You love showing off your pets. And we love looking at them. In fact, we enjoy sifting through your submissions so much that we recently started an Instagram account to give them the audience they deserve. And since we joined the ’Gram (follow us @diamondpetfoods), we’ve started paying more attention to the quality of our own photos, so we thought we’d take this opportunity to pass along some tips that will help your pet photos stand out among the pack.
Most of these tips apply to all digital cameras, but we’re particularly focusing on smartphone photography here.
Good lighting is the number one element in a good photo. If your setting is too dark, chances are we won’t be able to make out the details, and it’s much harder for a phone to have sharp focus when it’s dark. The new iPhone 11s have great low-light technology, but our general rule is “the brighter, the better.” We want to make out every whisker on your kitty’s face.
The easiest way to ensure good light is to go outside or pose your pet near a window. Natural light is always the best option, unless you have an expensive studio setup. And even then, it’s often better just to go outside. Brighter settings mean that shutter speeds can be quicker, meaning that it’s easier to take sharp photos.
Maintain Your Focus
We receive tons of pet pictures, and the overwhelming majority of submissions we don’t use have a single problem in common: poor focus. Even a slight blur can ruin the best photo. Typically, there are two reasons for blurriness: low light (see above) and excessive movement. Especially if you’re taking action shots, the brighter the setting, the better. Again, bright natural light can cure a lot of ills.
To help ensure sharp focus, use the autofocus feature on your phone’s camera. On most modern phones, if you hold your finger in the spot of the photo you want to focus on, autofocus will turn itself on and then you can reframe the shot while maintaining your focal point.
Another great (but not always easy) way to keep your shots in focus is to use a tripod or some other way to stabilize your camera. No matter how steady your nerves are, your hands are always moving at least a little bit, and just a tiny tremor at the camera’s end can cause blurriness in the photo. So eliminate as much camera movement as possible, wherever possible.
The Eyes Have It
In most cases, and almost always when taking portraits, focus on the eyes. We see a lot of pet photos where that cute little snout is in sharp focus but the eyes seem to be a hazy, distant dream. As much as we like to see the texture of a close-up nose shot, in almost every case you’re better off showing us those eyes. Portrait Mode on the newer iPhone models is a brilliant invention, but it’s made for the flat faces of humans, not those with longer snoots. So if using that mode, make extra sure you make the eyes the focal point.
If blurriness is the number one issue we see in rejected submissions, cluttered, busy backgrounds are close runners-up. You want the attention to be on your posing pooch or modeling mouser, not, like, the toddler shoveling peanut butter into the dryer. In general, the simpler the background, the better. Even in a majestic outdoor setting, make sure your pet is front and center. This is another area where Portrait Mode is often a life-saver. If used properly, it will automatically blur the backgrounds juuuust enough that your pet will be the only thing we care about. As they should be!
Paws for Personality
As we all know, dogs and cats are people, too. Which means that they all have things they like best. When deciding on your photo’s “concept,” think about what will show off his or her personality the best. Are they sluggish couch potatoes? Do they think about the food 24/7? Are they Frisbee-oriented individuals? Are they goofy? Aloof? Considering which of their personality traits to show off will often be the thing that makes your pet leap out of the frame (in a good way) and tell us everything we need to know about them in a single snap.
Bribe the Model
Getting your pet to sit still and look at the camera can be harder than herding cats — and if you’re herding those cats for photography purposes, well, we’d love to see it. But the number one reason for blurry, weirdly framed or out-of-focus photos is because the pet just wouldn’t cooperate. So don’t be morally above bribing your models. Use their favorite thing, whether that’s a person, toy or treat, to get their attention. If you’re creative, you might even make that bribe part of the photo:
We hope these tips help you take tons of great pet pics, because we want to see tons of your pet pics. After all, we have an Instagram feed to fill now! Follow us at @diamondpetfoods on Instagram and tag us in your photos or with #DiamondPetFoods. We just might feature your photo on our social media channels or even in The Scoop, our monthly newsletter, especially if your pets are posing with their favorite Diamond formula.