Taking pictures of animals can be great fun, and it is also a good way to make some money either as a main job or on the side for a little extra cash. Really, all you need is an area in which you can have animals running around (a basement, garage or large room works best), a camera and some light equipment.
A disclaimer before we begin: Unless your pets are from Pokemon or Mobile Legends, don’t expect them to be perfect and always photo-ready. Most people get frustrated because their pets are not photo-alert, and I don’t blame these animals. They’re not meant to be photographed anyway, so if they’re not responsive to the camera or not doing “tricks” for the lenses, then don’t vent your anger on them, because it affects them!
To start with, consider which types of pets you would feel comfortable photographing. Do you like dogs, cats or both? Both dogs and cats are very popular pets for people to have, and their owners often want them photographed. Then again, if you are not hoping to do this as a favor or present for anyone, and you don’t even want to make money, you can also simply photograph your own pets. As a side note, birds and small rodents are probably the next most likely pets that people like seeing photographed.
To begin a photography session with a pet, make sure that you have the right materials. Aside from lights, light stands and your camera and camera equipment (i.e. lenses, tripod, etc.) you will need to have some “clean up” tools. Pets do not necessarily enjoy being photographed, because it involves them sitting still for no apparent (to them) reason. They might have to sit still for long periods of time, and you or your photography assistants may be putting bows, clothes or ribbons on them. You might also have toys or props nearby that they will want to play with, but they can’t!
In a nutshell, you should be ready for escape attempts and accidents. That means have a gate where the photography area can be divided from the rest of your home or studio, or be able to shut doors. In addition, have some paper towel and a spray cleaner plus a garbage can nearby for possible accidents.
Remember too that your camera equipment should always be monitored. You probably have expensive lenses and a nice camera. Don’t leave them sitting around for a dog to accidentally run into and knock down. In fact, on professional photography shoots and on TV or movie sets, there is always a production assistant who is supposed to sit by the camera and hold it when it is not in use for that very reason. Be smart, and protect your equipment.
When it comes to the actual shooting pictures of your pets or the pets of other owners, make sure you know the temperaments of the animal. If the pets are not your own, always have the owners or owner present and nearby. If the owner says that the animal is aggressive or could be aggressive or that he or she simply does not know if the animal is aggressive or not, don’t tempt fate, and do not photograph that animal. Some animals (especially dogs or other larger animals) do not like to be poked and prodded. They could lunge, claw or bite at any time, and then the photo shoot is really over. Be smart, and do not photography possibly aggressive or volatile animals.
When you have a pet that you feel comfortable working with, go ahead and start shooting. Set up your lighting before the animal arrives to ensure that you will have the most attention possible out of the pet when taking actual photos. You can do this by setting a “pet sized” object, like a ball for small pets or a chair for a large dog, into the frame of your shot. It may be a good idea to hang a large white (or colored if you prefer) sheet or drape of some sort as a backdrop, but some people will be shooting close-up shots, and in that case just having the floor or a small cushion will be fine as backdrop.
Use the object that you have put into your frame as a guide, and light your set accordingly. When the pet arrives, give him or her some commands to “sit” or to “sit and stay” and begin your shoot! It can be great fun to photograph pets, and these keepsakes can make great gifts. Remember, when all of this advice has been fulfilled, just have fun with it!
Darlyn has been in the field for 8 years. The longer she is in photography, the more she realizes what she doesn’t know – the task of photographing the world is afoot!