Lighting Setups and other Tips for Indoor and Outdoor Pet Photography

Guest post and images by Petra Mayer of PPP-Photography.

I am passionate about pet photography because I am passionate about pets. I think that shows in my images and that is what my customers see in my work. My philosophy is that I will work with whatever the pet is prepared to give me. By taking my time and working with my subject I’ve always had great image opportunities.

Indoor vs. Outdoor Shooting
I mainly shoot on location and outdoors. I have some studio style images in my portfolio but that is usually not what my customers want. They want memories of their pets, and these memories are tied to their homes or their favorite outdoor parks. That is also where the dogs and cats feel more comfortable and will relax faster.

I mainly use my full frame camera Nikon D700 with prime lenses (50mm or 85mm, depending on the available space – Vancouver condos can be small…) for my indoor shooting. I mostly set up one speedlight with a shoot-through umbrella. I love the soft light this creates, and it is easier to follow the dog or cat as they move around the home. I have a second speedlight that I might use to bounce off the wall or ceiling, or use to create separation from the background. I usually have it on a little foot and place it on the floor or some furniture. I trigger them with my on-camera flash and manually adjust their output.

For my outdoor shoots I often switch to my Nikon D300s with the smaller sensor. I usually want the dog to show some action and so an open space is ideal. Here I mostly use my 24-120mm zoom for greater flexibility.

For my horse photography I rely on natural light or use a reflector to add some sunlight effects.

Have the pet owner participate!
The pet owner plays an important role in a successful shoot. They get the attention of the pet and help direct the gaze of the animal towards the camera. They may also act as “voice activated light stands” for a second speedlight or make noises to create funny postures. Use them to throw toys or treats. Remember, it’s important to include them as part of the fun. If they enjoy the shoot, they will enjoy the pictures even more!

Post production is also important. A bit of effort on the computer can make a world of a difference. Sometimes it’s a small matter of cleaning up teary eyes or grass on the tongue. (Tip: you can bring out the colors of the animal more by adding a soft-light layer in photoshop.) Other than that, I always try and get it right in camera.

You can see more work from Petra by visiting her Taproll profile and her website. You can also connect with her on Facebook.

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