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How to Take a Picture-Purrfect Holiday Pet Photo

‘Tis the season for preparing holiday greeting cards and portraits, but capturing your four-legged best friend on film can be as challenging as it is rewarding. Pets don’t listen to a photographer’s directions very well, and may in fact be somewhat uncooperative in front of the camera. However, these tips and tricks from Best Friends Pet Care experts will help you get your furry subject to smile and say “woof!”

Prep & materials

  • If you’re using a traditional camera, be sure to have plenty of film, and select the shutter speed. Have a zoom lens at hand. If you prefer a digital camera, make sure you’ve got a fresh set of batteries. Remember that there’s a delay with digital, so you may need to take more shots.
  • When you choose your room, use natural light if possible and avoid using a flash. Flash causes “red eye” in pets, just as it does in people. Plus, pets may be frightened by the sudden flash and may run off.
  • Be prepared with supplemental lighting if your pet is black.(Don’t rely on the flash.) Set up extra lights and point them at the pet. Try different angles to be sure that the pet’s features don’t disappear into shadow.
  • Have an assistant. While you take the picture, your cohort can place the pets into position or, standing behind you, capture their attention with a squeaky toy.
  • Keep plenty of treats on hand.

Groom and “glam”
Pets should be clean and groomed (but don’t try a new cut right before a photo session). Pay special attention to the eyes and chin, removing as many stains as possible. Dressing up your pet can result in disaster or a photographic masterpiece, depending on your subject. “Some pets will simply not sit still with a costume on,” says Jen Tobias, pet photographer and manager of Best Friends in Avon, Connecticut, “while others just sit and look at you quizzically as if to say, what is this thing on me!'”

Keep it simple
Limit the clutter on your “set.” “The focus should be on the subject, not on the background or any surrounding objects,” says Tobias, who also suggests posing your pet in his favorite spot, whether it be a windowsill, pet bed, chair, etc. “Photographing him in a familiar setting will put him at ease, and portray him in a natural environment.”

Present his personality
The best portraits, whether the subject is human or canine, reveal the subject’s personality, or tell a story. Try to catch your pet as she’s glimpsing at an object, or staring intently at something interesting. Some of the best artistic photos are taken when the pet is oblivious to the camera. Adds Tobias, “there’s nothing cuter than a head tilt!”

Get down
Pet photos look great when taken at eye level, says Tobias. Your frame will be filled by your subject, and your pet may surprise you by giving you a quizzical look or an “extreme close up.” Be prepared for sudden movements or even a pet who attempts to escape. “Some pets startle at the sound of the shutter clicking,” says Tobias, “so try to get them accustomed to the sound before shooting.”

The Photographer’s Golden Rule: patience
Above all, advises Tobias, be patient, understanding and tolerant. “Your pet really does want to please you,” she says, “so don’t expect to get the perfect shot right away although when it happens, it’s wonderful!”

If the task of photographing your pet seems daunting, don’t give up.? Throughout the holiday season, there are many “pet photo days” offered by pet-friendly business. For the location of special pet photo day in your area, check with your local Best Friends center.