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Tips to set up lighting for pet photography at home and studio

Lighting for pet photography is crucial for capturing great shots of pets. It should help highlights the texture and color of the fur, feather, or scale. In this post, we will offer some tips to make the best of lighting to get good pet images whether at home or studio.

Use COLBOR CL100X to offer lighting when capturing portraits of a dog

Left: Use COLBOR CL100X for pet photography; Right: Output image

How to use natural light for pet photography at home?

If you capture pet photos at home and don’t want to use extra light sources, the best illumination will come from a window or a doorway. However, make sure that it is indirect. That is, the sun doesn’t shine right into the window. This is often achieved by using curtains.

A simple DIY reflector helps you get the best results. It can bring up the exposure level on the shadow side to reveal more details.

Get a 3 feet by 4 feet piece of thick cardboard or foam board to use as your reflector. Create a smooth white surface on one side of the board and adhere tin foil to the opposite side. The tinfoil side will reflect a brighter, more specular light, while the white side will reflect a gentler, more even light.

NOTE: Which side to use depends on the color of the pet and the light source. Generally, use the white side for lighter fur and the tin foil side for darker fur.

How to set up studio lighting for pet photography?

If you take up pet photography in a studio and want to be more professional by setting up studio lighting at home, the tips below will help you go further in lighting for pet photography.

Use continuous lighting for pet photography to make pets at ease

We all know that it is difficult to make pets keep still and calm during the whole session. Continuous light, especially LED types, plays a big role. It stays on so the pet won’t be distracted or frightened by the sudden burst of light. Moreover, using LED studio lights won’t create much heat even after long-time use. This creates a comfortable studio for pets to stay in.

Flash, incandescent bulbs, and quartz bulbs are not recommended for pet portraits. That is not to say that they offer poor quality light but is to do with the reactions of the pet. A flash might frighten the pet, and the heat created by quartz or incandescent bulbs can make pets uncomfortable. Neither of them makes pet photography simple.

The COLBOR CL100X, for example, is a good option used for pet photography. It features 2700-6500K color temperature so you can adjust it to target color temperature to create the mood you want. The brightness is adjustable from 0 to 100%. The intelligent temperature control system ensures the optimal working temperature. You can see the video below by YouTuber One Man and His Whippet. He gave a detailed review of the CL100X. you can also see how his dogs react when the CL100X is turned on.

Two techniques that work when using one light for pet photography

Unlike taking human portraits, portrait light for pet photography has no many options. Here are two lighting techniques that you can choose from when there is only one light source available.

Broad lighting

Perhaps it is the most simple setup for lighting for pet photography. By using this technique, the pet’s side facing the camera will get the most illumination.

In other words, if you and the key light are to the left of the pet and the pet also turns to face the camera to the left, the majority part of the pet photos will be illuminated, giving you broad lighting. If the photograph is properly exposed, this will result in an attractive and natural pet portrait with lots of details.

Short lighting

To create a short lighting setup, repeat the steps above but shift the light to the opposite side. The strongest light is now on the side of the pet that appears the least in the photograph. You could discover that adding a reflector for a catch light produces greater results than the single light alone.

This technique emphasizes texture, such as the pet's hair, more than board lighting. The amount of texture may be changed by moving the light closer or further away from the camera. It can also be used for creating a mood.

Pet photography lighting setup with 3 lights

Three midsize softboxes are used in this setup: a key light and fill light are placed at 45 degrees on either side while the hair light comes from above and behind the animal.

Why? This lighting for studio photography works nicely since it allows you to illuminate the animal fairly evenly. Keep in mind that you are illuminating an animal that is considerably smaller than you. Using this setup allows you to have room between the key and fill lights, which are both pretty low to the ground. They are typically centered around 4-5 feet from the ground.

The hair light offers some backdrop separation and is often not powered up very high. Separation is crucial, especially if you have a dark backdrop and the animal has a dark coat.

Basic rules to follow for all pet photography

There are certain general guidelines that apply to all forms of pet photography, not only in the studio. These guidelines are even more crucial if you have pets in your home.

Choose right color for the background

When photographing animals, it is usually a good idea to consider the main hue of the animal's coat in relation to the background. Although it can work, it is preferable not to use the same hue for both.

This implies you shouldn't use flawless white paper for a white puppy or a black backdrop for a black cat. You must be able to adapt on the go, which is often impossible with animals whose coats are mixed in color. It's also a good idea to make sure the material the animal is sitting on works with the color of its coat and background.

Make them comfortable

If the pet is in a new environment, such as a studio or an apartment, it is critical to ensure that it feels at ease. Make sure you plan for this occasion since it should not be rushed. It might take up to 30 minutes.

Use varied sounds to attract attention.

To catch the pet's attention, experiment with different noises or sounds. This might be a whistle, a mouse call, or a turkey call. It is critical not to misuse the noises. It only takes a quick noise to catch their attention. Also, the photographer should be the only person creating a fuss. Too many people vying for the pet's attention will confuse and upset the animal.

Keep an eye on the body language.

It is critical to observe their body language to determine when they are agitated and when they have lost interest. If the pet becomes overly anxious, it will be good to have a rest and try with more positive reinforcement.