Pets are like babies: You have to say their photos look adorable, even when they don't. For this week's Shooting Challenge, I want you to elevate the common, often lousy pet photo to something that anyone can appreciate.

The Challenge

Take a photo of a pet—not a wildlife photo. It can be a planned portrait, a candid—anything you'd like. It can have more than one pet in the frame. Just try to take something that's not just good enough for your Picasa collection, but striking enough to hang on your wall. Try to capture the essence of your pet, or think of a new way to frame the genre.

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The Method

It's surprisingly difficult to take photos of pets. On point and shoots especially, the shutter and autofocus delays can make all the difference to getting a shot or not.

So first, put your camera in full manual mode (or shutter priority mode, if you've got it). Either way, if you pet is at all active, you'll need to use a fast shutter speed to avoid blur in even nuanced movements. Take some test shots to check out your exposure before annoying your loyal pet. Other specific tips?

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Pets in Pastel offers practical advice like stocking up on treats, having an assistant distract/entertain your pet and going to the pet's space rather than attempting to call them over.

Digital Photography School suggests that you make sure the eyes are in focus and stick to natural light.

For Photographers suggests closing down your aperture to increase depth of field. If your pet moves, they're more likely to stay in focus.

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The Rules - READ THESE

1. Submissions need to be your own.
2. Photos need to be taken the week of the contest.
3. Explain, briefly, the equipment, settings, technique and story behind shot.
4. Email submissions to contests@gizmodo.com, not me.
5. Include 800px wide image (200KB or less) AND a 2560x1600 sized in email. (The 800px image is the one judged, so feel free to crop/alter the larger image for wallpaper-sized dimensions.)
6. One submission per person.
7. Use the proper SUBJECT line in your email (more info on that below)

Send your best photo by Sunday, August 22th at 11PM Eastern to contests@gizmodo.com with "Pets" in the subject line. Save your files as JPGs, and use a FirstnameLastnamePets.jpg (800px wide) and FirstnameLastnamePetsWallpaper.jpg (2560px wide) naming conventions. Include your shooting summary (camera, lens, ISO, etc) in the body of the email along with a story of the shot in a few sentences. And don't skip this story part because it's often the most enjoyable part for us all beyond the shot itself!

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[Lead Image by Andy Stolarek, Furtographs]

If you like Shooting Challenges, you may also like my new site: Life, Panoramic. (Warning: very mildly NSFW front page today.) Users have already submitted their hometown shots, including Tianjin, New York and Las Vegas.

Click to view

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