Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Be still, no, AHHHHHHHH, blarg.

Haley, here. As the title implies, today's blog post will be about some of the difficulties a photographer faces when attempting to take photos of a pet (though, I suppose this applies to a good many non-domesticated animals as well).

Miko in a Drawer
Most commonly, you encounter a pet, being adorable and practically demanding that a picture be taken.  Once you grab your camera, line up your shot, and prepare to capture the cuteness for all to see, said pet begins . . . moving.  In this photo, Miko the cat, demonstrates such behavior to a tee. As she cutely romps through my dresser drawers, she decides to move her head at the exact moment I snap a photograph.  I'm convinced this is intentional.

Miko in a Drawer, Take Two
However, with the right amount of patience and a little luck, you can still capture a really great photograph.  As you see here.  Timing is everything when photographing a pet.  If you're not snapping a photo at the exact moment the pet decides to cooperate, you're out of luck. One handy trick I find useful is to always snap multiple shots.  As soon as you spot your pet looking all cute and cuddly start photographing and don't stop.  Though admittedly, this is only useful if you're shooting digitally; otherwise, you're just wasting film. Part of getting great shots, though, is not being afraid to have some really bad ones.

Furry Black Shape on Quilt
Another problem I've encountered when photographing a pet is particular to my latest cat, Sebastian, who has been gifted with a genetic mutation that makes him all stripe.  This condition is also known as being a black cat. Photographing a black cat provides an entirely new challenge as a result of color.  Solid black, as it turns out, is very difficult to photograph.  As a result I have plenty of okay or so-so shots of Sebastian, but few great ones. As you can see, while not inherently bad shots, his color makes it much more difficult to get a shot of him at his best. Here he looks more like a furry black shape on a quilt.

Christmas Gato!
To compensate for this, I have found that lighting is key when photographing Sebastian.  However, not any light will do (as befits any animal as regal as a cat).  Flash does not help at all; if anything it makes a photograph of a black cat worse, resulting in a photo of a SHINY, furry black shape.  Every now and again flash photos turn out alright, but for the most part you want to seek out natural lighting and lots of it, sunlight in particular.

As you see, it is indeed possible to get a lovely shot.  Here, the natural sunlight filtering through the window combined with the lighting in the room illuminates Sebastian enough that we can see his shape in more detail.  It also creates some areas of contrast on his fur which adds a depth not present in the first photo.  And now, I place you, dear reader, at Jen's mercy.

 Jen: Haley has done a good job at explaining some of the issues when dealing with pet/animal photography.  I've also had many blooper shots with my pets, and cats in particular are oftentimes difficult to shoot.  Like Miko, Teazer usually moves right at the wrong moment, or she wants to sniff the camera.  (Poppet tries to lick it.)  Here are some of these shots:

 With Poppet, I have the opposite problem Haley has with her cat, Sebastian: Poppet is nearly all white, which sometimes makes it difficult to take decent shots of here in natural sunlight, as picture left.  While the shot itself isn't bad, the photo is entirely overexposed, causing the viewer to squint when looking at the pup.  Though the overexposure could provide visual interest, this particular case doesn't work too well in this regard.  The solution for such a problem is to avoid early afternoon sunlight, if the day is bright.  That, or find a nice shaded area where you can play with the light.

This next photo of Teazer also isn't the fault of the subject, but rather the lack of real interest in the photo's composition (other than it's a picture of a cute, if evil cat).  Again, the lighting doesn't work well; it was taken in my room during the afternoon, and Teazer was back lit.  Now, this problem can easily be fixed with some Photoshop editing, which I may eventually do with this photo, if I feel the desire to fix it (I have many photos that are better than this one).  So, other than choosing better lighting, you can also brush up on your Photoshop skillz with Levels, contrast, and saturation (among others).

See you Friday!

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