Pets are the most popular subject by far when it comes taking family portraits, according to a new Nikon announcement.
The manufacturer conducted a survey across 12 European countries and found that the vast majority of people consider pets part of their immediate family and include them in their everyday activities – particularly their photography.
In the UK, 49% of those surveyed said that immediate family is their most popular subject to shoot, and of their family portraits, pets trumped partners by 45% to 19% when asked which was their preferred sitter.
What’s more, 54% of those in the UK own cats compared to dogs (49%).
Commenting on the research, Carli Davidson, international award winning pet and animal photographer, said: “This research shows just how important a role pets play in family life, so it is understandable that we want to capture and share their precious moments, just as we would a child, sibling or partner – if not more so.
“That said, it can be difficult to get the right shot. You cannot control animals the same way as humans – they are often moving targets, and conveying their personality in a still image is challenging.”
Davidson offered the following pet photography tips to help people improve their pictures.
- Make pets love the camera. Let them sniff it and lick it. Hold it below them so that the camera becomes less intimidating. Reward them with treats when they approach it and show interest, but remember to protect your lens from slobber with a filter.
- Make sure you feel positive. Animals are intuitive, they communicate with expressions and body language so they instinctively know if you are not in the mood to have fun, and they respond accordingly. Go into the shoot ready to have a good time, and they will want to play along.
- Try to get their attention. Hold a squeaker or a toy over your lens to get them to look into the camera. Be warned, some pets will just bolt for the toy. Also, try not to over squeak, pets are smart and will lose interest quickly if they realise they are not rewarded for responding to the noise.
- Use trained behaviours and tricks. This is particularly relevant for dogs, but does your pet know how to roll over? If so, take a photo of them lying on their back. Practice their ‘stay’ while you get portraits of them. They will be focusing on you for a reward and for direction so you should be able to get some good eye contact. Also, get to know which words and sounds your pet responds to. Tapping their food bowl usually gets a reaction, and words and phrases like ‘treat’, ‘car ride’, ‘do you want to go for a walk?’ or even just their name can generate some cute head tilts and excited expressions.
- Try using props to capture different expressions. If you are photographing a dog outside, grab a long stick and use one hand to play with your pet while shooting with the other. You will get some pretty funny faces from them trying to grab it. If you are shooting a cat, remember how much they concentrate on toys. You could try dangling a feather on a string out of frame, or throwing a ball for them to chase – this can generate some hilarious cat poses if you take the photo at just the right moment.