I don’t know about you, but my phone is filled with photos of my pets. And like any proud parent, I’ve been known to pull them up and show them off to friends and family (and, okay, a few strangers) at the drop of a hat.
The truth is, though, that a lot of them aren’t really that great. Some are out of focus. Some are dark. And some have the dreaded “glowing eye” syndrome.
So, because “All American Pet Photo Day” happened last week and I didn’t get any particularly great shots of my pack, I decided to reach out to a professional photographer for a few tips on capturing the picture perfect side of our pets!
Liz Dranow of Park City, Utah is a lifelong lover of both cameras and dogs. A researcher in Cardiology at the University of Utah, she’s also a professional pet photographer and the owner of Liz Dranow Photography.
The idea to focus exclusively on pets was first planted when she got married. Her husband likes to joke that she just married him for his dogs. “That’s only partially true,” she laughs.
As the dogs began to get older, she realized they had very few good pictures of them and decided to correct that by turning her lens on their pets. She and her husband both still treasure the photos she took of their now-departed dogs.
The tradition continued with their current pups, Goldendoodles Fiona and Abby, and eventually, Dranow began taking photos of her friends’ and families’ pets. Finally, a couple of years ago, she decided to go pro.
In addition to her four-legged clientele, she also volunteers at Salt Lake County Animal Services, taking pictures of their adoptable pets. “A good picture is critical to help animals get adopted,” she says. “It helps generate interest and makes people want to learn more.”
So what advice does this paw-trait photographer have for the rest of us? I’m glad you asked!
You know that super adorable thing that your dog does? That thing that only happens when you never seem to have a camera nearby? Well, next time, be prepared to photograph it.
If you know that your cat looks beautiful lounging in the midday sun or your dog loves to roll in the grass in the morning, have your camera ready. Think about their routines and the things that make them the happiest. Then be ready to capture them at those moments.
If you’ve taken many pictures of your pets, like I have, they are used to all the little tricks you try to get their attention. That high-pitched noise you always make? Soooooo boring! Come up with something new and different. Dranow admits that she’s both meowed and clucked like a chicken to pique her own pups’ interest. You can also try squeaking a toy or offering a different type of treat.
One of the biggest mistakes people make when it comes to photographing their pets, according to Dranow, is being impatient. It may take some time to get just the right angle or expression or background. Pick a time when you won’t be rushed. Let yourself have fun with your dog and don’t be so focused on getting a particular shot that you miss an even better one.
It might be hard to believe but your furry subject isn’t the only thing that contributes to a good picture; the setting and lighting are also important. Be aware of and remove distracting items in the background (unfolded laundry, anyone?).
Also pay particular attention to lighting. Try to avoid using a flash and instead turn on additional lights in your house. If you’re outside, harsh midday light can wash out the picture and result in a squinting dog. Move to the shade or wait until the sun is at a 45-degree angle. And for those of you who have black pets like I do…Dranow says they photograph exceptionally well on cloudy days.
Most of us tend to take pictures of our pets as we usually see them – from above looking down. For more interesting photos, experiment with different angles. Lie down on the ground and get the world from their perspective. Or take close-ups of different parts of them that you love. For example, I’m just crazy about my dog Chilly’s paws!
Be okay with walking away
To get the best shots of your pet, you both need to be having fun. Use this time to bond and enjoy each other’s company. If you find yourself getting frustrated or stressed, take a break or come back another day. And, says Dranow, if your pet walks away, that’s it. They’re saying that they’re done. Continuing to follow them around won’t result in good photos and could make your pet camera-averse.
One last piece of advice that Dranow offers is this: Get your pet’s pics off your phone or computer and print them out! It’s too easy for them to get lost, corrupted or forgotten when they’re out of sight. Instead, pick some of your favorites and turn them into prints, photo books or even calendars.
I couldn’t agree more! Pictures of all of our pets (including our goats and donkeys) grace our walls at home. They add such warmth and love to a room. And best of all, each time I look at them, I’m reminded of all the wonderful memories and experiences we’ve shared. I guess it’s true that a picture really is worth a thousand woofs!