices.
So image taking a picture and drawing lines on that image… you ideally want to have a main subject land on one of the vertices (or you can weight the image and have the main subject on one of the thirds (so taking up two vertices).
Leading Lines–Another technique that is used frequently is the use of lines to lead the viewer’s eye right to your subject. The line can be a tree branch, a railing, a road, a shadow, any type of hard line that leads you in the general direction of the subject. The most common type of image using leading lines are probably the pastoral picture with the gravel driveway leading up to the little farm house sitting on the hill LOL… but this type of small composition tool ads a really interesting sense of purpose to an image … leads the viewer very quickly to the subject. It can add a sense of depth or length…it can be a really interesting tool…. it’s often used to bring the eye of a viewer to a subject further back in the image… but i can be used as an enhancer to close-up images.. to keep they eye focusing on the subject…
In this image i’m using both the rule of thirds and leading lines.. that railing gives a very hard line leading directly to the focus of my picture.
Laser eyes–These happen because the dog’s eyes are dilated and the flash of your camera is reflecting off the receptors in the back of the eyes (science fun fact, these receptors are why dogs see so well in the dark, they have a lot of area to receive light). To fix this either increase the light in the room if you can or you can try buffering the flash with a piece of paper/tissue/masking tape…or go outside 🙂
Blurry photos–If the subject was NOT in motion then one of two things is happening…YOU were in motion or the camera didn’t/couldn’t focus properly. If you may have been moving or shaking, try bracing your arm against a steady object or hold the camera against a steady object. If you are quite certain that you weren’t moving, it may be a focusing problem with the camera. If you are shooting with a DSLR make sure the lens is set to AF or make sure you take the time to focus it by hand. If you are shooting with a point and shoot, make sure you give the camera time to focus. You can get the camera to focus by hitting the shutter release button (the button you use to take the photo) 1/2 way the camera will do lots of calculations and one of those things is focus. So push and hold the button half way and make sure the subject gets focused before pushing the rest of the way down to snap the picture.
Hope these can help ya out!
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