It's always a challenge to get the perfect picture. Whether you're taking a portrait of a pet or a person, getting that perfect picture can be a difficult task. When pets are in your care, documenting their stay and showing their family what a wonderful time they had lets your customers feel their pet is safe when they're with you. Maybe you even send your furry friends home with a photo or two as a souvenir of their stay.
A lot goes into taking a good photo. It isn't quite as simple as just snapping the perfect shot, but that doesn't mean it's impossible. If you understand what makes up a good photograph, you can take a good photograph. The principles behind good photography are all the same, so as long as you're using the proper techniques, your photos will look great. Sure, you might not win any awards, but the smiles on your customers' faces as you show them the adventure their pet had with you are an award in itself.
Get the light right
This is the golden rule of photography. Cameras are a lot like our eyes, just less refined. You want to make it easy for them to see everything. Make sure your subject is well and evenly lit, but the lighting isn't too harsh. A good photographer's favourite weather is a cloudy day because natural lighting is best, but you want to avoid harsh shadows and high contrast. Direct sunlight can quickly make a subject too bright and is almost guaranteed to cause a shadow. If you're taking your photos inside, try to get as much window light on your subject as possible. Experimental lighting can look cool, but try to nail down the basics first.
If you decide to use flash, try to use it to fill in the shadows rather than as the main light source. Or, if you have a DSLR, consider investing in an external flash. It fill in shadows and provide a softer and even lighting, ideal for when natural light isn't an option.
For more advanced photographers: cameras take in light using the shutter and the aperture. The shutter determines how long the lens is exposed to light, while the aperture determines how wide the lens opens. The wider the aperture, the more light you let in. The slower the shutter speed, the longer the exposure and the more light that gets let in. If you're working in a dimly-lit environment, try opening your aperture and slowing down your shutter speed. Just remember, a fast shutter also freezes movement so if you make the shutter too slow, things might get a little blurry.
Don't stop shooting
The more photos you take, the more likely it is you'll take a good one. Sure, technique counts for a lot when it comes to taking a good photograph. If you know what you're doing, it's easier to get a perfect picture. But statistically speaking, if you keep shooting, you'll have to get a usable photo eventually. Getting plenty of photos to choose from helps push you to think of new ideas and get some variety.
So take plenty of photos, but change it up as you go. Get different angles, use different backgrounds, change the lighting. If you vary your combinations, there's a good chance you'll get more than one usable photo, and they won't all look the same!
For more advanced photographers: try switching up your camera settings. Play around with the aperture and shutter speed, zooming in and out, messing with the white balance, or using a different ISO. Different settings get different results, so you can see what works best!
Keep it simple
Using a plain background lets your subject stand out more. Plain doesn't have to mean boring beige, black or white – try a patterned background or just one bright colour. When the background has too much going on, it's easy for the subject to get lost in it. Simple photos can be a lot more appealing to the human eye. Consider the colour of the dog you're shooting and how it will look against the background. A black dog on white snow can be absolutely stunning.
For more advanced photographers: try your hand at shallow depth of field. Get up close to your subject and open your aperture to blur out the background. Different lenses will be able to get different levels of depth, but this is a great way to isolate your subject.
Try your hand at editing
Most of the best photos you see have at least some touch ups done to them because cameras just aren't as observant as the human eye. Don't be embarrassed that your photo needs a little help to be perfect. You don't have to go all out on Photoshop, but even adding a filter here or there to amplify different colours can help turn your pretty good photo into a great one.
For the more technical people: If you do want to give Photoshop a go, there are plenty of tutorials that will show you just how to make your photos exactly the way you want. Just remember, even the best photo editing software has its limits, so don't rely on it too much.
When we asked one of our photographers what makes up a good photo, his immediate answer was "be candid". If your subject is comfortable and able to be themselves, that shines through in the photo. So don't make your pooches sit still for too long! Take pictures of them in their bed, playing with their favourite toy, goofing around with their best friend. Consider the pet's personality and work to its strengths – if the dog is having a good time and is keeping busy, you'll have plenty of shots to work with and their owner will know their visit was a blast.
If you want to get the dog looking at the camera, get someone to help you. Have them hold squeaky toys up, whistle, clap, or play with the dog. Keep some treats handy too – just make sure not to overdo it.
At the end of the day, the most important thing is the pet you're photographing has a good time. If you're stressing about getting that perfect shot, chances are the pet you're working with is going to notice. Don't be afraid to experiment and break the mold – that's how you get shots you normally wouldn't think of. So be creative and just have fun with it.
A great way to create some extra revenue for your pet business is by selling professional photos of your furry guests to your customers. When you feel confident in your photography abilities or have a photographer on staff, add pictures as an option for your customers to purchase. They will love the extra thought you put into their dog’s stay and they get to take home a fun and happy memory to cherish forever! Photographs make great gifts, especially during the holidays. ProPet's photography module makes selling your photos a snap. You can upload them for free to the photo gallery or you can choose to sell them. Your customers will love seeing how much fun their pets are having at your facility!
Interested to see how ProPet can make running your pet business easier and more efficient? Click the button below to request access and try it out for yourself.