If you have pets, you’ve no doubt already taken hundreds of snapshots of them. Who can resist trying to capture those goofy faces, deranged grimaces or wild savagery in play that make us adore them? No matter how naturally photogenic pets may be, they are notoriously tough models, refusing to sit still for portraits and pet-selfies. It’s not always easy to get their best sides, but you can always catch their beast side — head-deep in the garbage can, dragging around expensive headphones or gnawing on Italian leather shoes.
Instead of making your dog or cat sit for a formal portrait, try taking your pet photography to the next level. Using forced perspective photography, you can alter the perception of size and dimension of your pet, making it seem much larger than it is in reality. With the high-speed features of a Canon DSLR camera, a willing human model and a neutral background, you can quickly and easily capture your pet as the giant monster that holds an even bigger place in your heart.
• DSLR camera and lens
• Spare batteries and memory cards
• Pet and model
• Squeaky toys/treats
1. Learn How to Distort Perspective
You don’t need special filters, sophisticated camera techniques or photo editing software to achieve the effects of forced perspective photography. Using props or models, you can easily create illusions with perspective distortion. Perspective distortion is an old-school composition technique that makes one object appear preposterously larger in comparison to surrounding objects. This simple effect is reached by placing a subject in the foreground and one or more subjects in the background. Because photographs are two-dimensional, the captured image will compress the distance between the foreground and background, making it seem like the subjects are closer together and the farther-away subject will actually look smaller.
An example of forced perspective by photographer Jennifer Borget
Perspective distortion is often used to alter perception in photos with famous statues and monuments, where tourists appear to be the same size as the Eiffel Tower or attempt to push the Leaning Tower of Pisa back into place. This optical illusion works best when there is interaction, props or a story to sell the idea of the distorted perspective. If you really want to make your dog seem like a real monster, you'll need a convincing model in the background.
2. Select Your Camera Mode
The toughest part of this trick is getting your dog to stay in position long enough to stage the effect. Animals are naturally prone to moving instantly and without warning, so speed is of the essence. To quickly capture your monster dog, you have a variety of Automatic and Manual choices available on your camera: Sports mode, Landscape mode and Tv (Shutter-Priority) mode.
Sports mode, available on the Rebel series, is optimal for beginning photographers capturing high-quality action. The camera automatically applies settings based on the characteristics of a typical fast-action scene. In Sports mode, the camera disables the flash and selects a fast shutter speed with an appropriate aperture setting. It also enables AI Servo AF for continuous autofocus, allowing the camera’s focusing system to track your subject as it moves, which is great for subjects prone to spontaneous activity.
Landscape mode, also available on the Rebel series, is designed for scenes that require a greater depth of field, such as scenery and cityscapes. This Scene mode works by adjusting the aperture setting so the foreground and background are in sharp focus. In Landscape mode, flash is disabled, and autofocus is automatically set to One-Shot. One-Shot AF Mode will lock autofocus as long as your finger remains pressed halfway on the shutter button.
Set your camera to Sports or Landscape mode by turning the Mode dial on the top of the camera to the Sports or Landscape icon.
In Tv mode (Shutter Priority), you have control over the shutter speed, and the camera automatically selects an appropriate aperture for the light conditions. To capture a puppy on the move, use a shutter speed of 1/400th sec. or higher to freeze the action. Avoid adding flash because the sudden burst of light can unnerve an animal. The harsh light can also wash out light-colored fur and cause an effect similar to red-eye in humans. If your exposure seems too dark, switch to Manual mode and manually adjust your aperture to a lower number and/or raise the ISO (camera sensitivity).
A wide-angle lens such as the EF 24mm lens is best for Landscape mode, but a standard zoom EF-S 18-55mm lens can also handle wide-angle shots while giving you more flexibility in capturing your dog’s adventurous spirit.
3. Capture Your Pet’s Beast Side
Your pet’s comfort level is important when trying to photograph it. If he is in a foreign environment, he may be anxious or keen to explore. For the best results, try photographing him in your own backyard or a familiar spot so he is at ease. Feeding your pet before the shoot might also help relax him. If your pet is uncomfortable with the camera in its face, set it nearby so he can sniff around and become familiar with it.
Since this is a fun scene and not a formal portrait, look for ways to highlight his unique personality and unusual physical characteristics. Does your dog have jagged teeth, floppy jowls or a tendency to drool? Amplify those quirks to a grotesque degree.
If your dog knows a few commands or tricks, use those to inspire monster-like poses. If he is shy, disinterested or unwilling to pose, your human model should be ready to improvise a few reactions to pull off the “monster” effect.
4. Plan Your Composition
Perspective distortion is all in the composition. To successfully create the illusion, you need to consider location, angles and framing.
Choose a location that is neutral and free from objects that may detract from the subjects or the overall effect. A plain, unobtrusive background — such as a concrete wall or flat, open field — will make both of your subjects pop. If you shoot outdoors on an overcast day, you can also avoid awkward shadows that might spoil the effect. To minimize distractions, frame your image so that only your subjects are visible. Remove any debris from the middle ground between your subjects.
Get down to your pet’s level, literally. In general, this eye-level perspective of your pet’s world will make for a more engaging and intimate portrait. In this case, getting your camera as low as possible will enhance his monster stature. You may need to set your camera on the ground or low surface, but you don’t need to get so low. If your camera has an articulated LCD swivel screen, you can tilt it up and use Live View to compose your shot.
5. Be Patient
It could take time for your dog to settle down enough for a portrait. While you wait, use the time to take some test shots, experiment with angles and try different reaction shots with your human model.
When your pup is ready for its close-up, you won’t want to miss a millisecond. Use Continuous Shooting in Drive mode to increase your chances of capturing the action. If you’re shooting multiple poses or just want a better chance at that perfect shot, you’ll need large-capacity memory cards, because Continuous Shooting mode will quickly fill them up.
Sometimes your best compositions are ones you initially dismissed. When sorting through your shots later, you may discover interesting, startling features because you were quick in the moment.
Unexpected moments are par for the course in pet ownership and you’ll want to preserve every adorable, surprising and monstrous moment of their lives. Capturing moments large and small is about being in the right place at the right time — and simply being ready. With your Canon DSLR, you’re ready to shoot for greatness all the time.