51 Tips for Taking the Perfect Pet Photos
Pets are a notorious for being difficult models- they never sit still and either have no interest in the camera, or way too much. But don't worry! We've put together the most comprehensive list of pet photography tips online, and you'll be well on your way to taking the perfect pet photos in no time.
These tips are broken up into a few sections, and they apply to any skill level. First, we will help turn your pet into the perfect model. We'll show you how to keep them alert, but calm, and help them look their cutest. Next, we will go over some aesthetic tips- simple things you can do to make the photos pop and bring them to the next level. Third, we will go over some technical tips. These tips apply more to those who have a bit more of an advanced understanding of photography already. And finally we will give you some specific photo ideas you can try out. Let's get started!
Section I: Turning your pet into a supermodel
1. Take them to their favorite place
Put them in the perfect mood by taking them to their favorite place- maybe the dog park, or the back yard, or that weird closet you keep telling them not to go in. This way you can photograph them at their happiest.
2. Use treats
If they wont sit still, use some treats to get their attention. Try holding the treat near the camera to direct their attention.
3. Use toys
Some are treat motivated, and some are toy motivated. If treats dont work, try using their favorite toy.
4. Use sounds
Cats and dogs are very aware of noises, and they can cause an immediate reaction. Pavlov famously "taught" his dog to salivate whenever he heard a bell ring, and while you and your pet may not have had such a purposeful approach, it's very likely that certain sounds result in different reactions for your pet. Maybe shaking a bag of treats makes them perk up, or whistling, or making kissy noises gets their attention.
Your pet can sense your energy, and it's important to mirror the mood that you want them to be in. Staying calm and quiet can help them relax and can avoid ending up with a dozen blurry photos of your pet zooming around the room.
6. Wait until they're in the right mood
If you can't calm them down, it might be best to just wait until they're naturally calm. Keep your camera around, and when you see your pet in the perfect mood, take your opportunity and get some great shots!
7. Wait until no one else is around
While your pet might be a social butterfly, it's probably best to wait until you're alone to begin photographing. Otherwise they could become too energetic (or too nervous) and therefore difficult to get to pose properly.
8. Take the photo when they don't see you yet
There is something magical about a candid photograph- the moment was more real, more natural. When you see your pet sitting proudly at the window sill, or curled up on the bed, it might be a great time to take a few photos before they notice
9. Photograph them when they wake up
Right when your pet wakes up, they're probably their most calm, which can allow some quick photos. Maybe get a shot of them letting out a big yawn for a funny extra photo.
10. Wear them out
If your pet seems too energetic while shooting, try to wear them out a bit. Have them run around the room a bit, or toss around their favorite toy. Having them a bit tired allows them to stay still a bit more for the photos
11. Take advantage of their quirks
Every pet has their own goofy quirks. Maybe your cat sleeps flat on their back with their arms outstretched. Or maybe your dog makes a really funny face when she sees an apple. Whatever quirk they might have is a great key to taking a memorable pet photo. You know them best after all, so try to think of what funny habits your pet might have that would form a perfect photo.
12. Reward them when they pose correctly
Positive reinforcement is a great way to train your pet to pose well for photos. If your pet is modeling well, show them that they are doing good with some praise and even the occasional treat
Section II: Aesthetic Tips
13. Tidy up the space
Your pet should be the focus, so make sure the background doesn't steal the spotlight! If there is any mess, maybe tidy up a bit (or at least frame the shot to avoid it).
14. Use props
Part of the fun of photography is building a set for the subject to interact with. Using props is a great way to make your photo stand out. For a cat, maybe try using a ball of yarn, or for a dog use a bone. Or maybe dress them up in a cute outfit- anything to make the image stand out.
15. Find the best lighting
Lighting is the key to all great photography, and making sure you nail down the correct lighting is pertinent to taking the perfect photo of your pet. The key when taking pet photos is to use lighting that separates your pet from the background, and shows the definition in their face. This requires very soft even lighting, so maybe outside on a cloudy day, or near a large window.
16. Get down low
Get on your pets level and shoot from their height. It allows the photo to exist in their world, and keeps their proportions from getting too distorted.
