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Great photos of dogs and cats can be found almost everywhere, including magazines, billboards, and greeting cards. But getting similar image quality and expressions from the pets you share your life with can be a challenge. I'm here to help. In this chapter I cover some of the basics of photographing dogs, cats, and the people who love them, including camera selection, accessories, and ways to get started quickly, regardless of your camera or current experience level. I also reference some of the images and content in other chapters of the book, as well as Web sites that relate to the tips presented. So without further ado, and with a friendly bark and a meow, on with the tips!
Please note: When you see notations like [w1.1], it means that a related Web link (and usually additional information) can be found by visiting the book's companion Web site at PhotoPetTips.com.
Important note: Also included with most of the tips is a description of the lighting used and the month and time of day that the photos were taken to help you better determine when you might find a certain quality of light. Unless otherwise stated, all photos were taken in the northeast United States (New York/New Jersey area).
Choose the right camera for your needs (and the needs of your pets)!
You'll definitely need a camera of some type to take photographs, so that's why this is the first official tip of the book. Overviews of the five most popular types of cameras used today are described below. Because there is so much I'd like to cover within each category, I go into more detail with all the camera types listed below in an article available on the book's companion Web site [w1.1].
Some cameras made today can be placed in multiple categories, but most people consider these to be the major categories:
Film Cameras: Most people (including me) learned photography using film cameras. Film cameras have been produced for over 100 years, and many types and models have been made. These include: Single-use plastic film cameras; Point-and-shoot 35mm film cameras; 35mm SLR (Single Lens Reflex) film cameras; and specialty film cameras, including swing-lens panoramic cameras that can produce some amazing images. Other options include pinhole cameras, as well as the Holga and Diana+, which help to produce very artistic images that must be seen to be believed [w1.2].
35mm DSLRs: 35mm DSLR's have become the most popular camera type for professional photographers, and many non-pros also use them because of the many features they offer [w1.3].
Digital Point-and-Shoot Cameras: Excluding camera phones, digital point-and-shoot cameras are the most popular category of digital camera. One of the main features most digital point-and-shoot cameras have that most DSLRs lack is video, but that gap is closing fast.
Video Cameras with Still Photo Modes: There are many video cameras on the market today that have very good–quality still picture modes, and the lines are blurring between video cameras and point-and-shoot still cameras [w1.4]. Please also note that when I refer to point-and-shoot cameras in this book, I am also referring to most video cameras with still photo modes.
Camera Phones: The popularity of the camera phone is nothing short of incredible. Whereas just a few years ago only a small percentage of the population carried a camera, today over a billion people worldwide have a camera at their side, integrated into their phone/smartphone. The quality of camera phones varies dramatically. Some are even capable of producing images that rival the image quality of good quality point-and-shoot digital cameras [w1.5]. Some tips for using camera phones can be found later in this tip.
Before making a camera purchase, it often helps to read the advantages and disadvantages of one type of camera compared with another. I've put together a few detailed articles on the book's companion Web site that compare the cameras discussed throughout this section [w1.6]. For example, most DSLRs have a traditional optical viewfinder instead of just a video representation of what you are about to capture, as found on most point-and-shoot cameras. That can be helpful because the built-in diopter that accompanies most optical viewfinders can be easily adjusted for your shooting eye. Also, putting the camera against your face when shooting can help stabilize it. Having a true optical viewfinder can also make manual focus and burst-mode photos in quick succession of a moving subject (like a jumping cat) much easier.
For this photo of Elwood, photographed on a sunny May afternoon at about 3 p.m., I asked him to sit on a bench near a window, and he soon discovered what a nice spot it was to soak up some rays. I show this image to demonstrate some of the advantages DSLR cameras have over most point-and-shoot cameras. First, I'm using a super-sharp 50mm macro lens, which I discuss more in Tip 3. It is of higher quality and has wider maximum aperture compared with most point-and-shoot camera lenses. Next, I shot the image at ISO 640, which results in considerably more grain on most point-and-shoot cameras. Finally, the DSLR I used shoots at a faster frame rate, and I'm able to capture more images without having to wait for the camera's buffer to catch up compared with just about any other point-and-shoot camera. That's not to say that you can't get great images and good frame rates with a point-and-shoot camera. It just helps sometimes to see why people go out of their way to carry and use DSLRs (and in some cases, multiple lenses).
I took this photo of a friend's fun-loving Beagle with a 10-megapixel Canon point-and-shoot digital camera at about 2 p.m. on a May afternoon. A photo of the same dog photographed in similar lighting (but not shaded under trees) can also be found in this chapter.
This photo of the same Beagle was shot in the parking lot of a restaurant with an Apple iPhone 3G. The overall quality is surprisingly good for a smartphone camera. I ran the "reduce noise" filter in Adobe Photoshop on the dark portion of the dog's fur to reduce some of the color noise in the photo.
A Few Camera Phone Tips
In the camera settings menu (if your camera phone has one), set it to the highest native picture resolution and quality if you want the best possible results. The highest resolution shown is usually the native resolution, and the manual should note if it is not.
If your camera has a slot for external memory, such as a micro SD card, buy a card and set the camera to record to the external card. Then purchase a card reader, or use the one built into your computer if you have one (an SD card adapter is usually included with every micro SD card). It will allow for much faster transfer speeds, and will avoid potential data charges from your cell carrier.
Turn off the camera phone's internal flash (most of them do a poor job) and go outside during the day to shoot, turn the lights on in your home, or use continuous lighting such as a lamp or diffused LED light for better overall results [w1.7]. See Chapter 8 for much more about lighting.
Use your opposite hand (the hand not holding your phone) to cradle and help stabilize your phone while taking pictures. This can dramatically improve sharpness, especially in low light situations.
