Pet photography

Discussion in 'Beginner Questions' started by dominicbyrne, Dec 28, 2008.

  1. Hi
    Myself and a friend have an opportunity to do some pet photography to help out a pet-sitting business.
    I have no real experience of this kind of thing and would like advice on how to approach the sessions.
    My equipment will be a D200 with a choice of 105mm, 10-20mm and 18-200mm lenses with one SB-800 flash gun.
    Where do I start??
    All help and advice appreciated
  2. Use the wide-angle to make the infrastructures look bigger. For pictures of the pets, the 18-200 is probably your best bet as they won't sit still.
    Pets are usually bound to have red eyes if you use your flash on the camera. Use the SB-800 as a remote and bounce it off walls, ceilings, whatever. Better use it on manual and SU-4 mode to avoid preflashes (if you have no radio trigger). When shooting animals the preflashes always make them turn away or look odd.
    If it is to promote a business, maybe you better stay away from close-ups at all. Concentrate on the accomodation, the space they have, the good treatment, available toys, etc. Of course you have to include some animals, maybe playing and showing them happy. Also show people and how much they care for the pets.
    I'm sure somebody will chime in for more advice.
  3. Good advice from Kris about the strobe use. Off-camera is definitely the way to go, to avoid the eye issue. A single source of light can be challenging with some all-the-way-dark dogs, but you might consider bouncing it off of reflector, or using an umbrella - either way, work with the light source fairly close to avoid harsh shadows. The SU-4 mode is a good idea - dogs have VERY quick reflexes:
  4. The trick, though, is that for the SB-800's SU-4 (or any optically-triggered slave mode) to work, the on-camera flash has to emit SOME sort of flash. Even if you have it dialed down to 1/128th power, that can be enough to get a retina reflection from the dog. You might want to spend the $12 or so on Nikon's SG-3IR widget... it's a little plastic infrared filter that sits in your hotshoe, and prevents most of the visible light from your pop-up flash from being seen. The IR portion of the flash is all that's actually needed to trigger the slaves, anyway.

    But if even you ARE able to block the camera's strobe, you want to set your SB-800's power manually anyway, as well as the camera's exposure. The camera's metering and the strobe's auto power management can be very easily fooled by highly reflected white dog coats, or complete light-eating coats, like a black Newfoundland or Lab. Since you're likely to be in a controlled setting, you might as well take complete control over the process - it will produce more consistent results than anything auto-assisted from the equipment.
  5. Not as easy as it sounds. You needs lots of props(bells, snacks and whistles) to get the pet to cooperate especially if it's a dog. Allot of people want their pets siiting on a chair so you practically have to lift the pet off the floor without getting bit and place in the chair. Some pets are well trained and others are not. I lasted maybe 5 weeks doing this until I decided it wasn't for me, I switched to pre-school and youth sports.
  6. I would encourage you to consider having yourself manage the camera, and someone else to manage the animals. Doing both at the same time, if you are not the animal's master, can be difficult. Although the animal is an animal, and is supposed to do what it is told, it's not a robot. The animal might be curious about the new procedure of getting photographed; it just might not understand what is happening or what's desired by the people and why. So, strategy is to let someone else engage the animal, but for the photographer to be there to record what's happening. I find this works out best, but I don't have a lot of experience in this area.
  7. John's right. I have good success working on my own while shooting dogs in their own preferred setting (these are usually bird dogs in the field, and they always have something interesting to look at), but while doing studio-style work, I would be lost without my wife's considerable animal relations skills (especially on the set, with pups). I've always had good luck paying attention to the photography while she directly interacts with the critters. It's really constructive to divide those tasks between two people. The animal's owner is often the wrong person to turn to for help - they may know the animal, but they rarely know what you need, photographically and logistically.
  8. I agree with everyone above. I'm no Matt, but in dog (and kid) shots, an assistant is essential. I use my son (who just turned six), who crinkles a bag wherever I want the dog to focus. -Maija
  9. I'm no Matt

    Whew! Nobody wants two of me running around, I assure you.

    crinkles a bag wherever I want the dog to focus

    While the sound will stimulate most dogs, some are far more visual than others (say, sight hounds, like Afghans and greyhounds). If I'm working alone, or have the assistant up close to the dog for a quick grab, if needed, I load up my pockets with tennis balls, or even crumpled sheets of newspaper to toss. I very often throw my hat up high and long - and that gives the dog's predatory wiring something to tune into. That "escaping prey" movement stimulus will also change their body language.
  10. Matt that picture of your dog blinking is extremely funny :)
  11. Matt, I agree with Simon. Eyes closed may not be what we're after most of the time, but in that shot, it is precious.
    Dominic, let us know how things go, and what techniques you come up with on your own!
  12. Heh! I like that shot, too... and it would be even funnier for me if I couldn't get her to do it on cue! But she's like clockwork. With bird dogs, one worries about making them "gun shy" (not comfortable around the shotguns with which one hunts the birds these dogs are bred to find and track) - no problem there. A shotgun is like music to her ears. But strobes? She's strarting to get that funny look in her eye when I break out the camera bag... :)
  13. Wow - thank you all for your responses - there's some really useful advice there.
    The intention is to do it with two of us so that should hopefully make things a bit easier!
    I will keep you posted of developments and will post some pictures as and when things develop.
    Thanks again for taking the time to help out.

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