How To Capture Pets

Male Golden Retriever

The simple beauty of being in the moment belongs to our pets, as celebrated in the book Guardians of Being, which features spiritual wisdom from dogs and cats, combining words by Eckhart Tolle with illustrations by MUTTS cartoonist Patrick McDonnell. Since our Golden Retriever Storm (pictured above) turns three this month, we reckon now is the time to celebrate him and his brother Quest, our German Shepherd. They often inspire us to capture their antics on camera – purely for the fun of it and also to share with others. Because let’s face it, few things bring such easy smiles to our faces than beautiful or funny photographs and footage of dogs and cats. To illustrate, here’s a GoPro video of our boys in the park. Don’t smile, we dare you 🙂

Perhaps you experience a similar urge to grab your camera around your pets? If so, you may have discovered that capturing the moment the way you imagine is easier said than done. Dogs get so exuberant about the game that they can’t keep still, while cats can’t be bothered to pander to your desires.

With this in mind, here are some general guidelines to help you in your endeavours:

1. Make friends with the fact that photographing your pet is not a walk in the park, but a perfect opportunity to laugh with them, typically at yourself.
2. Contemplate your camera settings in advance. If you’re outside, select a low ISO setting (e.g. 100 – 200), or a higher setting (e.g. 400 – 800) if you’re indoors with more limited ambient light. Also be ready to use fill in flash, especially where the background is particularly bright.
3. Consider using aperture priority with a high F stop (e.g. 16 – 22) for a long depth of field that allows your pet and the full background to be in focus, or a low F stop (e.g. 4 – 5.6) if you prefer to blur the background and place more emphasis on your pet. Remember that your focal point is key!
4. Specifically to capture action, try using shutter priority instead, so that you can determine how much movement to allow. Refer to Dave’s article How to Pan Like a Pro for more detailed tips about action photography.
5. By all means be sneaky and offer treats if this helps. It isn’t considered cheating.
6. Preferably have an assistant to help direct your pet’s attention and orchestrate the game.
7. When all else fails, or if you feel like hassle free fun right out of the gate, resort to GoPro.
8. Practice makes perfect but your pet will tell you that fun is far more important!