BY DAISY DICKINSON
While it’s been challenging for most of us during lockdown, the nation’s pets have really lucked out, and generally been pretty happy with the extra time they’ve had with their owners. So, if you’ve got a furry-friend at home why not put that special bond to the test by capturing some unique pet pictures? Follow these camera techniques and tricks to bag some paw-some pics!
It’s all in the eyes!
Just like with people portraits, it’s important to make sure the eyes on your subject are in focus, after all, they do say the eyes are the window to the soul! Unlike the pictures of people you might be used to taking, do take into consideration your aperture when capturing images of animals, and think about how much of their face might be in focus. If you have a flat-faced dog like mine, no problem – shoot wide open, but if you’ve got a long-nosed doggo like a wonderful whippet, try playing around with your aperture to get their nose in-focus, too. Try using the touch screen on your camera so you can maintain eye-contact with your pet – tap the square icon with a finger on the left to choose between touch to focus, or touch to shoot. A little like working with kids, the first trick with animals is going to be getting their attention, and keeping it for long enough to press the shutter. You’ll want to capture their personality, so come armed with their favourite treats, toys and buzz words… walkies anyone?
On a Pedestal
If you’re taking pictures of tiny pets like mice, rats, or even some bugs and reptiles – try creating a safe environment which allows you to get hands-off pictures and control your background. I used a couple of logs here placed on a table outside to take some pictures of white mouse, Tom. Against a painted garden fence, I was able to experiment with different angles, and colours, switching between the Electronic Viewfinder – particularly useful on bright days – and the flip out screen on my OM-D E-M10 Mark III. You could also try giving a little food here, too, to capture a variety of shots of your little friend. Think about the rule of thirds, and having every section of your frame filled with interest.
One of the reasons they say to never work with kids or animals is – I think – due to their unpredictable nature and tendency to move quickly! While this is true, it can also be the very thing that makes picture-taking so rewarding when you do catch that action-shot. So if you’re taking pictures of fast-moving animals, try shooting on Shutter Priority. You’ll find this on the mode dial on the top of your OM-D. As a general rule, you could start at around 1/400, to 1/800 of a second and see what your results are like. You can go higher if you’re working outside in decent light, but remember the faster you go, the more light the camera will require. Try the different focus modes; Continuous Autofocus and Autofocus Tracking are great for locking onto subjects like dogs and cats, and finally select Sequential Low or High to capture a burst of images, so you can pick the best one without missing out. These settings can all be found through the Super Control Panel Menu.
Woman’s Best Friend
It’s fun to include the owner with pictures of pets, and capture that special bond. I tend to reach for the M.Zuiko Digital 45mm f1.8 lens as a perfectly-portable option as it also allows me to get a little distance between myself and my subject. I find this really useful for taking pictures of nervous subjects, who might be feeling a little camera shy or awkward. Be prepared and find an area and background you’re happy with before bringing your subject in. A wall or fence lit naturally in the early morning, or late afternoon sun will work well – try to avoid shooting at midday when the sun will cast unflattering shadows. Position your subject where you want them, and ask them about their pet. You should find they start to relax as they tell you all about their friend. Once at ease, fire off a few shots and try to capture the relationship between your subjects, whether this is through candid snaps, or a little more posed.
Get Down Low
Immerse yourself in your subjects environment and try getting down low to capture interesting pictures showing off your pet at their best. The flip screen on the OM-D E-M10 series makes this type of shot a synch, and means less grubbing about in the dirt! For any shy subjects, you could even try setting up your camera and using the in-built Wi-Fi and Olympus Image Share app to shoot remotely using your device from a vantage point further away! Choose a wide open aperture like f1.8, and allow aspects of the environment like grass and leaves into the sides of the shot, providing a natural frame.
Trick or Treat
If you’re struggling to keep your dogs attention, it’s time to get creative. You know the hot-shoe on your camera? All this time you thought it was for fitting accessories like flash, right? Think again! This is the perfect place to attach a treat or toy! You can grab fairly cheap hot-shoe accessories from the internet, I used a mobile phone holder and fixed a tennis ball to it, before fastening it to my OM-D E-M10 Mark III, but I’ve also set a treat on the top, too. My preference is for a ball with a squeaker, so you can give it a quick squeeze and instantly grab your dogs attention, and their gaze, which should be coming right at you into the lens. If you have a speed demon on your hands, consider Shutter Priority and a sequence of shots before they launch right at you for that ball! Do remember to reward your pup once you’ve bagged the shot, too.
A Bug’s Life
If you’re lucky enough to own any creepy crawlies or reptiles, get creative and make them the star of their own show with a fancy background. A simple piece of fabric or card will work well, and how about a string of fairy lights to pop out of focus and enjoy as bursts of bokeh behind your tiny subject. The M.Zuiko Digital ED 60mm F2.8 Macro is wonderful for this type of shot, but remember to shoot wide open to get that bokeh. Equally, depending on the size of your subject, consider one of the stunning F1.2 lenses like the M.Zuiko Digital ED 25mm F1.2 PRO lens. If you’re interested in this type of photography but don’t have any of your own subjects to hand, look for a local service to you like Reptiles etc, that offer photography experiences – but always make sure they are insured, hold an Animal Activities Licence (AAL), and follow the current distancing guidelines.