17. Find a simple but contrasting background
You want your pet to stand out, so making sure that the background is not too distracting is very important! Photograph your pet in a space where the surroundings are very different from your pet in both color and tone. For example, if your pet is black, don't photograph them laying on a black blanket. You would be better off photographing them in a light colored room, or on a sandy beach.
18. Light the scene purposefully.
Pets look best when the light is not coming from straight on- so no camera flash! Instead, try positioning a lamp at a 45 degree angle from the camera and your pet. This allows for the contours of their face to show in a very flattering way.
19. Use the existing nature
Use the nature around you to add some natural beauty to your shots. Photograph your pet walking through the grass, picking up sticks, climbing up rocks, or even just rolling in the mud. Even if it's just in your back yard, small pockets of nature allow your photos to feel more relaxing and beautiful
20. Pick a color pallet
Try to be purposeful with the colors you chose. Maybe pick a setting where the colors look interesting in combination with your pets fur. A background with too many different colors and tones can create a photograph that is a bit distracting, so try to stay mindful of what colors are existing in each of your shots.
21. Photograph them at different distances and angles
Great pet photos require a lot of experimentation. Try shooting your pet at different distances, and angles in order to see what works best. The key to the perfect photo is lots of practice, and it's very important to try out every type of shot you can think of.
22. Chose the right amount of blank space
Composition is one of the most important aspects of a photo. While your immediate instinct might be to let your pet fill as much space in the image as possible, it might be best to give them some room, and let the scale of their surroundings give the image more context.
23. Be mindful of the leash
A leash is important to keep a dog safe, but be mindful about how it might lay in a photograph. If you must photograph a leashed dog, try to position the dog in a way so that the leash does not cover up any necessary parts of the image
24. Create a shot list
Its common to have a ton of ideas before you start shooting, but then to suddenly start forgetting things while you're shooting. Having to wrangle an energetic pet makes it even harder. A great way o avoid this is to make a shot list. Simply write down any ideas you have before you begin to shoot, and reference it as you take photos to make sure you don't miss anything.
Section III: Technical Tips
25. Take photos rapidly
When photographing people, it's usually best to take your time and find the right pose, however pets rarely give you the opportunity to take your time. It's usually best to take tons of photos and then curate from them later. If your camera or phone allows a "rapid shutter mode" where it takes photos in bursts, it might be a good idea. That way you don't have to rely just on your own timing of the moment
26. Focus on the eyes
Eyes are the windows to the soul- or so they say. Keep the focus set on your pets eyes. If there is a nice light source somewhere in front of them, it can create a beautiful reflection in their eyes, which looks both professional and super cute!
27. Use a shallow focal depth
Having your pet be in crisp focus while the background is out of focus gives your photo a very clean and professional look easily. If you use a DSLR, shoot the image with as low of an aperture as you can to maximize this effect. If you're using a phone, see if you have a "portrait mode" to achieve a similar effect.
28. Use a quick shutter speed
If possible, shoot with a fast shutter speed in order to keep the photos from blurring with movement. Pets are not known to sit still, so it might be best to keep the shutter speed as high as the lighting allows for.
29. Expose for their fur color
If your pet has very dark fur, it's important to overexpose the image slightly, and if they have very light fur to underexpose slightly. While photographing pets with extreme shades can be frustrating, there are also a lot of benefits to it- it allows for your pet to stand out a bit more from the background and "pop" in the photo
30. If shooting multiple pets, make sure they're at the same depth
Photographing two pets at once is five times as difficult, so it's important to be aware of the cameras focus to make the job a little bit easier. Try to photograph the pets so they are around the same distance away from the camera. That way you will avoid having one pet in focus with the other being blurry
31. Try using a telephoto lens
If prime portrait lenses aren't cutting it, try using a telephoto lens. That way you can stay in one spot and follow your pet around as they run around and play. This takes their focus off of you, and let's you get more candid shots.
32. Pan the camera for quick moving shots
Catching a photo of a quick running pet is sometimes harder than it may appear to be. An easy tip to get the action sharp, is to pan the camera along with your pet. This way, the background may be blurred from motion, but your pet will remain crisp. Pair this with a burst shutter mode to get the most options
Section IV: Specific Ideas
A: Ideas for Dogs
33. Toss them a Frisbee
Get a great action shot by tossing them a Frisbee and photographic them as they catch it! If you are using a DSLR, make sure you set the shutter speed very high in order to keep the movement sharp.
