This section is from the book "Complete Self-Instructing Library Of Practical Photography", by J. B. Schriever. Also available from Amazon: Complete Self-Instructing Library Of Practical Photography.
Introduction. There are few branches of photography affording more pleasure, yet requiring more patience, than the photographing of animals, whether domestic pets, wild animals, blooded cattle or horses. To obtain satisfactory results, the photographer of animals must have a thorough knowledge of his subject. Especially is this true when photographing wild animals, and in this latter case you should be a naturalist in a practical, if not in a scientific sense; otherwise, you will be working totally in the dark.
576. There are but few general rules applying to the photographing of all classes of animals, each particular kind possessing peculiar points which must be brought into prominence in order that satisfactory results be secured. No matter whether photographing animals or persons, remember that it is essential to have the important features predominate, keeping in subjection the uninteresting as well as the weaker points.
Camera. Although it is permissible to use almost any instrument for the photographing of animals, yet if you desire to make this subject a study you will find that a camera of the reflex pattern is preferable. When this instrument is fitted with a high grade anastigmat lens it is possible to make instantaneous exposures and secure photographs of animals in most natural positions. The ability to watch the subject up to the instant of exposure is another strong feature in favor of the reflecting type of cameras. Naturalists, or those who wish to photograph wild animals in their native haunts, will find it necessary to use an extremely long focus lens or one of the telephoto type, as with an equipment of this kind it is possible to remain a considerable distance from the subject, unobserved.
Photographing Domestic Pets. A cat or a dog is to be found in almost any home, and either of these animals will be excellent subjects with which to experiment. It is advisable to have everything arranged properly before posing the subject.
579. Random methods cannot be employed in this branch of the work. It is necessary that the greatest amount of patience and kindness be employed. You must wait patiently until such a time as the animal places itself in the desired position, and unless patience is combined with kindness you are doomed to disappointment.
580. The average worker makes the mistake of having the image too small. It is advisable to have the subject from six to ten feet from the lens. At this distance, with average light out-doors and using a stop not larger than F. 16, the exposure will be approximately 1-25 of a second. Much will depend, however, upon the color of the subject. A black dog, with a heavy coat of hair, will require fully double the exposure of one light in color. If you are holding the camera, be very careful that you do not move it, for although this exposure is rather short it requires a certain amount of skill to avoid traces of movement showing.
581. When photographing dogs it will be almost impossible to set your camera on a tripod, as this subject is usually quite lively and will tax your patience to a considerable degree.
582. Dogs having long coats of hair, like the collie, should be photographed on a day when the wind does not blow to any extent, as the hair will be blown about, making it almost impossible to secure a good picture. A general rule in photographing dogs is to have them face slightly toward the camera. Do not take a straight, broad side view, unless the proportions of the dog are such as to give a well composed picture and show good lines throughout. This rule holds good particularly with the heavier types of dogs, such as the bull-dog. The hound, collie, and dogs of slight frame may be photographed from the side. It is necessary to use judgment, of course, as each individual subject will require somewhat different treatment.
"PRINCESS" Study No. 37 By John M. Schreck.
SWANS Study No. 38 By Harriet Lyman.
FIGHTING IT OUT DOWN THE STRETCH Study No. 39 By John M. Schrece.
583. The cat is an extremely easy subject to photograph, if the picture is made at home in a familiar position. Cats are not favorable to strangers at any time, less so when placed before a camera. The cat may be photographed indoors or on the porch where there is good light. The background is a feature which must be taken into consideration, and if possible a white one should be employed.
584. There is one thing in particular which will please this subject. A cat likes to be warm and comfortable, and if you place her on a piece of flannel it will be very seldom that you will have any trouble to secure satisfactory results. A sheet hung over a clothes-horse will answer as a background. The flannel on which the cat is laid may also be of white. A cat photographed in this way against white comes out in the picture more like a very clever drawing, for the camera is an excellent draftsman if you will only utilize its powers. If the cat is photographed on a cushion, chair, or amid like surroundings, the accessories are made of equal importance with the cat and all the beautiful lines are lost.
585. In photographing a cat you may find it necessary to have an assistant to entertain the subject while you are preparing to make the exposure. Do not make the cat too playful, however, or she will move out of focus and give you no end of trouble. Simply stroke her gently or play with her with a bit of string. It is not advisable to offer food, except as a last resort, as it will make the cat too eager and you will then be unable to have her lie in the position you desire.
586. The secret of success lies in your being patient. The work should only be attempted when you have plenty of time. It is better to get your subject onto a certain spot and focus; then insert the plate holder and wait for a good pose.
587. In addition to the background just mentioned, we wish to impress upon you the importance of always having backgrounds as simple as possible. Do not employ one that will detract from the subject.
588. It is important that animals be photographed in a good light, and nothing will surpass the outdoors on a cloudy day, or a place protected from the direct rays of the sun.
589. It is usually advisable to get everything ready before placing the subject in front of the camera. For instance, if it is necessary to have a small platform or a box on which to place the subject, this should be arranged; then place your hat or any similar object in the position which is to be occupied by the subject. Focus sharply on this; remove it, and after inserting the plate-holder, setting the shutter and withdrawing the slide in the holder, place the subject in the position occupied by the hat. See that the platform or support is perfectly solid for if it is at all movable it will frighten the subject. As soon as the proper position is secured the exposure may be made. By following this method the subject will be perfectly fresh and calm, and when placed on the platform or box in the same plane as the article which was focused, it should be absolutely sharp.
590. In the case of the cat it is much better to allow her to choose her own position. Pat her with the right hand, and at the same time hold the bulb of the shutter in the left ready for the first opportunity to make an exposure.
591. Prize dogs require all their strong points to be shown in the photograph. They must be handled according to their individual temperament; therefore, it will be necessary to have some one with the dog to give you special instructions, if you do not know the important points of the animal.
592. There are many other subjects to be found in and around the home and especially so in the country, very charming pictures may be made of young chickens, ducklings or goslings. Particularly fine opportunities present themselves when photographing water fowls swimming, as the reflection of light from the water affords a strong illumination which helps greatly in the lighting. Chickens feeding are good subjects for pictures.
593. The composition will be materially improved if a little child is properly placed in the act of throwing grain to the birds or fowls.
594. When individual birds are to be photographed, great care must be exercised to see that the plumage lies smooth and feathers are not out of place. Prize birds should be photographed in the presence of their owners who know their individual points of excellence and who will inform you of them. When thus made acquainted with the predominating features of the bird, take great care to bring these points forth into prominence.
595. It is very important that the background be plain and not of such a nature as to detract from the appearance of the bird. Especially is this true when photographing prize birds, for it is a very easy matter, if a plain background is not employed, to have it detract from the special points of the fowl.
596. The light must not be hard and contrasty. It is far better to work under a soft diffused source of illumination, for this latter will give you an opportunity of securing detail in all parts of the subject. It is hardly possible to make the exposure indoors unless you have a very large window by which to work. It is far better to work out of doors in the shadow of the house, for under such circumstances if the light is quite bright you will be able to give a very short exposure.