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How to Take Great Pictures of Your Pet

How to Take Great Pictures of Your Pet

Most pet lovers agree that pets are members of the family and strive to capture photos of their pets on a regular basis. Why? Because family pictures capture not only the stages of life and pivotal events in our lives; they also capture the day-to-day experiences and small moments that make up a family’s memories and illustrates its love and companionship. Add to that the fact that the lives of our pets are fleeting compared to those of people and you understand why getting great pictures of your pet is so important. It can be difficult, however, to get your pet to sit still and look at the camera, let alone capture your dog or cat’s personality.

With several holidays coming up that are golden photo opportunities, including Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hannukah and more, we’ve put together some tips for how to take great pictures of your pet.

  •  Invest in a decent camera. Most phones today can also take decent snapshots, but if you want really great pictures of your pets, invest in a digital camera that gives you some options on lighting, flash, distance, etc. The best way to learn how to use it is to take an afternoon and play with it, experimenting with different settings until you’re comfortable using it.
  • Consider the lighting. There’s a reason everyone takes photographs outside. Natural lighting is the most flattering and generally doesn’t need a flash. You can get great pictures of your pets if you take the time to do your photography in the late morning or in the evening when the sun is lower in the sky but gives you rich, warm light. Photographers often refer to the hours between afternoon and sunset as the golden hours. If you need to take photos inside, try to take them near a window with lots of sunlight streaming in.
  • Use flashes sparingly. There may be times when you have to use a flash because natural sunlight isn’t available, but use the flash sparingly. It can wash the color out on lighter colored animals and give the dreaded “red eye” effect. If you’re taking photos of a dark or black animal, however, you may want to use the flash to highlight the fur, giving the animal more definition.
  • Candid shots can tell your pet’s story. Your dog or cat doesn’t have to be looking directly at you for you to get great pictures of your pet. Candid shots can reveal your dog’s or cat’s personality. Are they playful and silly? Memorialize them playing with their favorite toy or jumping up and down in excitement. Do they love to eat? A candid photo of them lapping up their favorite treat can reflect their healthy appetite for life and biscuits. Does your cat prefer sleeping in the sunny spot on the floor? Take a candid photo of her curled up with sunlight streaming over her while she’s napping.
  • Location, location, location. It’s best to take pictures of your pets when they are comfortable, so try to take pictures in locations they are familiar with and comfortable in, whether it’s the back yard, the kitchen or the local park. In strange surroundings they may be too distracted or nervous. If you’re on vacation and will be taking a lot of photos on the beach or other new areas, give your pets some time to acclimate themselves and explore a bit before attempting any photography.
  • Using props can help you get great pictures of your pet. Toss a treat or ball in the air and take a quick shot of your dog leaping to catch it. Give your cat a bit of catnip and snap a succession of pictures when she’s acting like a goofball.
  • Getting and keeping your pet’s attention for pet portraits. Candid pictures don’t require your pet to look at you, but for a great pet portrait, you’ll want eyes on you. Having someone assist you by holding up your pet’s favorite toy or ball just over and behind your head is a great way to get your dog’s attention. Some photographers even attach a tennis ball or similar toy to the top of their camera. Talking to your pet while you’re taking those great pictures of your pet will also help.
  • Play with perspective. You don’t always have to take pictures of your furry family member from your perspective. Instead, give others a pet’s eye view of the world. Get down on your dog’s or cat’s level and take photos where your pet is looking directly at you or even down on you. The intimacy will give you great pictures of your pet that more closely captures the way they see life. Try taking pictures at unusual angles as well to capture details of your pet that others may not get the chance to see.
  • Avoid visual clutter for great pictures of your pet. A relatively plain background, such as a length of wall, is the best way to visually frame your pet in a photograph. If there are a lot of visual distractions in the background, your pet could get lost in the clutter. If the background is part of the story you want your photo to tell, keep it simple and colorful (for instance, a few pumpkins for fall or a door with a Christmas wreath).
  • Take the time to crop and adjust your pet photos. Digital photography means everyone can be a photo editor. Take advantage of this to try visual effects, black & white images and adjust color. Cropping can frame images beautifully and enhance the impact of your photos.
  • Have fun! To get really great pictures of your pets, have your camera with you all the time so that you can capture those once in a lifetime moments you’ll cherish in the future.

29 Comments

  1. Monika

    October 15, 2017 10:03 am

    Thank you for this great advice 🙂 I’ve been saving money for a good camera. Currently I take photos for my blog with my phone and the photos seem OK on mobile screen but when I transfer them on the computer I realize how bad they are. Colors are pale and it just looks bad. So I end up using stock photos of pets for my blog which is not a very good solution. I can’t wait to get my hands on the new camera 🙂

    • Lori

      October 17, 2017 1:38 pm

      I’ve found that there are some inexpensive photo editing software downloads that can help improve and enhance the pictures taken on my phone. Take a look at Facetune – although it was originally designed to improve photos and selfies for use on social media, it also does a good job of enhancing color and fine-tuning the lighting, etc. You can also get photo editing that offers more options if you’re willing to pay a bit. A few good ones are Photo Monkey, ACDSee 17 and Apple Appeture 3.

  2. John

    October 16, 2017 10:00 pm

    I agree with Monika, these were some very good advice!

    I’m only using my phone when trying to take photos of my dog, and I’ve realized that good lighting really is super important when doing that. But I’m holding out for the Iphone X which is said to have with a very good camera.

    • Lori

      October 17, 2017 1:29 pm

      I just got a new iPhone last night and I’m hoping the camera will be better. I use a dedicated camera when I can, but sometimes it isn’t practical to drag a camera with me. On those occasions, I rely on my camera phone. I’ll be trying out the new one today. Fingers crossed for better pics!