34. Take them to the beach
Not only does this allow for a beautiful backdrop, but it gives your pup so much room to run around in! If you're using a DSLR, try using a telephoto lens, and letting them run around as you zoom in and out, and photograph them.
35. Take them to their favorite park
A good park will put any dog in the perfect mood! Take them to their favorite park so you can photograph them in their favorite environment.
36. Have them hang out with their favorite doggy friend
Does your dog have a doggy friend? Photograph them playing together. If you run out of ideas when photographing your dog solo, it can be refreshing to have another dog to interact and pose with.
37. Have them show off some tricks
Can they stand on two legs, or shake hands? Have them show it off for the camera! It could allow for some adorable photos.
38. Take a photo after a bath
Dogs either love them or hate them, but either way, every dog needs a bath! It's also the perfect opportunity to take a couple photos- both while they're in the tub, and once they're dried up a bit and wrapped in a towel.
39. Give them some peanut butter
Peanut butter is a quick way for a dog to go through a Rolodex of facial expressions. For the best results, try using a burst mode while they eat in order to get the most options possible
40. Toss them a treat
Get a fast shutter speed and burst mode ready for this one- Toss a treat in the air and photograph your dog as they catch it. It allows you to capture their hilarious facial expressions in all their glory
B: Ideas for Cats
41. Show them some nature videos
Many cats are fascinated by videos of birds or mice. Youtube is full of these videos, specifically made to entertain your cat. Try showing one of these videos to your pet and photograph their reaction
42. Give them a box
Cats love to squeeze themselves in small spaces. It makes them feel safe, but also allows for a cute photo opportunity. Try giving your cat a small box, and start taking photos as they climb inside and poke their head out.
43. Dangle a string
Toss a string around the camera to get some hilarious shots of your cat jumping around. Make sure the room is well lit, or else it the images may end up a bit blurry!
44. Try using catnip
If your cat just isn't giving you enough energy, try using a little catnip to perk them up. It could allow them to give you a bit more of the fun energy that you might want for your photos
C: Ideas for Either
45. Dress them up an an adorable outfit
Try going to a thrift store and buying some baby clothes- chances are there will be something that fits them.
46. Take a photo together
If you're like me, your phone is probably already full of photos of your pet, so why not try taking a photo together? Taking a photo can show off the beautiful owner and pet bond that you two share. To do this, either ask a friend for help, or use a tripod and a timer. Most modern cameras and phones have a timer mode, so try to see if you can capture the love you both share for each other.
47. Take themed holiday photos
These make for the cutest holiday cards- put your pet in a stocking, or popping out of a wrapped Christmas box. Or for thanksgiving, have them pose near the turkey. Just make sure to keep an eye out before the gobble up the whole dinner!
48. Take a birthday photo
Grab a pet-safe treat cake, and add in some candles (just be safe and don't actually light them. Surround your pet with some balloons, add on a party hat, and you have the ultimate birthday photo!
49. Photograph them sleeping
Animals are always cute when they're sleeping, and it's almost irresistible to pet a sleeping cat or dog. Take advantage of their natural cuteness!
50. Show the details
Animals are able to show expression in so many ways. Maybe by the pose in their tale, or how their ears perk up sometimes. Try taking some photos showing off these details. It allows for a creative way to show off different traits that make your pet unique
51. Take a before and after
Show the way that you pets appearance can change! There are so many creative ways to interpret this- Maybe a "before grooming" and "after grooming", or a "sleepy" vs "energetic" portrait. It's a great way to show the variety of traits that you pet possesses
Taking photos of your pet can be frustrating, but it is so rewarding. Creating these memories will last a lifetime, and while you're pet will maybe not be able to fully appreciate that, they will always appreciate the time you spend together in order to create these photographs.
Photography has many options and opportunities to experiment and explore new ideas. This list, while comprehensive, is not able to possibly explore the infinite possibilities that exist when photographing your pet. After all, you know your pet best, so it is up to you to use this advice as you see fit to capture their essence.