I'm going to preface this straight up by saying I am not a photographer (at all). But I have been in the animal industry a while now and I do rely heavily on photos for my social media marketing. So this blog is not aimed at the professionals photographers but at ordinary people like me who just want to take a nice photo of their pets with their phone (because let's face it, most of always have our phones on us). I hope these tips will help you, and if you have any to share we'd love to hear from you!
For reference, I'm using an iPhone XR. If you have a different model things might be a little different, but they shouldn't vary too much. If you have an Android phone a lot of the principles will still be the same, but some of the functions I'll talk about might vary.
1. Consider your background carefully.
We're pretty lucky in Wanaka that we have an instantly beautiful backdrop for any photos we take outside. It's nearly impossible to not see mountains wherever you look, so that is definitely something you should be taking advantage of! But you should also consider other things you might not want to be in the shot. Move those poo bags if out on a walk, or that pile of dirty laundry if you're taking a photo inside the house. Step away from the public toilet and the bin, or that random man picking his nose in the background. Focus on what you do want in your shot.
(For some hilarious examples of people who didn't check their background, check this out: https://pulptastic.com/15-photos-ruined-by-dogs-pooping/)
2. Get your subjects attention!
For a cute photo of your pets, it's important to get them not only looking at the camera, but doing something cute! If they've got their ears pricked up or they're tilting their head... you're onto a winner. Earlier this year Luna was a dog model at a retreat for world class pet photographers, and I picked up some tips there for getting dogs to pose interestingly for photos. Here are some things you can try:
A squeaky toy will usually succeed in getting them to prick up their ears.
If you don't have a squeaky toy on you, you can make some interesting sounds yourself... whistling, whooping, any kind of silly and high pitched noise will do the trick. (Yes, I do get some strange looks sometimes from passers-by and no, I do not care!)
Asking your dog a question will usually get that super cute head tilt from them, especially if it's one familiar to them ("want a treat?", "want to go for a walk?", "want to go for a swim?" all work for Luna).
Use treats. Not only as a bribe for looking at you, but also as a reward for sitting so nicely for so long. If you treat them this time, they'll cooperate more quickly next time.
Cats are usually cooperative at looking cute when you wave a dangly toy above them (particularly if it has feathers attached, in my experience).
3. Take your time.
If you want that perfect shot, you need to accept that you might have to work for it. Working with animals requires patience! If you don't get the perfect shot you had in your mind, continue your walk and try again in a bit, or later in the day when maybe their aren't as many distractions around.
4. Get on your dog's level.
This one can be hard if you have a dog that just wants to give you kisses every time you get your face in front of it. And I wouldn't recommend this for any dogs you don't know, as typically facing a dog head-on can be confronting and the dog may react negatively to this. But if you can get at eye level you'll get a much better picture than one that looks down.
5. Use the basic editing tools on your camera.
Once I have my photo, I always spend a couple of minutes making it look as nice as I can with the very basic editing tools already available on my iPhone camera. Here are some things I do, almost every time.
Crop it. Sometimes there is still a poo bag in the side of the shot, or a shadow that I could easily get rid of my cropping my photo. I'll also make sure the subject is central.
Use the 'rotate' tool. On the iPhone, as you as you click into this it straightens your photo up for you. But you can also click on the rotate button to line it up yourself using the grid that appears.
Use the 'light' and 'colour' sliders to brighten up your photo. You can play around with these to find the look you like best. I use the 'light' slider nearly every time (see the difference in the photos below), and the colour only sometimes (there's a danger of everything looking a bit fake if you use this one too much).
You can also play around with the preset filters and see if there's something you like, but personally I don't use these much.
So, there we have it! Don't forget to let us know if you have any additional tips for us. And let us know how ours work out for you!