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Photography Workshop: Patience

Patience (and pets)

Patience and pet photography go hand in hand. Pets often don’t do what you want when you want them to. They may have some brilliant tricks, but when you’ve gone to the trouble to get the camera out to capture it they mysteriously forget how to do it, or decide your camera is a far more interesting toy (though this can lead to it’s own great images).

Waiting for your pet to relax can give you some photographs that tell a story, as the photograph below does.
Puppies and kittens add another element: they can be manic, going from being bonkers to being fast asleep in just a few seconds. Capturing that middle ground where they’re being attentive and calm can be a challenge. When we got our second dog it allowed me to test my photographic patience in the search for an image that doesn’t have a calm adult dog alongside a blur.

So here’s some tips on how to get some great images of your pet, even if it’s a puppy (or a kitten).

  • You can’t rush pet photography. Get the camera out and let them sniff it and get used to it (leaving the lens cap on). This may take some time, particularly if you move the camera, but it’ll be worth it once they become blind to it.
  • Once your dog or cat is used to the camera, you can take the lens cap off. You’ll want to take a light reading in the area you’ve chosen to shoot in (natural light is fabulous, but that’s another blog) so go ahead and set your aperture, shutter speed, ISO, etc.
  • I highly recommend a high ISO – minimum 400, particularly if you’re indoors. Modern DSLRs can take good images at high ISOs, so don’t be afraid to set it at 800 or 1000 – you’re going to want to freeze that movement, particularly if you’re photographing a puppy or kitten.
  • For aperture, go for a 2.4 or 4, maximum for close-ups. You’ll get a good depth of field, particularly if you’re shooting with a 50mm+ lens. This will help focus the attention on your subject, and not the background. (hint: focus on your pet’s eyes.)
  • You’ll want a fast shutter speed if you’re taking action photos, but you can slow that down if you’re waiting for your pet to relax. I usually set my camera to aperture priority so that I can get the depth of field that I want, and then adjust the ISO to get the shutter speed I’m after.
  • And importantly, find a place to get down to their level. Too many photographs are taken from eye height. If you get down to your pet’s level, you’ll get some fabulous images, and they’ll interact with you differently. I’ll admit that occasionally you’ll want a high view looking down, but that’s an exception to the general rule.
  • Now that you’re at their level, take a deep breath…
  • And wait for that shot.

Patience will be rewarded.

About the photographer

The Photographer SmallPaul Ligas is a professional commercial photographer based in Herefordshire, and working across the West Midlands and the UK. Follow on Twitter and Facebook.