Ever since I was a little kid, I have loved taking photographs of the animals in my life. I remember, after receiving my first camera at the age of nine, handing over rolls of film full of images of my pets for my parents to have developed. My family couldn't understand my obsession with photographing all of the animals in my life. They thought I was a little weird. It wasn't until one of our pets passed away that they understood what I was doing.
The photos you take of your pets today will be a gift to yourself and your loved ones when you need it most. This is why I became a professional pet photographer; to help people tell their pet's stories through beautiful photographs.
Although hiring a professional photographer to capture portraits of your beloved pets is a wonderful experience, it isn't something everyone can do, nor is it something that can be done every moment of every day. What you CAN do, is learn to take better photos of your pets using the tools you have so that you always have something to remember them by. I have put together a few tips that I believe can change the way you capture your own pets' stories in your everyday life.
Tip #1 Find the best light.
While not always possible in every situation, finding the best light is the key to a great image. The best light in your home will likely be near a window. Window light is wonderful. It is your best friend. Although I am a professional pet photographer with professional equipment, some of my favorite photos of my dogs are from when I found them lying around in beautiful light. All I had in the moment was my phone, but they say the best camera is the one you have on you.
Tip #2 Be mindful of what is included in your photograph.
The space around your subject is just as important as your subject itself. If you can help it, there should be purpose in what you include in your photograph. You could take the most brilliant photo of your dog in the backyard, but no one would be able to look passed that crumpled and torn blue tarp with a pile of orange bricks in the background. The best thing is to move the distraction before taking the photo, or find a different perspective to shoot from.
Tip #3 Change your perspective.
Have you ever sat down at your pet's eye level? The world looks different from there, doesn't it? I love lying in the backyard grass capturing portraits of my dog as she snoozes or lifts her nose to smell the Spring air. I've often just joined my dogs on the floor in the living room to capture photos of them being lazy. In all of these scenarios, I can think of multiple perspectives to capture portraits from. When your pets are sleeping or just lazing about, they make great subjects to practice capturing from different perspectives.
Tip #4 Don't forget the details!
One of my favorite parts about the work I do is learning the little things my clients love about their pets. Such as, the way their cat's whiskers turn in crazy directions, or the heart-shaped patch of white fur on their dog's back or a special trick their pet knows. These details are such wonderful things to capture in images. You know your pet the best, so don't forget to grab some photos of those little things you cherish the most about them.
Tip #5 Print, print, PRINT!
Having access to cameras on our cellphones has made it so easy to take more photos than we really need. So many, in fact, that we forget about them. They sit in our camera roll, or someplace on the desktop of our computer or in the cloud. How would it feel if you could grab a book off of the shelf that was filled with your favorite portraits of your pet? Or if when you woke up each morning, you were welcomed by a framed portrait? There are so many wonderful ways to enjoy your photos, and I hope you take the opportunity to have them printed. You won't regret it!
Marika Moffitt is the owner of Dirtie Dog Photography, a Seattle-based pet photography business that specializes in capturing the story of animals for the people who love them. Marika also serves on the board of Pawsitive Alliance, and is a lead contributing photographer for #WhyNotMEPets. You can learn more about the work she does by visiting www.dirtiedogphotography.com .
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