Paws whiskers and hooves ….. the ups & downs of pet photography

Paw prints fur and whiskers

As a pet & equine photographer I am often asked how do you manage to catch that perfect pose with animals? I can honestly say it is mostly down to patience and a little bit of luck.
However there is a bit more to it than that when pet owners call and ask me to do a photo shoot of their furry friends. I generally work with the pet owner, as they know the animal far better than me. If for instance you want Mrs Jones’s dog to do tricks then ask her to get the dog to perform them and then it’s up to the photographer to do the rest.

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The above photo of this Beagle puppy playing with his ball is one of my personal favourites and took a bit of time to capture. It was the case of me lying down on the floor, which was a little uncomfortable to say the least and then keep rolling the ball. Eventually he just sat with the ball at the end of his nose and I captured the image.

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Action shots are a little more complicated as they require a bit more camera skill. These shots of a Spaniel and Labradoodle running along the beach makes the camera user multi-task. He/ she would need to get into the right position, focus the camera and time the shot perfectly or they could miss the opportunity altogether. To get the perfect shot the camera preferably should be in manual mode, so the user has to make sure that the correct settings ie ISO, shutter speed and aperture settings are set on the camera before shooting takes place.


The above shot is a good example of not preparing the camera settings in time. Its a shot that I’m not very proud of and also very frustrated with, as the focus on the dog is out and the photograph isn’t straight. It frustrates me to hell as it would have been a great capture with the dog in mid flight and his ears in the upright position. I still get comments on it though even if it is a poor shot and it makes people smile.

Cats are very different animals to work with and can be even more frustrating. They have a mind of their own and more often than not, do their own thing. That isn’t to say that you can’t get some interesting shots though, it just takes more patience.

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Again you can make them turn their heads, do tricks or jump to capture a great pose by working with the owners and getting them to coax the cat with various props and toys.

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Cats are very focused animals and observe everything that goes on around them. Just by clicking your fingers at the right time will encourage them to turn their heads in the direction of where you want them to look, to get that perfect shot. This is what I did with both cats in the above pictures.

With horses it is all to do with action and getting the right action shot is similar to shooting dogs in action. The good thing with this kind of photography is that you have the rider with you and they direct the horse according to what you tell them. Here are some horse shots that I have done.

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It’s all about capturing the majesty of these beautiful animals, without getting in the way of course. Beaches are perfect for these kind of shoots as the horse has lots of room to run. Some love water others aren’t so fussed, so make sure you ask the owner if their horse likes water if you want the classic horse through water shot, like the two above and two below.

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Take into account light levels before going out and try to do the shoot on a sunny day. Take some test shots before you start the shoot and adjust the camera settings accordingly. If your shots are still coming out too dark then make do with what you have got, then sort out the images on the computer software later.
I hope these small tips will help you to capture your horse or pets in the way to best remember them.

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