Tips for great pet pictures

Taking great pictures of your pet can be challenging. But if you follow these basic tips you can get some great pet portraits.

Follow the Light

A great pet portrait, whether it’s a dog, a cat, or a llama, starts with good light. Take your pet for a walk outside, on a nature path, or to a park. Even your backyard can be a good setting for pet portraits. Early in the morning or late in the afternoon are the best times to shoot pictures outdoors. Make sure the sun is in front or to the side of your pet. Try to avoid having the sun behind your pet, it leads to some really bad pictures. If you must take pictures inside your home, move your pet near a window for some natural daylight. Try not to use a flash. It can result in, “red eyes.” Unless your pet is named Satan, then by all means use a flash.

Take Lots and Lots of Pictures

Whether you’re using a professional DSLR or your phone, take more pictures than you think you’ll need. You can always delete them. You’re looking for that magical moment that captures your pet’s personality. It may not happen in the first picture or the tenth, but it will happen. Often your pet will be excited, running, or jumping around. Taking pictures of fast-moving animals is hard and will often result in blurry pictures. That’s ok, the more pictures you take, the more you will have to choose from. If you’re using a DSLR camera use high shutter speed and a medium telephoto lens. Unfortunately if you’re using a phone camera, you won’t be able to control the shutter speed. Whatever you use to take pictures, take lots of them.

Composition and Framing

Don’t get fancy or overthink it. This picture will not be hanging in the Museum of Modern Art any time soon, however, it’s important to you. Try and frame your pet in the center of the viewfinder or on your phone and fire away. It’s hard enough to capture a pet’s personality, even for professional photographers, but if you keep things simple and straight forward you’ll see some good results.

A picture of a new puppy.
This new 12-week old Blue Heeler-Australian Shepherd puppy is ready to play for the camera. © Chris Butler

A Reward for Great Pictures

Don’t forget to bring some tasty treats and a few toys for your model. Getting your pet to look in the right direction while you snap away can be tricky. Have a friend or family member hold the treats, or their favorite toy, while you take pictures. Having someone with a treat or toy just above your shoulder, or off to the side as you take pictures, is a great way to get your pet looking in your direction. And remember to give them their reward. It will keep them interested in the photo session, and being a model is hard work.

Have Fun 

Taking pictures of your pet should be a fun experience for you and your pet. If you’re not having a good time, your pet will sense this and react. You want your pet to smile for these pictures, don’t you?

If you’re not comfortable taking pictures you can always hire a professional photographer to shoot wonderful pictures of your pet.