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Photographing pets whether for yourself or as part of a job, is becoming increasingly popular and the demand for tips and tutorials is ever on the increase. Within this weeks article we hope to give you a few pointers and answer a few queries that might have come up. Talty asked us this...
"My camera has a pets & kids setting but they still come out blurry.
I've tried every setting, so far I've had better results with the "EASY"
setting, but they still come out only decent."
Talty is using a high end Canon Powershot which is fantastic for things like still life photography, landscapes and working up close with static options and scenery. But when it comes to photographing animals and in particular as Talty is attempting - kittens, it doesn't compensate for the difficulties such a subject poses. For example kittens are incredibly wriggly, and as Talty has found, getting them to stay still in any one place is a nightmare! So naturally you need a camera that can allow for capturing things when they are moving at speed - something with a bit of image stabilisation too. A lot of the images that one aspires too such as focused, clean animal shots, used flash. Naturally this is something that you want to avoid when photographing anything particularly young like a kitten. But there are things you can do, such as using a big fill light (a household lamp is suitable at times) and a reflector, just to cast a bit more light onto the kitten - more than you need really, to capture a better photograph.
In terms of technical details, to get a better shot of an animal you need to ensure that your ISO is suitable to the lighting the is surrounding it, that you have the appropriate shutter speed and that you have a good focal point. Often with something like a Canon Powershot, the camera tends to not pick out a specific focal point unless you make sure you press down the shutter button halfway and focus it in. Having a focal point that isn't the kitten, creates what appears as an out of focus shot. Check to see if your Canon has a setting for where the focal points are, often you can change this to have say, four focal points, or just one. Whilst it's not impossible to grab a clean, sharp shot with the camera you are using, it is a tough one. I appreciate you say you have a pets & kids setting but this is likely for distance work rather than going in and up close to an animal. A portrait or wide macro lens on a Digital SLR is one of the best ways of capturing animals.
If you are using a Digital SLR then using a zoom lens and shooting from further away is often the best method to get a natural and accurate shot of an animal. Most animals are curious about the camera, but some will feel threatened by it or worried. Capturing them from further back helps them feel more at ease. Shooting on a level to an animal's face also helps - I tend to hold my hand up (with a dog treat) above the camera so that I capture my dog with his beautiful eyes gazing upwards...
Some more general tips include keeping the eyes of your animal in focus. Eyes often are the draw in an image and they are where our eyes naturally go when looking at something. Be sure to try and focus in your animals eyes before you start shooting - you can often also capture some amazing reflections in them too. But if you have an animal that is particularly tricky to shoot because it's very wriggly and fast...just wait until it's asleep!
As with all things, patience, practice and a little investment in some equipment or homemade props goes a long way to getting some fantastic shots. Ultimately though, you've got to work with the animal and achieve the best you can, sometimes the accidents can be happy ones...
There are many many articles out there that tackle how best to photograph a bet - and indeed what not to do. Rather than reinvent the wheel I've put together some tutorials that I found useful - links are below!
Digital Photography School's How to Photograph Pets
Pet Photography Tips
How to Photograph Your Dog