How to photograph your pet like a pro

Taking a good photo of your dog or cat can be hard work - check out our top tips to get the best results from your photoshoots!

27th March 2019

In this post, Jo, a self-taught professional photographer with a passion for wildlife and animals shares her top tips for photographing pets. You can find more of her helpful advice in her beginner’s guide to photography.

Pets are wonderful and valued companions to countless people, so it’s no surprise that many of us want to celebrate our pets and their quirky personalities. Personally, I’ve got more dog and cat photos than I can count. Are you hoping to take your pet photography to the next level? Read on for eight tips to make the most of your photoshoots.

Make it fun (and safe) for your pet

This really is the most important part of photographing your pet. Aim to create a stress-free environment that will keep your pet happy and really let their personality shine. If you’re photographing your dog, for example, select a location where your dog can safely go off-leash (or else keep the leash on). After a few minutes of well-behaved posing, especially if it involves wearing a costume, reward your pup with a treat.

Play up your pet’s personality

Maybe your horse is a speed demon who loves galloping up and down the pasture, maybe your dog is a total goofball, maybe your cat has lightning fast reflexes when at play, or maybe your rabbit has silky soft fur. Think about what makes your pet unique and special to you, and consider how you can capture those special qualities and personality traits in your images.

Think about lighting

What is the best lighting for pet photography? I generally recommend against flash, which can be unpleasant for animals and lead to red eyes in photos. Natural light is best. Either head outside, or set up your photoshoot in a well-lit indoor space.

If you are planning to photograph inside, remember that indoor spaces, no matter how well-lit, are typically dimmer than the great outdoors. Choose your camera with that in mind, and opt for a model with excellent low-light capabilities.

Try a simple background

Your pet is the star of the show, so don’t let a busy background distract from that. Many of my favorite photos were captured against a plain backdrop, like a bright green lawn, a sandy beach, or monochrome interior walls.

Capture motion with a fast shutter speed or continuous shooting (burst) mode

I love a good action shot. There are several methods to get crisp action shots of your pet in motion without tons of blur. First, you can set your camera to sports mode. Second, you can use shutter priority mode, which lets you select a fast shutter speed and then automatically adjusts aperture accordingly. Third, if you’re a more experienced photographer, you can opt for full manual control: Select a fast shutter speed and adjust other settings as needed. Finally, try burst mode (continuous shooting). If, say, your dog is leaping into the water to retrieve a toy, or your kitten is about to make an impressive jump, burst mode will ensure that you capture every bit of the action.

Practice panning

Panning is another technique used to capture moving subjects such as a running dog or galloping horse. You physically move your camera horizontally in tandem with the moving subject. The effect: a sharp, crisp subject against a blurred background. Panning can impart a real sense of movement, energy, and dynamism to your images. You’ll get the hang of panning with practice. For this method, use a slower shutter speed and focus on moving your camera smoothly to track your pet.

Take a few candids

I’m a big fan of candid shots. If you happen upon your pet snoozing, playing, or otherwise looking cute, grab the camera quietly and capture a candid moment. You may have the most success with a zoom or telephoto lens that lets you stay further back and avoid interrupting whatever your pet is up to.

Get on your pet’s level

If you’re photographing a cat, dog, or other animal smaller than you, this often means getting down on the floor. Making the effort to get a “pet’s-eye-view” often has an incredible effect on images. The viewer will be invited into the pet’s world and encouraged to imagine what your pet is really thinking and experiencing.

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