Dawn Armstrong
Special to the Tribune

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August 20, 2012
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Pet column: How to create memorable pet photos

With the Aug. 31 submission deadline for the 2013 Tahoe Pets Calendar approaching, here are some pet photo tips. For keeper shots, all you need are the three Ps: a preset camera, your pet and patience.

Preset the camera

Even point-and-shoot digital cameras have settings that can capture an active pet, a sequence of expressions or a dramatic portrait. Auto mode can suffice, but get out of that comfort zone and try continuous or burst mode to capture a series of shots over a few seconds. Check the camera specifications in the manual. For film, the speed should be ISO 400 for outside action. Inside, ISO 800 compensates for low light. A shutter speed of 1/125 reduces the chance of blurring. The manual for a digital camera will show the equivalent of film settings in the various modes, including automatic. Many pocket cameras have the ability to set ISO automatically. Set the camera to shutter-priority mode to get a fast shutter speed. If there is the equivalent of a sport action mode, turn the dial to that and the camera automatically selects the fastest shutter speed possible for your situation. Prefocusing the camera is a neat trick to set up for each shot. Simply push the shutter button half way before the action starts, allowing time for the camera to automatically focus, hold then push down to burst away without the frustration of shutter lag. Compensate for lighting with black or white pets, which can be a challenge. Black pets need more light since it is absorbed by their fur and detail is lost. White pets need less light and photograph best out of direct sunlight. 

Prepare the pet

For pets who just won't ever sit still, consider scheduling your photo session after a tiring play time or during a rest on a day long hike. Keep in mind that flash can hurt a pet's eyes or make him or her camera shy. Avoid flash by using lighting from a window inside and natural light outside. Another solution is to tape gauze over the built in flash. This eliminates reflection from fish or reptile tanks as well. Some pets turn away when they hear the camera click. Try camera conditioning by leaving the camera out for the cat or dog to sniff and discover it's no big deal. Use "clicker training" by offering a treat when the camera clicks. Then use a helper to hold a tennis ball over your head or wave a feather to get the pet looking at the camera. However, some of the best photography is candid, catching a moment when the pet is unaware or even asleep. Regardless of technology or technique, the most memorable, moving photos reflect a pet's personality. You know your pet and how he or she is likely to respond in different situations. Use that special insight to truly capture your pet forever.

Practice patience

Digital photography offers the benefit of limitless free mistakes. No film to develop or prints to order. Professional pet photographers assume they will take at least 25 shots of a single pet pose to get that one keeper, two out of 36 sharp shots are exceptional. The key is to keep it fun for both you and your pet. Get down on your belly to pet level. Take advantage of that golden hour before sunset when a pet's fur and eyes take on a glorious glow.

Finally, carry your camera and extra batteries with you everywhere you and your best buddy go. Legendary photographers including Ansel Adams took at least one of their most memorable photos spontaneously, in an unplanned moment with simple equipment at hand. Capture the feeling between you and your pet and the result will be magical. Information about submissions for the 2013 Tahoe Pets Calendar is available at www.laketahoehumaneandspca.org or 530-542-2857.

- Provided by the Lake Tahoe Humane Society and Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals to help "Keep Tahoe Kind." Dawn Armstrong is the executive director.


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Tahoe Daily Tribune Updated Aug 20, 2012 06:20PM Published Aug 20, 2012 06:18PM Copyright 2012 Tahoe Daily Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.