I took the photo on the following page of a friend's black-and-white cat in low light with an LG enV cell phone. The camera provided little metadata for the image, resulting in none of the shot information (aperture, shutter speed, etc.) being recorded. However, I was able to choose the white balance setting, and I opted for "Daylight" because the LED light I used was similar to daylight (about 5500 degrees Kelvin–see Tip 4 for more about color temperature). The largest file size (1600 × 1200 pixels) was selected in the camera's menu.
Decide Whether You Want to Shoot in RAW, JPEG, or Another Mode
The decision to capture your images in RAW, JPEG, a combination of the two, or another mode is an important one. Shooting in your camera's RAW format gives you the ability to edit your images more effectively. I generally shoot RAW files only and process my files through a RAW processing application so that I don't have to store and archive multiple originals. However, there are reasons why you might choose to shoot JPEG only, or RAW plus JPEG. The main reasons for shooting both RAW and JPEG at the same time are the following:
You can quickly make an online gallery from the JPEGs and email the files without having to process them (though they may be quite large if not resized).
You can bring the JPEGs on a media card or CD (or in some cases, a DVD) to a photo lab (or use your own inkjet printer) to make prints without having to process them in a RAW processing application. If the photos are important, I'd highly recommend backing up the files in two places, such as your computer and an external hard drive, before inserting your card into any photo lab machine.
You can achieve a secondary backup of your images, and this is especially helpful for people with cameras that have two separate memory card slots. The camera can be set so that one card can be used for RAW files and the other for JPEGs.
More on this topic can be found in Chapter 8, Tip 71. Also included there are some of the reasons why a JPEG-only workflow may be right for you.
Consider your lens options carefully (Warning: This can get expensive!)
The number of lens options currently available (especially for DSLRs) is staggering. This is a topic that is discussed widely in many books and online, and I've put together some links to sites that specialize in lens ratings [w1.8], as well as a comprehensive article to help you determine what things to consider before buying a lens [w1.9]. For virtually every photo in this book, you will see information about the focal range and focal length of the lens I used. Keep in mind the "multiplier effect" when you read the lens info. If you use a 50mm lens on a full-frame 35mm DSLR like a Canon 5D, the same lens will approximate the focal length of a 75mm lens in 35mm terms on a smaller, APS-C-sized sensor camera such as the Canon 20D or Canon 50D.
Some point-and-shoot cameras have accessory lenses available that either replace the existing lens or screw onto the front of the lens. This can make for very nice effects, such as a fisheye look (great for close-ups of dogs) or a telephoto option that extends the lens' zoom capability.
While we are on the topic, whether you have a full-frame or a DSLR with a smaller sensor, I recommend considering a fixed–focal length 50mm lens. These lenses are light, compact, and affordable; good-quality models with wide maximum apertures (f/1.8 to f/2.8) are available for about U.S. $100–200. If you check the camera info, you'll notice that quite a few of the photos in this book were shot with a 50mm lens [w1.10].
Macro lenses (or cameras with a macro mode) allow you to create close-up images that are in focus. On point-and-shoot cameras and video cameras, a flower icon is generally used as the symbol to engage the macro shooting mode. Another option that I've used to make macro images are screw-on close-up lenses, which are compatible with DSLR lenses, as well as some point-and-shoot lenses. These attach to existing lenses, are very affordable, and they can also be used for pets, though you will generally need to get within about a foot of your subject for them to work properly. That makes them great for images of sleeping dogs or cats, and a tripod is recommended to help you get sharper photos. Sometimes a step-down adapter ring is needed to make them fit your particular lens or camera [w1.11].
Other options worth a look are the lenses from LensBaby [w1.12]. They make multiple models for DSLRs and other cameras that allow for creative focus similar to what you can produce with view cameras. The lenses take a bit of practice to get used to, but once you play with them for a little while, you will quickly see how they can help you produce images with a very interesting look and feel.
I photographed the two images of a Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier shown on the next two pages from the same spot with a Tamron 18–200mm lens on a Canon EOS 20D at about 8 p.m. in June. The camera's sensor is not a full-frame 35mm size, and its multiplication factor makes it approximately equivalent to a 30–320mm lens in 35mm terms. I should note that the wide-angle image is not cropped, and about 10 percent of the top and 10 percent of the bottom of the close-up view have been cropped.
Excerpted from Pet Photography 101 by Andrew Darlow Copyright © 2010 by Andrew Darlow. Excerpted by permission of Focal Press. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Chapter 1: Train Your Camera (But Don’t Make it Roll Over!) Chapter 2: It's All About Perspective (Tips for Composition and Camera Placement) Chapter 3: Bask in the Sunshine (Outdoor Lighting Tips) Chapter 4: I Do Windows! (Window Lighting Tips) Chapter 5: Let Sleeping Dogs (and Cats)...Sleep! Chapter 6: Where’d My Sock Go? (Tips for Setting Up and Capturing Fun Photos) Chapter 7: Holidazed and Confused (Photo Tips For Holidays and Events) Chapter 8: Barkness on the Edge of Town (Night and Low-Light Photography Tips) Chapter 9: The Digital Canine (Tech Tips, Including Hardware, Software and Printing Options)
Posted June 29, 2010
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This book is very good for the beginner pet photographer. There are amazing tips for getting the best shot of your pet. After I read this book I went and took photos of my pets and I listened to Andrew Darlow's tips and I got some very cool, sharp images of my pets!
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Posted May 28, 2012
Posted February 7, 2012
I try to get my sister (who wants to be a photagragher) to read this book ( beacause we have a cat ) and she won't do it
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Posted May 29, 2011
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