While my daughter was away at college she wanted to see pictures of all of her pets every day. So I took A LOT of critter photos! Though I've always been a shutterbug, this year I learned a lot about how to take good pet photos with my iPhone. I've collected some of my best tips for getting started in this instructable. I hope you find them useful!
If you want to see more of my pet photos, go to @rcdjustmybeasts.
ps Most of these tips will be useful for any cell phone.
Step 1: Take Advantage
The special thing about cell phone cameras is that most of us always have one handy. While I love my SLR and use it for shots that I have the time and control to set up, for pet photos there's nothing like spontaneity. With my iPhone, I can take advantage of unscripted pet situations. Since I always have my phone on me it's easy to be ready for just about anything, like when Shiri decided to take up French. I only had a couple of seconds between the time she grabbed my son's homework spot and when she curled up into a sleepy ball. The only problem is I think she really should have started with French 1.
Learn all the shortcuts for getting the camera app open quickly on your particular phone. On my iPhone 6, I always keep the app open and set to photo (not library). I swipe from the bottom of the home screen to open the camera fast. The faster you can get the app open, the more likely you'll get the shot. Consider keeping your phone unlocked when around your pets.
Tip: Don't ever zoom to take a photo with your phone. Get close to your subject instead.
Step 2: Be a (Quiet) Opportunist
While our pets usually want to please us (well, dogs anyway), they just don't know what we're aiming for when we break out our phones to get a picture of them. More often then not our helpful critters get up and come over to see what's up. This is great if you want an album full of nose close ups, but otherwise you need to be a stealthy opportunist. If you see Fluffy in position for a good photo, don't make a fuss, don't call out to have Fluffy look up, don't even look at Fluffy. You are a leaf on the wind. A silent ninja with a cell phone. Now take your picture - before Fluffy leaves.
This photo was taken the only time I ever saw my cat willing to be touched by my puppy. My cat was less than pleased, but I got the shot before the hissing started.
Step 3: When the Stars Align
Another unusual opportunity. Not only were three of my creatures in the same place at the same time, but they created this rare planetary alignment.
Hint: Watch for interesting positions and angles to shoot from. This photo would have been nothing if shot from any other angle.
Step 4: Filters
As a Photoshop expert, I like a good filter. While my phone filters aren't as sophisticated as Photoshop's, they're still lots of fun and work great. My favorite cell phone app for photo manipulation is Snapseed. Snapseed is free and comes with lots of preset filters. It also allows you to manually adjust the color, brightness, scale etc. of your photo. Snapseed has versions for most phones.
For pet photos, I find that filters are most helpful for bringing out the beautiful markings on our creatures. It's going to be different for every pet, so just experiment and see what works. You can also turn your photo into a black and white or sepia shot.
Note on Instagram:
Instagram has it's own set of filters. They are often all you need, but they don't offer a lot of flexibility. Also, if you have a great photo that doesn't need a filter, you can use the hashtag #nofilterneeded, if you want.
Step 5: Multiple Images
A fun way to tell a story or make a theme is to create a collage using multiple images. My favorite, easy way to do this on my phone is with Layout by Instagram. While this app works seamlessly with Instagram, you can use it as a stand alone program as well. The examples above show only two photos in each collage, though Layout has many configurations using up to 9 photos. And did I mention how easy it is? Just open Layout, click on images in your library and choose the layout that works best. Then you can resize, move and crop your photos.
Step 6: Tell a Story
Every body loves a good pet story. Here's "a boy and his dog (and his cell phone)". What do you want to say about your creatures? Watch for the moments that tell that story. You may need to take a few photos from a few angles to get one with the right feel. Also, if the moment has action, use the burst setting on your phone to take many pictures in succession. The iPhone does this just by holding don the home button.
Step 7: Get Creative
Have fun. Get Creative!
Most of our cell phones have tons of memory so experiment and toss what doesn't work. Try props and dress up. Maybe you love your pet's crazy ears or puppy paws. You can get great detail with your cell, so go for it.
Some last minute notes:
- Stay clear of using the flash, especially for dark or shiny pets - Natural light is best
- Don't bother trying to save an out of focus photo - At least some portion of every shot should be in focus, preferably the eyes.
- Pay attention to the background - Can you see your pet well? Does it make for a nice composition?
- Pay attention to the background 2 - If you're going to post your photos, check that there's nothing in the background you don't want the world to see.
- Experiment with lighting, filters, etc. by taking some napping shots. These are the easiest : )
Post your pet photos in the comments!