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Unread 08-20-2008   #1 (permalink)
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Red face How to Take the Purrrrrfect Picture for a Pet Portrait

Taking the Perfect Picture for a Pet Portrait

For many of us, our pets are part of our family. And for those of us without children, they take the place of children; often times receiving birthday parties, Christmas and Hanukah gifts, and even weddings. Think I’m off my rocker? Google “pets” and see how many sites are dedicated to every creature-comfort your baby, I mean pet, could possibly want. These sites offer everything from sweaters to strollers to even cloning.
Given that many pets do not outlive their owners (and wouldn’t it just tug on our heartstrings even more if little Peppé did?), the strife one experiences over the loss of a pet can be debilitating. It is no shock, given the strong emotions we feel towards our pets, that many people are now looking to commemorate their pets by hiring skilled artists to create pet portraits or capture our loved ones in their prime by hiring pet photographers. My personal opinion is that while a picture is worth a thousand words, art is priceless. As an artist myself, a picture is merely the beginning. Capturing everything from that devilish look in the eye, to drawing the fur growing on my pet’s snout speaks volumes over a simple “point, shoot, print, done” picture. Plus, nothing’s more amazing than seeing a three dimensional piece on a flat piece of paper, nevertheless one that looks exactly the way you remember your pet as.
The key to a great pet portrait is a great picture of your pet. Many people make the mistake of wanting a picture of a perfectly posed pet when it’s the candid shots that are the best shots. Catching your pet while he or she is sleeping or playing are best because these are the moments we often remember. Think about your own pet. What memory comes to mind first: the one when he sat perfectly or the time he discovered that snapping turtle in the backyard and learned not to mess with him? See?
If you’re having trouble selecting the perfect picture of your pet, maybe it’s time to pick up your camera and start snapping a few shots (if you already do, skip to the second bullet point to read what is necessary for a “good” photograph). You don’t need to be a professional to get great shots of your pet. Here are a few hints I list for my customers when they’ve decided to commission a pet portrait from me:
• Be patient. Animals are perceptive and will sense if you’re stressing out. If you find yourself losing your temper, step back, take a few deep breaths and try again later. For myself, I find that I am most relaxed in the evening, and so I take the majority of my pet photographs then. However, for the novice photographer this brings with it the problem of light in photographs. If there’s not enough the photograph will not be suitable for your artist, and if there’s too much from the flash a similar problem arises. I recommend communicating with your artist; but keep in mind the goals of a “good” photograph.
• Whether you’re taking a picture or already have a stack selected, you must have a good photograph to submit to your artist. Regardless of what your artist boasts or how well you describe things, that cute marking on Sparky’s ear will always be slightly off at best if not completely wrong if it’s been cropped out of the original picture you give to the artist. Thus a good photograph is defined as one that shows all of the important components that make up your special pet; eyes, ears, head, etc. Not only must your photograph have all of the necessary parts of your animal, but it must also be clear enough for the artist to make out.
• Use that zoom feature! I’ve read differing opinions regarding whether or not it’s best to be close to or far away from your pet while trying to snap the best shot, but I can’t for the life of me understand why someone would suggest being close. When I take pictures of my pets, I always keep my distance. Once my pets are on to my motives, they either want to play (which always results in an all too blurry image of my dog’s nose) or hide (which then results in a picture of a dog hiding his head). Sometimes it’s best to have someone play with your pet while you snap pictures and other times it’s best to sneak up and quietly take pictures while he’s sleeping.

By using these simple guidelines you are now ready to select or shoot pictures of your pet. See my article, “What to Consider When Hiring a Pet Portrait Artist”, for the next step!

This article was written by Shannon Tahir of Shannon’s Pet Portraits. This article can be viewed from her website,, pet drawings, pet portraits, dog drawings, animal drawings - Articles.
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Unread 08-21-2008   #2 (permalink)
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