The first and most important step is to get down to their eye level (the same tip can be used for photographing children) – even if it means you’ll have to lay flat on your belly :).
Have you ever wondered how photographers get that soft and blurry background?
The answer is fast lenses; a fast lens means a lens with a wide aperature – confusingly enough; the wider the aperture (the hole on the back of the lens that lets light in to reach the camera sensor) the lower the number is on the lens.
i.e. a f/2.8 lens is faster than a f/4 one. To know the specs of your lens – just look at what’s printed on it. If it reads two number like “3.5-5.6” this means you have a zoom lens where f/3.5 is the widest (largest) aperture an f/5,6 when is the widest when you are at maximum zoom. What creates the blur is the depth of field; meaning the depth of focus; think of the point you are focusing on and then what is behind and in front of that point; the wider the aperature (lower number) the more out of focus the thing in front and behind your subject will be.
Last point; black or very dark dogs and cats !
If you are shooting a close up of a very dark subject the resulting photo will often turn out
pretty bad; with the black subject turning greyish – and even worse blurry because the camera needed too long time to take the shot (=slow shutter speed).
The camera doesn’t know what it is looking at and although most modern cameras have pretty good IQ it will recognize the scene too dark and adjust itself to make it brighter: it does this by increasing the exposure i.e taking time to let more light hit the sensor.
This can be fixed in two ways; using exposure compensation or shooting in manual mode (I almost exclusively do the latter). On your camera (or in the menu) there is an option for doing this. On my camera there is a small button with a (+) and (-) sign; all I have to do is to press it and then rotate the dial on the back of the camera, the display will show me a – or + value (lite -0,7) to indicate if I am using under exposure (the one that I want to use) or over exposure.
It can be a little confusing but try think like this; you are the master – if the shot comes out to bright – then using under exposure is your way of telling the camera that “this photo is too bright – I want it darker, and i wan’t it NOW”.
(I might be covering Manual mode another time).
Oh and do remember to dial the exposure back to 0 afterwards.