How to put your pet in pictures--ones you take yourself

PETS AT HOME

August 27, 1994|By Gina Spadafori | Gina Spadafori,McClatchy News Service

Pssst . . . wanna see some pet pictures ? I've got a million of NTC them, and they're not bad, I swear it. My dogs at the park, my dogs at the beach, my dogs on the couch, just because they look so cute.

And not just my dogs. I've got pictures of my friends' pets, too, and I'm a sucker for pet shows, parks and zoos. I like a picture with personality. A cat stalking a grasshopper. A dog caught mid-yawn. People at one end of a leash who have no idea what's going on at the other.

It's not hard to take such pictures, if you keep your camera ready and your eyes open. Be prepared for disappointments, and remember: Practice makes perfect.

It's best to master the basics by picking on your own pet. What do you need? A gracious and patient animal, a camera, some time to fool around, and a little information.

You'll need a camera, to start with, but what kind? It depends on

you, and what you're comfortable using. It's easier to take good pictures with a camera you can adjust. "Idiot-box" cameras are designed to take pictures of people from 6 feet away, and that's not close enough for most animals. If you're technically inept, as I am, you might want to invest in an auto-focus camera. The camera will guarantee a sharp focus with the correct exposure, leaving you to pick your picture.

You need something to get your pet's attention. Food is an obvious choice -- liverwurst and cheese seem to work well. It's also good, for some shots, to have some "smearable" food like butter. Put something yummy on one animal or on your child's cheek -- your pet will try to lick it off, but the effort will look like a kiss. Depending on your pet, you also might try to grab attention with a tennis ball, squeaky toy, or keys.

An assistant is valuable for holding the animal or focusing its attention. A child is a wonderful helper as well as subject: Kids and pet pictures are a natural.

The best place is outside. If you must take pictures inside, avoid the red-eyed reflection in the animal's eye by not pointing the flash straight at him. Or have the animal look off to the side, at your assistant.

Inside or out, pick a place that's free of clutter. A simple background focuses attention on the subject. Look for a background that will contrast the color of your pet. Put a dark-colored cat in front of a light-colored background to make him stand out.

Now, start composing your shot. The biggest mistake many make is not looking at the whole picture. These are the people -- and I've been one of them -- that take a perfectly focused picture of a beautifully groomed dog in the middle of a lovely green lawn -- and don't notice that there's a power pole growing out of his back. Focus on your subject, then look over everything else, removing items or moving your pet until you've got the shot you want.

Take the picture from the pet's level, or slightly below. With everything set, get your pet's attention by waving food, throwing keys, squeaking a toy, or saying a magic word -- "cookie!" It's better to have an assistant do the attention-getting, if you can, since it lets you concentrate on pressing the shutter, but it also focuses the pet's attention away from the camera.

Keep your sessions short, and don't forget to keep them fun, with lots of praise all around.

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