Do you want to shoot smartphone video with animals?
If you are working in the pet industry, or you just want to shoot some brilliant footage of the animals in your life, then here are some top tips to make all your animal based shoots a little bit easier!
Let’s be honest, shooting with animals does take longer than you think!! So don’t be in a hurry, plan ahead and have patience.
Even when we are doing shoots with professionally trained performance animals and their trainers on set, we ALWAYS make sure we double the time we think we need!
Animal Shooting Tips
Always plan to shoot a number of short clips. Remember, it’s easier to get an animal to do what you want in short bursts. So forget about trying to shoot one long perfect take!
Add a human into your shots – shooting an animal interacting with a human will emotionally engage your audience fast. Think about how you can shoot the animal connecting or showing affection with a person.
Film in a Favourite Place
It is always good to choose a location that’s familiar to the animal you’re filming.
Think about somewhere outside and take a basket or bed to a quiet place in the garden. Choose somewhere that has a simple background that does not detract from what you are shooting with your pet
Note that indoor shots can often look ugly at pet level! Avoid shooting the bottom of a sofa or scuffed old chair legs, it is much more professional to see a flower border or grass.
Try and use natural light to keep it simple – too much kit can make an animal unsettled.
If you’re shooting horses, be aware stables and barn lighting can look very yellow on film!
Shoot on Multi Levels
You don’t want to shoot small animals from above, so get on the same level as the animal you’re shooting.
If you are shooting a small dog or cat, you will need to crouch or kneel to get down to their level or with hamsters or guinea pigs, put their cage up on a surface.
Shooting animals at eye level footage will help viewers connect, and you will get more compelling footage.
If you are shooting with horses, stand on a small mounting block if the horse is very big. You don’t want to be always shooting upwards, it can make your horse look distorted.
Try Bokeh or Blurred Background Shooting
Shooting with a blurred background can make videoing animals tons easier.
You’ve probably used it to create great stills if you shoot with your smartphone in portrait mode, and you may want to try this when shooting video content.
Get the Bokeh app
The Focos Live app for iPhones is tried and tested by my team and is really popular right now.
It costs £12 ($17). It is not foolproof and works best for shots with less movement, but well worth giving this a go.
You do have to record your video through the Focos app and right now, it won’t let you add a bokeh effect to your wide angle lens.
Use the Live Focus button on a Samsung
If you don’t have an iPhone and bokeh is something that you really want to explore, when you next upgrade you may want to think about choosing a Samsung device.
The Samsung live focus video button allows you to blur out your background in real time and Samsung have added a live focus button to their Galaxy S21 series, S20, S20+ S20 Ultra and Z Flip models.
Do note that on some models after recent upgrades this function is now called “portrait video”.
Use a telephoto lens
If you are on an Android device, you can try shooting with your inbuilt telephoto lens. If your device doesn’t have one, you can get a clip on lens from around £14 ($20).
The key is to shoot the animal close to the camera and choose a background that has a good depth of field. You can’t get the blur if the animal is sat right up against a wall or in a tight spot. The bigger the distance between you and the background, the better the blur!
Make sure you tap or long press on your screen to set your focus setting on your subject.
Grab a Tripod
When shooting pets, you are usually out and about, so the most useful tripod is going to be a gorilla style tripod.
These tripods allow you to wrap the legs around a rock, fence or tree and may be a good investment if you are going to do a lot of animal shoots.
Stability will help with pet shots, so make sure you put your smartphone on stabilisation mode.
The Joby Gorillapods are sturdy, tried and tested by my crew and cost from around £20 ($27).
Stay In One Place
Don’t be tempted to run around trying to shoot all the action with an animal on the move.
Stay in one place and let the action play out in front of you. You will have to shoot more, but it is the only way to get great footage.
Be patient and if you do need to move the camera, do it slowly. Make sure you use your slow motion function to get a variety of shot speeds!
If you are filming a dog on a walk or a horse at an event, it is hard to not press the zoom. But for video, it is only going to mean one thing – pixels!
Either get closer to the action or use a telephoto lens that will give you better close up footage.
Get In Close
Make sure you vary your shots. Don’t just go for one standard size with your pet full frame, think about what different shots you might like.
When filming animals, shoot the details. Tiny paws or close-ups of your horse’s eyes, or shoot them watching something else other than you.
Don’t be afraid of getting in close if they will let you – it makes your videos more intimate.