STOP Taking Bad Photos of Your Animals
Pet Peeve? Why yes, thanks for asking! One of my pet peeves is seeing nice-looking animals look crappy because their photos are ugly. Why would you share or advertise your animals using crappy photos? I have no idea why people share bad photos of their animals, and hope to save you some valuable time while creating better images from these tips.
Low-Angle Light Is Your Friend!
What do animals, people, and landscapes have in common? They all look best shortly after sunrise or shortly before sunset on a cloudless day. (This time of day is often referred to as the Golden Hour.) The low angle of the sun during Golden Hour illuminates objects from the side instead of from above. The low-angle light creates stunning images with dramatic shadows. Golden Hour works beautifully for all kinds of subjects. Take advantage of that beautiful light when you're shooting.
What is golden hour?
The last hour before sunset and the first hour after sunrise is called "the golden hour" or "magic hour," these times provide the perfect light to capture stunning photos. Harnessing the power of the golden hour is a tool every photographer can use.
It's all about the light.
The golden hour produces beautiful natural light that is easy to work with. The light is even and has a beautiful golden hue.
Unlike other times of the day, the golden hour doesn't have the sun shining down directly — its rays come in at an angle, diffusing the light. This softer type of light is typically more flattering.
The light is directional.
During the golden hour, the sun is at a low angle in the sky, creating long shadows and flattering lighting you can use for more creative effects. Rim lighting, backlighting, side lighting, silhouettes, sunbursts, and lens flares are all at your disposal during the golden hour. (Might as well get them in-camera rather than working at them in post.)
The light is warm.
The golden hour light is warmer on the Kelvin color temperature spectrum, with many yellows, oranges, and reds. The atmosphere filters out blue light when the sun is closer to the horizon, giving you a color palette that people associate with feelings of happiness and warmth.
Shoot Plenty, Know Few are Keepers
Memory cards are cheap. Take lots of photos! The light changes every minute, and it will be faster than you think while you're in the moment. Shoot more frames more often to capture every change; this will give you more options to work with afterward. Be bold and push that button! Shoot more than you think you'll use and select the best of the best to edit and share.
Shake up shooting the images so you don't get home and think, "I should have shot that from a low angle." Shoot at head height and shoot from a squatting position to get the more dramatic low angle. Sometimes I pull out a step ladder and snap photos from about 9-10 feet up in the air, which creates a charming perspective you don't see often. Get creative and shoot pictures of the same subject from at least a dozen angles, and one of the photos is bound to look nice.
Fill the Frame
Hold your arm out, fully extended, and look at your pinky fingernail. Now picture your fingernail as the subject you're shooting. That is unlikely to be a compelling image. If you're shooting portraits, get closer, use more than 1/4 or 1/2 of the space in your photo. If you're doing a long establishing shot or shooting to allow for advertising copy, that's great; keep going. For photos you are trying to promote, sell, or immortalize your animals, the more you can fill the frame with the subject, the better. Filling the frame means you will have a more detailed image of your subject, and it will require more minor cropping, later on, saving you a little bit of time editing the photo. (Have I mentioned that you should always strive to get the shot in camera?)
The Surroundings Set the Mood
Look around! Now, look around again! Is your subject in an area that looks like a junkyard? Are there portable bathrooms in the background? Are there things "growing" out of your subject? Your future customers see images of incredible scenery when looking at your competitors, and you'll want your animals to look as good as the best out there. If you don't have giant vistas to shoot by, find an uncluttered spot and start there. Still having a challenge? Move closer to your subject so the background becomes a non-issue.
Tell a Story
Award-winning photos capture a split second but tell an entire story in that one frame. One area that we could all do more with is photographic storytelling. This storytelling can be achieved by collecting photos of people interacting with and enjoying their animals. Images that capture real people enjoying their animals create an emotional response. If people see something they can relate to and connect with a photo, they are more likely to bond with that product. Think about this: Why do soft drink ads show people taking a sip of a drink and then smiling for the camera? The not-so-subtle message is soft drinks equals happy people.
PRO TIP - Get signed model releases for people and properties. Signed talent releases from the people in your photos will help you and your company from a legal perspective. (Disclaimer - I'm not an attorney, nor do I play one on television. You will be able to find releases pretty easily online with a "Dr. Google" search.)
I have several Canon SLR bodies and numerous pro-level lenses (glass) to take high-quality images; I also carry a smartphone that I frequently use to capture images. I've been preaching for years that the best camera is the one you have with you.
Keep It All In Perspective
I've given several tips here on improving photos of your animals, but I don't think you must use all of these techniques for all of your images. Of course, if you did, that would be marvelous! The more tips you can integrate, the better animal photographer you will become over time. Most importantly, enjoy shooting your good photos.
Get in touch with me if you have questions or would like to learn more about photography.
Keywords: Dog Photography, Horse Photography, Kathleen Riley Photography, Minnesota, Photography Education, Riley Photo, Riley Photography
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