Unfortunately, far too many pet portraits turn out with green/red eyes and have a "deer caught in the headlights" look to them. The pet's personality gets lost. However, there are some wonderfully simply ways to improve your pet photos and capture your pet's personality.
- Avoiding Green/Red Eyes
- Available light
Wherever possible, take your pet's photo in an area with lots of available light so you do not have to use a flash. A room with lots of windows, often a sun room or dining room, works wonderfully for this purpose.
- Control the flash
If you must use flash, get the flash as far away from your lens as possible. If you can use a flash with a swivel head that is even better. It is the angle of the light hitting the back of the eyes that makes red/green eye so common. If you cannot remove your flash from your camera or use a bounce flash all is not lost. Get a piece of cheesecloth and tape it over your flash. This will diffuse the light from the flash and should reduce the chance of red/green eye. Bounce and diffused flash will also help eliminate glare from tanks when photographing fish or reptiles.
Your pet's eyes turn out red or green for the same reason humans get "red-eye". It is the flash reflecting off of the back of eye when the pupils are dilated. In pets, most come out green instead of red. However, pets with blue eyes often do get the traditional red-eye.
The most important thing you can do to capture you pet's personality is work on his/her time. If your pet will only sit still for a moment before running off to play then have everything ready before you bring your pet to the photo area. If your pet needs time to calm down when brought into a new situation, be prepared to give your pet the time he/she needs to relax.
- Where to take the picture
If your pet is an outdoor only pet, be sure to select a place with an uncluttered background. Also, the ability to control how far your pet can roam is helpful. If your pet is an indoor pet then select an area where you have a pleasing background or can put up a homemade backdrop.
Is your cat aloof and above it all? Does your ferret always steal your car keys? Does your dog like soda? Incorporate your pet's personality into the props and poses you choose. Scatter keys all around your ferret for the photo. Put a can of soda next to your dog. Have your large dog stand up and your tiny dog sit underneath his/her belly to show the size difference. You can't expect a pet to understand when you say something like, "lift your chin a little". However, you can get their attention with a favorite toy or by calling their name. If you can recruit a second person to help keep the pet's attention, your job will be considerably easier as well.
While traditional portraits include just the pet in the image with the pet looking straight at the photographer, this often leads to a boring image. Taking a few moments to think about your pet's personality can make all the difference in your images.