Our family dog, Elvis, is a real ham. He’s always ready for his close-up, even when he’s sleeping. The only trouble is, it’s hard to capture his face without it looking like one big black wrinkle. You have to get him in just the right light to reveal his expression.
Maybe that’s why I’ve never made any fabric art projects featuring my little guy. To make a realistic pet quilt, you need to be able to capture the details of the animal’s face in a photo so you can translate the values into fabric scraps and threadwork.
Art quilter Faith Cleary, who makes pet portrait quilts for a living, says taking a good photo of the quilt subject is crucial. Here are her tips for taking photos of your pets. I find they are good advice even if you just want a good quality picture of your pet.
Pet Photo Tips by Faith Cleary
Use a digital camera. A digital camera will allow you to see instantly whether you have the shot or not, and delete what you don’t need (which is probably most of the shots). It also makes it easier to tweak the photo with imaging software. If you don’t have a digital camera, you can probably borrow one.
Take photos on the pet’s eye level. This way you can look straight into their eyes. Faith admits that this is how she gets her exercise: chasing dogs around and then crouching in front of them with the camera. Shooting them from above is easier on your back and knees, but the angle can distort their features.
Get their attention. It may take some trial and error, but find some thing or some word that will make the pet sit still and look at you. Many of Faith’s clients respond to a treat, a favorite toy, or even a dirty sock.
Unless you’re experienced with professional lighting, shooting outside is your best chance of catching your pet in the best light. A mildly sunny or even slightly overcast day is best to avoid harsh shadows or very bright light that makes you or the pet squint. Avoiding very bright light or shadows also helps you capture the pet’s coloring and the color values that will give you good contrast for translating your photo into art.Shoot in good light, preferably outside.
Capturing cats. Most cats are not crazy about posing, but if you work with their natural instincts, you can get a great picture. Take advantage of their preference for sitting up high near a window. Be ready with the camera, and you’ll catch them just where you want them: at eye level in good light.
Once you have your great picture, you can transform it into fiber art with fabric fusing and stitch, fabric paint, or mixed media.
Faith demonstrates her technique for using an “appliqué road map” to create a pet portrait in her video workshop tutorial, Pet Picture Quilts Made Easy, now available for streaming on Craft Daily.
P.S. Do you have tips for photographing your pet or creating a pet quilt? Leave a comment below and share a link to an image from your blog or website, if you have one.