I recently wrote 5 tips for photographing pets with a cell phone camera. The article was one that a lot of people read and will use for personal photos of their pets. I always hope that the tips will help with photographing pets in a situation where they may be lost or looking for a forever home. I plan to write several blog posts that will be little pointers to assist in candid cell phone photography. I personally have found and caught dogs running loose, I immediately snap a cell phone photo of the dog and post it. I of course have all the camera equipment for professional photos but occasionally it is faster to get a great photo for posting on social media and other websites to help the animal.
When photographing pets with an iPhone or other cell phone camera, plan on the photos not being of the highest quality. They are snapshots meant for fun sharing and a quick portrait. The camera is useful in brightly lit situations. A few general guidelines will help greatly improve your cell phone camera photos. I have had an iPhone since they were first released in 2007. I will often backup my photos taken on my phone to my computer. I have been on road trips and vacations and only used my iPhone camera and left the expensive camera in the room. The iPhone camera is one of the best point and shoot systems I have ever used before. I often use iPhone photos for behind the scenes photos of events and portrait sessions.
The iPhone has a few "modes" for taking photo and video. When photographing pets, it's best to avoid the time-lapse and panoramic features. I also never photograph in the square format as you can always crop for that later in an app such as Snapseed. The Slo-Mo video is great for capturing action, use this mode for capturing a dog catching a treat or a cat swatting the cat toy. The video will generally be short and will draw a lot of attention.
The iPhone has video and camera capabilities use video if the animal is doing something a bit more entertaining than just sitting or laying around. This will capture the moment, try to keep video clips to a shorter amount of time around 10-15 seconds is usually good. The attention span wanders quickly and people will start to think of other things and shut the video off if it is long.
iPhone pet photography is about knowing the strength and weaknesses of the camera and using them to your advantage. I will not try to photograph action with the iPhone camera, I will either use video or just enjoy the playfulness of the animal. A great time to have the camera ready is when the pet is about to wear out from playing, find a well-lit spot and wait for them to tire out. Use this time to capture unique portraits adjust the angles and have fun snapping random photos.
When you are using the iPhone if you tap on the screen where you want the camera to focus it can help with exposure as well. This is a wonderful tool to use with black or white pets as the camera may be trying to under or over expose the photo and once you tap on them it will bring up a proper exposure. Black dogs can be tricky to photograph they need a lot light to look good in photos. On the screen if you tap and then drag your finger up and down it will adjust the exposure of the photograph, use this to your advantage when black or white animals appear dark on the screen.
When photographing pets always look for nice even light. This is something that a professional photographer can always find without much looking around. What you are looking for is to make sure that the sun isn't creating a harsh shadow. This is usually bad for photographs as you have a side that is extremely well lit and one that is dark. The camera reads one side and it makes a very solid line down the photograph that is not appealing. Keep in mind where your shadow is as this can cast a terrible shadow on the pet outdoors.
I am always looking for the attention of the animal. I notice a lot of people will often try raising their hands and other movements when trying to get attention. While this occasionally works I prefer a quick weird noise. This will help in getting a great portrait. That is my style I prefer to have images of the animal totally engaged with the camera. I know others like portraits where the animal is gazing out a window for example. If you are looking for profile photos it may be better to be quiet and not get the pet's attention.
I always take several photos I try different angles and lighting. A trick to find the best photo is to quickly flip thru all of the photos after you are done. The one that you remember and sticks out to you is the best photo. Remember that even though you love all 100 photos that you may take if you narrow it down to the best one or two photos the impact will be stronger.