How to Photograph Your Pet

pet portraitscate pratoHave you noticed I love my dog? Senghe is such a sweet boy and a real cutie. I love showing off his picture here and was also thrilled to have him included in 101 Patchwork Projects + Quilts.

But anyone who knows Senghe also knows that he is a real people person and isn't one to just sit there obediently. At least not for long.

So the #1 question I get asked about the pictures is, "How did you get him to pose like that?"

It wasn't easy. Several assistants and one speedy professional photographer were involved. But it was worth it, in the end.

If you want to take pictures of your pet yourself, and especially if you want to turn those photos into a fabric art or mixed-media portrait, I have some advice for you, courtesy of fabric artist and pet lover Faith Cleary.

Faith specializes in creating pet portraits, and she almost always starts from a photograph. On her new Quilting Arts WorkshopTM DVD, "Pet Picture Quilts Made Easy: Fabric Collage Techniques," Faith explains how to capture a photograph of your pet that will lend itself well to further artistic interpretation.

pet portraitsFaith Cleary's Pet Photo Tips

Use a digital camera. A digital camera will allow you to see instantly whether you have the shot or not, and delete what you don't need (which is probably most of the shots). It also makes it easier to tweak the photo with imaging software. If you don't have a digital camera, you can probably borrow one.

Take photos on the pet's eye level. This way you can look straight into their eyes. Faith admits that this is how she gets her exercise: chasing dogs around and then crouching in front of them with the camera. Shooting them from above is easier on your back and knees, but the angle can distort their features.

Get their attention. It may take some trial and error, but find some thing or some word that will make the pet sit still and look at you. For Senghe, it was the photographer calling his name. For Pokey Bolton's dog, Louie, it's hearing the word "Cookie!" Many of Faith's clients respond to a treat, a favorite toy, or even a dirty sock.

Shoot in good light, preferably outside. Unless you're experienced with professional lighting, shooting outside is your best chance of catching your pet in the best light. A mildly sunny or even slightly overcast day is best to avoid harsh shadows or very bright light that makes you or the pet squint. Avoiding very bright light or shadows also helps you capture the pet's coloring and the color values that will give you good contrast for translating your photo into art.

pet portraitsA word about cats. Most cats are not crazy about posing, but if you work with their natural instincts, you can get a great picture. Take advantage of their preference for sitting up high near a window. Be ready with the camera, and you'll catch them just where you want them: at eye level in good light.

pet portraitsOnce you have your great picture, you can now translate it into art with fabric, paint, or mixed media.

Faith's method of fabric collage involves tracing the photo and making an "appliqué road map" that's like creating puzzle pieces. Faith's collage, sewing, and embellishment techniques really help you bring out the pet's personality in the portrait.

Faith makes the process look so easy with her step-by-step directions, I'm feeling confident enough to attempt a pet portrait of my own. Download "Pet Picture Quilts Made Easy" and give it a try yourself.

Now, where did that dog get to? Here, Senghe! Here, boy!

P.S. Have you made your own pet portrait? How did it go? Leave a comment below and we'd love to see a link to a photo, too. Or, post a picture on the Cloth Paper Scissors Facebook page.

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