      • John

        October 17, 2017 1:40 pm

        Nice! Always exciting to get your hands on a new iPhone. Would be great if you could post some of the new pictures.

        • Lori

          October 23, 2017 3:19 am

          John, I’m sorry it took so long to respond to your post. We had a bit of a family emergency here, but all is well. I plan to take some pics in the next few days with my new iPhone and I’ll certainly post some for everyone to check out. Also, my son, who is an actual photographer, sent me a used Nikon D90 with various lenses to try out. I’m super psyched about it!

  3. Shandos

    October 17, 2017 3:45 pm

    I’ve been using an iPhone recently for photos of my dog, but partially want to switch back to a proper camera due to the fast shutter speed. My Miniature Dachshund doesn’t like to keep still! It also doesn’t help that his fur is mainly black, so his details don’t show up that well in many shots. On my phone I’ve been using Snapseed to just increase the exposure on him, which is good enough for Instagram shots.

  4. Hindy Pearson

    December 22, 2017 8:46 pm

    Thanks for the great tips! Until recently I was the type who would take a picture, then walk away before it finished. Yep that was me, couldn’t care less than complained my pictures were you know what. This past summer I decided I had better change that attitude since I needed pictures for my blog. I bought a decent camera and took a very beginners course. Now I’m taking it seriously and loving it, I just wish we were out and about more to take some cool pics. I’m working on that part though.

    • Lori

      December 23, 2017 4:55 pm

      I’d love to hear about what you learned in your photography class. My son is trying to educate me while he’s home for the holidays. Yes, I have a son who is a legit photography, but I know nothing about cameras, LOL!

  5. Ruth Epstein

    December 22, 2017 9:17 pm

    Thanks for the great points, I just received a new camera for Hannukah from my boss and am still learning to use it, am really excited as it has WiFii which will be fun. So reading your points has just given me more input.

    • Lori

      December 23, 2017 4:53 pm

      Wow, perfect timing! Have fun over the holidays practicing with the new camera. I’d love to see the results when you have them. What kind of camera? I have a Nikon that my son (a photographer/videographer) gave me when he upgraded. I’m intimidated by it – I think it cost more than my first car did!

  6. Tenacious Little Terrier

    December 22, 2017 10:31 pm

    I’ve trained Mr. N to look at me which really helps for photos. He likes getting his photo taken too though. At the park, he was running around photobombing people’s pictures.

  7. Katie

    December 23, 2017 1:25 am

    Thanks for the advice, this is something that we struggle with now! It’s so hard to get both dogs looking at the camera at the same time.

    • Lori

      December 23, 2017 4:51 pm

      Katie, I hear you! When I see photos people have taken of four or more pets, all looking right at the camera, I’m in awe! It’s like they have a special superpower I’m not party to.

  8. sara

    December 23, 2017 1:52 am

    These are great tips! I love to take pics of our dog Molly. Lighting is key and holding a treat in one hand does not hurt either.

    • Lori

      December 23, 2017 4:50 pm

      I wish I had better indoor lighting. My house seems cozy with lots of low lighting, but I’ve discovered that it doesn’t work well for photo shoots. Thankfully, I have lots of windows for natural light.

  9. Sweet Purrfections

    December 23, 2017 2:13 am

    I purchased a new Nikon digital camera this past year. I’m still learning how to use it. I’m hoping to take a photography class this year so I can get better indoor photos of them.

    • Lori

      December 23, 2017 4:47 pm

      I’d love to take a photography class this winter, but I’ll be housebound for a while after surgery. I also have trouble with indoor photos of Soldier, so maybe being stuck inside will give me more time to practice taking pics of my favorite subject!

  10. Debbie

    December 23, 2017 2:15 am

    These are good tips! Especially the lighting and perspective ones. I always tell people to try to take pictures from your dog’s eye level, rather than from above, for a more intimate point of view. 🙂

    • Lori

      December 23, 2017 4:49 pm

      I guess if I had a Great Dane instead of my little rescue mutt, I would have the right perspective without having to lay on the floor so much. Something to think about when I take in my next rescue dog. Go big.

  11. Beth

    December 23, 2017 4:13 am

    I really enjoy seeing great photos of pets. I hope more people will take the time to read this and improve their photography.

    • Lori

      December 23, 2017 4:45 pm

      Thanks for visiting, Beth! Since this is a holiday week, I’m hoping more people will have some time to devote to practicing. I’m taking lots of photos of Soldier, and I think he’s getting irritated with me. 😉

  12. Marjorie at Dash Kitten

    December 23, 2017 8:17 am

    I managed to take fabulous pictures of our cats using my iPhone, so I am not sure a fancy camera (which might be outside the budget of many) is critical if you skills in other areas are up to speed.

    Plan what you would like to achieve and take your time trying to reach your goal! AND be patient!!!!

    • Lori

      December 23, 2017 4:43 pm

      Ah, patience! That’s the one area where I’m lacking. My current iPhone doesn’t give me enough options, so I’ve been playing with a DSLR camera this week. My son is home for the holidays and he’s a photographer/videographer by profession, so I’m getting some really good feedback. I think some of my earlier photo efforts made him sad, LOL.

  13. Cathy Armato

    December 24, 2017 6:40 pm

    These are terrific tips. Lighting is always such a huge issue when photographing indoors, I finally bought a simple light set that really helped.
    Love & Biscuits,
    Dogs Luv Us and We Luv Them

  14. Jana Rade

    December 25, 2017 5:09 pm

    Great tips. Particularly the one about the visual clutter. I found, that for “action shots” it seems to work best when I just take a movie and grab some stills. Seems more successful than trying to click the camera at the right time(s).

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