Take simple pet portraits at home while you’re self-isolating. All you need is a pet, a window, and some pet treats to grab their attention, then set your camera to aperture priority mode and work on your composition.
Look for the LightThe most important step to making a good pet portrait is the lighting. Photographing your pet with a bright lamp in the background may be a nice idea, but think about how this will affect your subject. Either you underexpose to reduce your pet to a silhouette, or overexpose to capture detail in the subject but lose background interest.
Position Your Pet Next to the WindowInstead, it might be beneficial to encourage your little friend to sit next to a window. North-facing windows are ideal in the northern hemisphere because they produce soft, wrapping light all day long. Of course, other windows will work if it’s cloudy out. Position yourself and your pet so that the light pours from one side of the frame and across your subject’s face/body. This way the light and shadow produce dimensionality to the subject.
Bonus tip: Having a hard time getting your pet to stay in one place? It might be a good idea to grab some treats and pop them down where you need your pet to be. Or use a toy if you want their eye contact.
Shoot in Aperture Priority ModeThe easiest way to shoot pet portraits at home is to let the camera do some of the work for you. For example, in aperture priority mode you can decide how much depth of field you want by dialing in the aperture, and the camera will decide on the shutter speed appropriate to record good exposure. For my main image I shot at f/1.4.
It’ll be relatively dark inside, so depending on your light levels you might want to switch on Auto-ISO or ramp it up to ISO 800 or more. That’ll ensure the shutter speed doesn’t drag, causing camera blur. Auto-ISO also has the added benefit of automatically adjusting exposure so you can concentrate on composition and focusing, while the camera produces a good exposure. If you want to under or overexpose a shot in aperture priority mode then use exposure compensation on your camera.
Focus on the Eyes
Lastly, it’s important to get the focus right. Focus on the eyes with your autofocus, or use face detection if your camera has this feature. You may want to use manual focus, but if your pet’s particularly fidgety this might be more difficult. Either way, you want to get good focus on the eyes — or if they’re side-on to the camera, focus on the closest eye.
- Shoot in aperture priority mode (Av mode on Canon)
- Position your pet next to the window for beautiful side light
- Use Auto-ISO or a high ISO to overcome camera shake blur
- Focus on the eyes, or the nearest eye to you
- Under or overexpose your shots intentionally with exposure compensation
We’d love to see your pet portraits so share your favorite images in the comments below with your best tip on how you got the shot. Or perhaps if you've tried the techniques above yourself, why not show us your results below to get some feedback?