Monday, July 8, 2013

Choosing a Background - Insight #6

Clean Background helps keep focus on the animal

In working with shelters, I have had multiple discussions about having a clean background for taking pictures.  By that, I mean that you don't want a background that overwhelms the main subject: the animal.  In the case of where I live now, Kaua'i, it is easy to try to take the dog out to some gorgeous areas.  However if you do not shoot a tight shot of the animal, you will actually minimize the animal and lose your audience.

Baby G, at the Kaua'i Humane Society since last August, during her 10-minute photo shoot.  By getting her with a regular backdrop, we were able to get nice clean shots of her without distracting backgrounds.
My suggestion for shelters is to use nature backgrounds only if it is well lit, the photographer can get down low to take the picture, and the background doesn't minimize the animal.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Christmas Giving

Giving Back - Insight #5

This holiday season, I decided to help out the Kaua'i Humane Society transport two dogs from the island to the Tri-Valley SPCA here in the East Bay of Northern California.

Insight #5 - Don't Overwhelm
Samson is a sweet soul.  It didn't take very long for him to want to nap, which was expected after a five-hour flight that was 30 minutes late in departing.   I took the first half-dozen shots without the softbox as I wanted him to stay calm.   I didn't position him at all during the mini-session, and I just wiggled my way down to his level.  I used the softbox at different shutter speeds to just get different effects.  I shot for about 5 minutes and called it a night.  At some point, I'll ask the shelter if they want to have a full session with Samson where we'll take different angles so people can really have the best visualization of Samson.

Samson settling in for the night after a flight from Lihu'e, Kaua'i to Oakland, California

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Getting the best photograph of your pet - Insight #4

Halloween is around the corner, and so begins the craziest time in a pet's life - getting dressed up.

Some people love to see pets in clothing, others seem put off by it....

This brings me to my next insight...

Insight #4 - Regardless of your stance on pets in clothes/costumes, make sure your pet is ok with it and it is safe for them to be wearing it!
Should you decide to put your dog or cat into a costume, I can't emphasize it enough:  your pet gets the final say on this.  The costume should be comfortable and not constrain your pets natural movement, breathing or eyesight.

Oh Magoo! You've done it again!

We went low tech for Dex' Mr. Magoo costume.  All the issues with your pet being comfortable will make for a considerably better picture. An uncomfortable pet will like show up on the final image.  A comfortable pet in costume can actually be posed (e.g., see my previous insights).

 Click here to view more images of Will Anzenberger's Pet Photography. 

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Getting the best photograph of your pet - Insight #3

So, you've got the patience down, and now you've figured out how to shoot your camera at one-foot off the ground, not just 5 feet off the ground.

You are seeing improvement in the shots you are getting, but is the pet enjoying the experience?  While I doubt most pets seek out photo sessions, having your pet (or someone else's pet) tolerate the experience is a must.  You don't want to stress a pet out just get a few shots.

This brings me to my next insight...

Insight #3 - Let sleeping pets lie
Some of the best photos of pets are when they are at their most comfortable, which many interpret as when the pets are asleep.  For me, I just take comfortable to mean that the pet is in their normal surroundings with their regular options.  In a professional setting, I would give any photographer at least 15 minutes to just hang out with the pet in each area where they will be taking pictures.

While you have prepped an area for taking well-illuminated photographs of your pet, pay attention to where your pet likes to relax.  It may not be the best lit area, but you can figure out your camera settings over the course of  30 minutes. Don't make a big deal of getting the shot the very second they have finally relaxed; let your pet maintain being comfortable.  You may not even get the shot in the same day, but you will have learned all you need to determine the proper lighting and camera settings.

For the image below, I actually took this picture the day after Dexter found a new spot in the hallway to do some sunbathing.  Sure enough, the next day, he went to the same spot when the sun peaked into the hallway.  I had the camera ready to go and put it on the carpet with the remote control shutter release attached.  I took about a half-dozen pictures over the course of 15 minutes so as to not disturb Dexter's sunbathing.  The first shot or two, his eyes were looking at me or the straight at the camera which didn't give him a relaxed look at all.

The picture below came out the best.

Letting sleeping pets lie can produce some great results.  Don't force the photo.

 Click here to view more images of Will Anzenberger's Pet Photography. 

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Getting the best photograph of your pet - Insight #2

So, you've taken your deep breaths, gotten use to keeping your camera by your side, and calmed any nerves or apprehensions that you pet has about you and the camera.

Without a doubt, you will get usable photographs of your pet, assuming you have your camera settings correct, by exhibiting a modicum of patience.  Here is the next insight to get the most out of photographing your pet.

Insight #2 - Getting Down to Your Pet's Level
One of the tougher tasks when you are casually photographing your pet is to not shoot from a severe angle.  Usually, you are excited to see your dog come walking to you and sit at your feet.  You grab the camera and press the shutter release button. Again, the photo will be usable, but you will be so much happier with the results if you change the angle.  Sure, you can raise your pet to your shooting level, but chances are that will not be as comfortable for your pet as if  you get down to your pet's eye level.

At first, just hold the camera and sit or lie down with your pet.  Spend a few minutes working your dog to the energy level you want in your photograph (toy playing for a more upbeat photograph or maybe just petting or massaging if you want a relaxed photograph). 

At some point, having the camera mounted on a tripod, or lying on the floor will prove to be very useful if your don't feel  you can keep your camera steady in your hands.

Getting down to your pet's eye level gives you a better chance to capture their personality.
 Click here to view more images of Will Anzenberger's Pet Photography.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Getting the best photograph of your pet - Insight #1

For the past 4 years, I have been operating my own photography business.  It has been challenging, but rewarding.  In the last year, I have seen the pet photography segment of my business grow exponentially.  Why?  Well, I also happened to adopt a French bulldog named Dexter, and started documenting the highs and lows.

People saw the pictures of Dexter, and wanted me to capture the special character of their pet.  It is really not that simple, but I hope to pass along some of my insights to pet owners because it also does not always require a professional-grade DSLR and lighting kit.

Insight #1 - Be Patient
If your pet is that cute, don't worry when you think you missed that moment you think was "beyond cute."  There will be another, trust me.  If  you try to force that moment on your pet, with camera in hand, the camera becomes a stress signal for your pet.

The photo below is the first full day of Dexter living with me.  I had the camera on and by my side.  I would let Dex sniff it and I took about 10 "misses", before I got the best shot of the day.  By the 11th shutter release, Dex was calm and couldn't care less than I was hiding my face with this big camera that made loud clicking sounds.  When I was done, I put the camera down and gave Dex a treat..  For me, I thought this was a great way to reinforce the reward was for Dex staying still.

Is that for me?
Patience is a virtue, and the first step to getting great images of your pet

Click here to view more images of Will Anzenberger's Pet Photography.