TOP TIPS FOR SHOOTING OUTSTANDING PET PORTRAITS
Focus on the eyes
As the saying goes: ‘The eyes are a window to the soul’. Nowhere is this truer than in portraiture – be it people or pets. Shooting with a wide-aperture lens wide open – such as f/2.8 or wider – is a great way to isolate your subject from the background. Humans are naturally drawn to the eyes of a subject, so it’s really important to get the eyes sharp. This helps to convey a connection with the subject and makes for a great portrait. On a Micro Four Thirds camera, such as models in the OM-D and PEN series, I like to shoot with lenses like the Olympus M.ZUIKO DIGITAL ED 25mm 1:1.8 or the Olympus M.ZUIKO DIGITAL 45mm 1:1.8 although anything with a large maximum aperture will suffice.
This may seem like a simple tip but it really works. If you have, say, a cat that loves its catnip-infused mouse, or a dog with a soft spot for a Kong Ball, then use these to your advantage. Positioning the toy or other prop above the hotshoe will gain the animal’s attention and make it look towards the camera. Often the animals will try bark or try to grab the toy. When this happens, turn on continuous shooting mode and try to capture a series of images at multiple frames per second. Often, of 10 or so frames, there will be at least one amazing action shot mid-bark or swipe.
Look for dynamic lighting
With animals that move around, using a flash can be very hard work so I’d suggest trying to use a continuous lighting source instead, such as an LED panel or even a lamp. Mixing these lighting sources with daylight can also create some rather nice images of varying colour temperature. Fur always look great when it’s backlit, so positioning the animal in front of a bright light source always works well. Using continuous lighting helps to add depth to the image without the hassle of using the flash.
In-action shots are a favourite of mine. By using continuous focusing and tracking the animal as it moves, you can take sharp shots as the animal moves and plays. Either shooting from far away with a long lens like the Olympus M.ZUIKO DIGITAL ED 40-150mm 1:2.8 PRO, or using a wideangle lens such as the Olympus M.ZUIKO DIGITAL ED 12mm 1:2.0, and then moving along with the animal works really well. I often get great shots by running alongside the dog with a wideangle lens and shooting almost at ground-level. When shooting with the Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark II, I use the articulated LCD to compose the image in this situation.