When it comes to pet portraits the final illustration will only be as good as the photo you provide. The perfect ingredients for a good quality photo include plenty of light, a nice composition and good resolution to name a few. But I know that managing all this whilst capturing your pet’s character, is easier said than done. Here are my top tips to help you get the best results from your pet photos.
1. Getting your pet’s attention – point and squeak
Squeaky toys are a great tool for getting your pet to look at the camera. Easier said than done when you need your hands free to take the photo on your mobile or camera. I’ve spoken to a few professional pet photographers over the years and here are a few tips:
Use a squeaky toy app on yours or someone else’s phone when taking the photo
Here are some apps that are good to use-
Take a squeaky toy or tie a couple of toys together and put them between your knees ready to squeeze.
If you’re not up for going it alone then recruit a friend or family member to squeak your chosen tool while you take the photo.
You can guarantee once your pet’s heard the squeaker once or twice the novelty will soon wear off so it pays to be ready - you won’t get any second chances!
2. Making light of your subject
Whenever possible take photos where there's plenty of natural light preferably outside. Have the light source on your pet’s face or to the side of your pet. Definitely don’t have the light source behind your pet as you’ll get a silhouette effect and your pet will look very dark.
Avoid strong, direct light - the kind you get around midday - this will make your pet squint and create nasty shadows. Good times of day for lighting are early morning and late evening and cloudy days are perfect.
3. The eyes have it
Your pet’s eyes are the most important feature in a portrait showing character and emotion. Always focus on the eyes make sure they’re clearly visible and in focus.
4. Stay focused
Whilst it's obvious to make sure your pet's in focus and not blurry - so there's plenty of detail to paint - many people get confused by image resolution.
For the best possible portrait I need to work from a photograph with the highest possible image resolution. Image resolution is the amount of detail you can see in the photo especially when you zoom into it.
It's difficult to get good results from social media images. These images are highly compressed to keep the file size small. They have very low resolution so there isn't much detail. If possible always email over the original photograph and send it as large as possible preferably at the original resolution it was taken at. I know this isn't always possible especially if the portrait is a surprise and you can't get hold of the original image. That's why I'm always happy to take a look at any photos you have and advise you.
Email software often compresses images especially on iPhones so make sure you copy and paste your image into your email if using an iPhone rather than sharing it to email. Here are some instructions on how to email an iPhone image at full resolution.
5. Get down to their level
Get down to your pet’s level as much as possible and avoid backgrounds that obstruct the outline of your pet, like long grass.
Avoid panting dogs as a big tongue can cover a lot of your dog’s face – it’s not a good look - unless of course that’s a feature you want to capture.
Remember you don't need the whole of your pet's body in a portrait unless that's something you really want to see. Sometimes the nicest compositions are cropped into your pet's face or face and shoulders for example.
Using a toy or accessory often adds a nice feature to the composition perhaps capture a photo when your pet has a stick in its mouth or is playing with a toy or wearing a bandanna.
Instead of making your pet pose try taking some photos when it’s in a natural position like when it’s playing or resting.
At Tickled Ink I’m always happy to look at your photos to help you decide which works best. So please drop me an email with your photos if you're not sure and would like some advice.