Our pets are part of the family, so it’s no wonder that we want beautiful portraits of them around the house just as we would any other family member. But if you’ve tried and failed to get a good quality picture of your furry friends, we have some tips to help you get the right shot every time. Pet photography isn’t as difficult as it might appear, once you understand the tips and tricks to get your pets to settle long enough to capture high-quality photos of them. With our tips, you’ll be a confident photographer in next to no time. 

Plan your shots

Candid shots are wonderful when you get them right, but for an engaging photo that really tells a story, planning is your friend. Plan out your shots in advance and what you’ll need to do to get the photo right, such as having props in place or treats to bring out the right expression and mood in your pet. You want to factor in variety, so planning out locations around the house and outdoors can provide interest for your pet during the photoshoot and gives you the chance as the photographer to get a wide range of images. 

Make use of natural light

When you’re working with pets, you don’t need to worry about complex lighting set-ups. In fact, avoiding flashes can help keep animals calmer so making use of natural light is preferable where you can. Natural light will help minimize the stress on the animal and will also prevent red-eye in the final images, as well as providing a more flattering portrait. Something that will help your pet portraits stand out is making sure that the animal has plenty of catchlight (reflections in the eyes) to help showcase their personality. 

Get their attention first

To be successful in your efforts when photographing animals, you need to be skilled at getting (and maintaining) their attention. One way to do just that is to let them play quietly by themselves and when you’re ready with your camera and your finger primed on the shutter, call their name or hold up their favorite toy, and click the shutter the moment they look over at you. This will enable you to capture them looking directly at the camera, fully attentive and calm. If they’ve calmed down enough, you might be able to get a few shots of them like this before starting the routine over again a few minutes later. If they’re too excited, keep shooting in burst mode to see if you can get a fun and dynamic action shot. 

Get the equipment right

For a great photo, the equipment you use matters. In fact, wildlife and nature photographer Alejandro Camba believes that the camera and equipment you use makes up around 40% of the finished images and makes taking good photos that bit easier. That’s not to say you need to spend a fortune on professional equipment to be able to get a decent pet portrait, but it does mean that choosing the right camera and lens for the job can provide you with a better result. Do your research and opt for a model that’s affordable but offers the features you’ll need to get a great image, such as semi-automatic aperture priority mode, continuous autofocus and continuous burst mode. 

Use faster shutter speeds

As anyone who’s tried to get a nice photo of a pet before, movement can be one of the biggest challenges. Dogs, in particular, can be energetic and difficult to settle for long enough to take a photo. So, instead, embrace the action and take photos of them on the move. For this, you’ll need a camera that delivers quick shutter speeds to isolate the action. Some cameras have animal-based detection settings, including models by Nikon, Canon and Sony, which can make it easier to capture a crisp photo. 

Take shots at their level

An easier way to take photos of pets, that also results in a more unique and striking angle, is to immerse yourself in their world. That is to say, try getting down on their level rather than taking photos of them from above. The goal here is to try to capture the shot from their eye level or lower, so you can capture their expression more effectively. It depends on the breed as to how low you’ll need to be to do this – you might be able to simply crouch down or you might need to lay on the floor. Either way, the resulting picture can be far more engaging and interesting than if you simply take it from standing height. 

Capture their character and personality

You know your pet best, so the aim when taking their portrait is to capture the essence of their personality in a photo. If they’re the playful type, aim for an action shot that highlights their buoyant character and energy. If they’re calm and docile, a photo of them resting in their favorite spot in the house or soaking up the warm weather in the garden is sure to be a better fit for them. 

Above all, be patient

Beyond the camera gear and lighting, and expertise in taking a great photo, the number one tip for taking a better pet portrait is to simply be patient. Pets can’t follow specific guidance like humans can, so trying to coerce them into a specific pose or location can be much harder. Instead of getting stressed and frustrated, have fun with the process and enjoy yourself. Your pet will pick up on your mood in either instance, so to keep them calm and stress-free, you’ll need to stay the same way. 

The final images are going to be far more interesting and beautiful if your pet is relaxed and happy than if they’re anxious. Use treats and rewards to encourage them and you’re sure to have a lasting image that you and your family will treasure


About the Author: Annie Button is a passionate dog lover. She volunteers at her local shelter and is keen to get involved with a number of animal welfare charities. Annie enjoys sharing her knowledge of our four-legged friends through her writing.