How to Photograph Pets: Colorful Adventures of Feathers & Birds

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  By Jonathan Ma
How to Photograph Pets: Colorful Adventures of Feathers & Birds

In the US alone, there are over 8,000,000 pet birds. They are the third most popular pet in that country. Photographing birds is a fun and enjoyable activity. Most birds have bright colors and will stay fairly still for you to photograph them. They are also usually perched high up in their cage so it is easy to achieve eye level with them. In this guide, we’ll discuss tips and tricks for photographing pet birds.

Get Close to the Subject

Pet birds are most often put inside a cage to prevent them from flying away. The cage bars can get in the way when photographing pet birds. To overcome this challenge, simply step in closer to the cage. The closer you are to the pet bird, the more blurry everything else around it will become, including the cage bars. This is the solution when you are not able to take the pet bird out of the cage. If possible, try to position the pet bird on the further side of the cage, away from the cage bars closest to you. This will help blur out the cage bars between you and the pet bird. Using a telephoto lens such as the Canon EF 85mm f/1.4L IS USM lens can also help the photographer to isolate the bird with a shallow depth of field. The shallow depth of field will only render a small portion of the image in focus. The main point of focus should be on the pet bird’s eyes. The eyes of the subject are almost always the point where the eye naturally looks at in an image, so it should be in focus.

Framing the Subject

Since birds usually live in cages, your options are somewhat limited in regards to composition. This doesn’t mean that it is impossible to create natural frames for your subject though. Look for a center perch in the birdcage and have the bird sit on there. Oftentimes you can use the birdcage itself as a frame for your scene. Look for different angles that you can position yourself in to get a better composition. Another option is to use props in the background to frame the subject, such as a large picture frame. When you are able to frame the subject, it helps put emphasis on the subject in a natural way.

Open Up the Cage

Depending on the type of bird and how well trained it is, you may be able to let the pet bird out of its cage. Make sure you communicate with the pet owner before doing this, you don’t want to lose their beloved pet forever! Many pet bird owners have actually trained their birds to recognize the owner’s call and come back to the owner on command. Photographers can take advantage of this by taking photos of the birds in their natural habitat – up high on tree branches. When pet birds are able to roam free, they appear in photos to be more like wild birds. Wild birds have limitless freedom. Although pet birds don’t have that kind of freedom, some pet bird owners actually let their birds fly around in the house or in the yard quite often. If you are going to be photographing pet birds outdoors, remember to bring a telephoto lens so you’ll be able to get closer to the subject. If you only have wide and mid-range lenses, you may miss out on a lot of photographic opportunities as the pet bird flies around.

Photograph Their Friends, Too

Pet bird owners usually have more than one bird. Oftentimes, the pet birds are all from the same family. When birds that are related to each other live together, they will usually get along very well. Sometimes they have cute interactions with each other. As a photographer, it is important to look out for these little interactions. Ask the pet bird owner which ones are related and you’ll start to understand which ones to watch. Birds are very social creatures that often chirp to each other for communication. They also communicate via visual displays. Ask the pet owner if they know how to get the birds to do this. Sometimes the bird owner knows tricks to get the birds to put on a visual display.

Happy shooting!


Rating: 5.00 based on 2 Ratings
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Jonathan Ma

Jonathan Ma is a freelance writer and professional photographer. He grew up in the beautiful Pacific Northwest of the United States. The natural beauty that surrounds this area has helped him to learn to appreciate art and photography. Jonathan's favorite styles of photography are nature and sports photography. He enjoys learning and teaching others what he knows.

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