One of the missions of Grumpy Pups is to honor the special place pets have in their owners’ lives. So one thing you will hear me say over and over in the years to come is to get great photographs of your pets while you have time.  Yes, a photo shoot with Grumpy Pups is a fantastic solution. But it’s not for everyone. If you have a camera and a few minutes to spend with your pet, you can take lasting impressions that are worthy of sharing or framing.

The photo below is a good example. There were no expensive props or complicated lighting plans involved. What I had on hand was:

  • a black cat
  • my black winter coat
  • a plastic chair

black cat yellow eyes

I draped my coat to completely cover the chair and made a little room for the cat. I didn’t put him in place – with a little time and attention, he jumped up to the chair on his own to get closer to me. We’d spent several minutes together already, so he was used to the clicking of the camera and he was feeling pretty comfortable. Try to put a cat in its place and the result will be pinned back ears, messed up fur, and a blurry cat trying to escape the scene!

The “trick” in this shot is a very shallow depth of field. In other words, only the cat’s eyes are truly in focus. The rest–especially toward the back–blurs together and loses definition. The result is a fabulous highlight of the cat’s face and those stunning yellow eyes. 

Here’s how to do it at home. Use a sheet or blanket as a background, set the shallowest focus you can get, and aim for the eyes. For those with DSLRs, a shallow focus is achieved by setting the aperture to the smallest numbers (f/1.4 in this case), which may also mean setting a faster shutter speed (here it is 1/200th of a second at ISO 800) depending on how much light you want to let in. Have a point-and-shoot? Try out the people/portraits setting, or the macro mode if you have one.

Take as many shots as you can; with such a narrow field of focus, it can be tricky to get the focus just right. Don’t delete anything until you can see how it looks at full size on a computer screen.

So give it a try! Above all, just enjoy the time with your pet and your camera. And feel free to share the results with me – I’d love to hear how it goes.

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Springer spaniels in a field of Michigan wildflowers

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