Indoor pet photography might be challenging, but it doesn’t have to mean that you have to put the camera away or always go outside for the shoot.
When photographing indoors, there are a few things you can do to make the process less frustrating and result in more good photographs on a more consistent basis. As a bonus, while the following recommendations are aimed toward pet photography, the same concepts may be applied to portraits of people or even general images of your house.
Getting adequate light is perhaps the most difficult aspect of interior photography to master. Indoor rooms are often darker than outside spaces, which can make for difficult shooting circumstances, particularly when photographing an animal that is unlikely to be totally cooperative with the photographer. As a result, windows will be your best friend in this situation. In fact, light that comes in via windows may be some of the most pleasant light to photograph since it is softened while still being sufficiently visible. Even on overcast days, shooting near a window will generally provide you with enough light to produce a crisp shot, so look for opportunities to do so! Those animals who enjoy looking out windows should take advantage of this. Those photographs have the potential to be quite adorable and nicely lit.
The possible risk of photographing in front of windows is that you will end up with bright backlighting, which will make attaining the proper exposure challenging. If you are photographing a subject with a window immediately behind them, you will need to find a happy medium between exposures that will prevent your window from being blown out but will not make your subject too dark to recover from the exposure mistake. How you adjust your exposure will depend on your subject, the amount of light coming in through the window, and your metering mode, but in general it is best to get an exposure that results in the highlights being close to properly exposed, as it is more likely that shadows will be recovered than highlights will be. Sometimes the greatest thing to do is to embrace the silhouette while still allowing the shadows to remain black as well.
Another issue while photographing indoors, and especially in one’s own house, in the background. You may find it challenging to find a location in a house that is free of distractions, especially if you are human and do not live in a home that is always magazine-ready and immaculate. It is best to photograph your dog or cat in a relatively clutter-free environment whenever feasible since simple backdrops will direct the viewer’s focus on your dog or cat (or whatever pet you are shooting) rather than anything else in the room. For those that let their dogs be on furniture, a sofa or bed is an excellent choice because they are generally against a wall and may serve as a very simple background!
Having said that, a backdrop that is overly solid might become monotonous and result in a flat image. It can even resemble a mugshot in some cases. Try relocating your animal away from the wall for at least a few feet (if space allows) if you want a consistent backdrop but don’t want it to blend into the background. This will generate some depth and distinction between the animal and the background. In addition, bear in mind that occasionally including some background information may help to enhance the atmosphere or story of an image, so don’t be hesitant to include it! The lights of a Christmas tree or a warm couch strewn with blankets and cushions may do a lot to create the tone and enhance the overall impression. Generally speaking, you should avoid images that are extremely cluttered and have too much going on in the frame, although giving some context might be beneficial.
When you are unable to photograph near a window, or when it is just dark outside, don’t be afraid to increase the ISO on your camera. It is preferable to avoid using a slow shutter speed since it will result in motion blur (because your subject is moving) and/or camera shaking (because the camera is moving during the exposure). A higher ISO will assist you in avoiding this. Yes, a high ISO produces noise, but if you underexpose by a significant amount in order to get a quicker shutter speed, you will still produce noise when you attempt to brighten the image in post-production. It is preferable to simply use a higher ISO and not have to brighten as much later on in the process. Furthermore, modern cameras are perfectly capable of handling high ISO settings!
A wide-open aperture will also be beneficial while photographing inside since it will allow more light to enter the scene. Furthermore, because a wide aperture results in a narrow depth of field, you might have any potentially distracting background things fall out of focus while shooting with a wide aperture. A shallow depth of field combined with Christmas lights may also result in some colorful and festive bokeh, which can make for a wonderful background for your furry buddy!
Another aspect of indoor photography that might be difficult is adjusting the white balance of the camera. White balance will not be an issue if you are shooting in natural light, but if you are utilizing lamps and other artificial light sources, white balance will most likely become a problem. However, artificial lighting can sometimes make auto-white balance insufficiently accurate. As long as your white balance is within a few degrees of being accurate, you may modify the final amount in post-production. Having said that, if the white balance is severely wrong, it may be quite difficult to fix and get a natural-looking image in post-production. In order to avoid this, you may need to turn off the auto white balance feature. Most of the time, one of the camera’s preset white balance settings will bring you near enough, so don’t be scared to experiment with the other settings!
Experiment with Multiple Angles
The final piece of advice I offer for taking indoor pet images is the same piece of advice I provide for taking photographs in various situations: experiment with different and creative angles. Get down on your knees to be at your pet’s level and to give them a better sense of their surroundings. If you want to avoid having to worry about backdrop clutter, you may either stand above them or shoot straight down from above them. When it comes to creating fascinating and successful photos, switching up your angles and taking diverse perspectives will make a significant impact.