Pet photography tips: Using your mobile phone

When you have a pet up for adoption or found a missing cat or dog, one of the first few things you should do is to take a picture of it for an adoption or lost pet notice. Chances are, the camera most readily available would be the one on your mobile phone. Here are some tips for getting the most out of your mobile phone camera so that the photographs captured can help bring more attention to your notice. Note: All images in this post was taken using a Samsung Galaxy Nexus.

Using light to your advantage

In essence, photography is about painting with light, so ideally we would need a good amount. While to your eyes, a room with a light on may be perfectly fine, it may be too dark for your phone’s camera, leading to blurred images due to the animal’s or your hand’s movement. The following are some pointers you can follow to make the most of the light you have.

Shoot outdoors or near windows If you cannot take the dog/cat outdoors to an area of open shade (under a porch, shelter in a park), try taking pictures of them near a window or source of natural light.

Try not to use flash The small LED light used in mobile phone cameras can cause the animal to have the dreaded green-eye effect and makes pictures look flat and dull (not to mention scary). It may also startle the animal, so disable your camera’s flash before you aim it at your subject.

Stabilise yourself To minimise blur caused by the movement of your mobile phone, you need to find the most stable position for your body. Try holding your phone closer to your body instead of extending them out towards your subject. If your phone allows, set one of the volume buttons to be the shutter (instead of using the soft button on your screen) as this would free both hands to hold the phone better. Lastly leaning, kneeling, sitting or lying on stable surfaces can greatly help in keeping your mobile phone stable.

Position of light Having enough light is good, but it is also important to note where the light comes from.  The best way would be to shoot with the sun or light source either behind you or to the side. For most mobile phone, having a strong light source behind the subject would cause the subject to be very dark or underexposed.

Composition Tips

Another aspect to consider would be how to shoot the dog/cat in such a way that is flattering to help draw more attention.

Get Level We are so used to seeing animals from our human vantage point as we tower high above them. Take it down to their level and treat them as an equal to get better shots.

Get closer Try to get as close to the animal as possible such that they fill most of the screen. This would help reduce the number of distractions that might be present in the background, allowing more attention on the subject. Note that you should only get as close as the animal permits. Do not make them feel threatened or frightened by shoving a mobile phone in their face.

Figure 3: We got as close as possible to this friendly fella! Note the eye-level vantage point.

Chop-chop While getting close is good, you should not get too close such that ears, noses or parts of the limbs get cut off. Ideally if you want to take a complete shot to show markings, try not to cut off limbs or tails. For face-only shots, try not to cut off ears.

Windows to the soul The most important feature are the eyes; as the old adage goes, they are windows to the soul. For face shots, it is essential to ensure that the eyes prominent and well-exposed as they are what people normally first look out for in a picture. Exceptions may apply when the animal has fur that covers the eyes or have been blinded or missing eyes.

We hope you have found this guide useful in helping you to take better animal pictures. Remember though that like any art, it does require a lot of practice so do not be discouraged if you cannot seem to get it right immediately.

This post was contributed by Nicholas from Furry Photos (