Tips for getting better photos of your pets.

27 Feb

You know that here at we LOVE pet pictures. Just a quick look at our Facebook page will show you. And what we love even more is contributions from our clients. Any time you snap a great shot of your pet, feel free to either share it directly on our Facebook page or email it to and we’ll share your pet’s photo with the world.

I thought it would be fun to run through a basic list of tips for getting better photographs of your pets. There are some simple things that you can do and pay attention to that will improve your pictures whether you’re shooting with a fancy dSLR camera or your cell phone.


Lighting is a big thing. Good light will allow your camera to capture more action, and will give you a clearer photo, especially if you’re using a cell phone. Flash can be ok, but a lot of times, the light it produces is extremely harsh and washes out the good colors in your images. It also gives you the scary glowing eyes you see in so many quick impromptu snaps. So you want to make the best use you can of natural light.

Outside it’s pretty easy. The light early in the morning and heading on toward evening is going to be the best, and you want to shoot with the sun behind you whenever possible. At noon, the light is often harsh, and especially with very light or very dark dogs, getting a good photo can be tough.

Indoors is harder. Unless you have a lot of good lighting in your house, it’s often too dim to get good photos, especially action shots. Setting up a “photo shoot” by bringing extra lamps into a room can help. But you also want to take advantage of natural light coming in through windows. Cats are especially good at finding sunny spots to lounge in, and it is easy to take advantage of this to get good pictures!

Snoozing in the sunbeams.

Snoozing in the sunbeams.

Sunlight coming in a window in an otherwise darker room can also create a really neat “spotlight effect”. The sunlight can light up your pet, but leave the rest of the room dark. Especially handy for hiding the unfolded laundry on the dresser or the destuffed toy pieces on the floor.

Spotlight on Luce.

Spotlight on Luce.


The biggest tip for backgrounds is pay attention to what’s there! It is so easy to put your focus on the subject of your picture (your pet) and not pay any attention to what is behind them. This can end up with embarrassing photos on occasion (we’ve all seen them, right?) but it can also just clutter up what would be a lovely photo. By paying attention to what’s there, sometimes you can simply shoot from a different angle to cut out the clutter. Move around, experiment with shooting from a high angle or a low angle, framing the photo with the pet on one side or another instead of in the middle.

The best backgrounds are ones with consistent textures– grass, sky, water, a blanket, a blank wall. They are non-distracting and let the viewer focus just on your pet.

Grass and trees behind Macie blend nicely into a non-distracting background.

Grass and trees behind Macie blend nicely into a non-distracting background.

But sometimes it is fun to do precisely the opposite- use an especially interesting background to enhance the photo. Here we captured Ein the Corgi on the rocks of a crazy trail that we were hiking up. To show the scope of the rocks and the steepness of the terrain, we included Ein’s cute little self.

Climbing a really big hill.

Climbing a really big hill.

Get down on their level!

By getting down level with your pet and shooting straight on, you’re better able to capture your pet in a natural way. Looking down all the time can create weird angles, and it also will frequently hide the cute face of your pet. A straight-on photo, instead, will capture all the cuteness.

Getting down on puppy level can sometimes be dangerous!

Getting down on puppy level can sometimes be dangerous!

Shooting Portraits

Portraits are great for capturing the expression, personalit, and soul of your pet. Whether you’re shooting a full-body portrait or a close-up, I really think portraits do the best job of capturing the essence of our pets. A beautiful portrait can be a very special thing for a pet owner.

If your dog knows a basic sit/stay, it can be easy to take good portraits. To get their attention on you, you can crinkle a plastic wrapper, whistle, make funny sounds, wave treats around, even use a squeaky toy. You can use the “bait” to move your dog’s focus from straight on to profile or whatever you’d like. It is often useful to enlist the help of an assistant who can be in charge of keeping the dogs in place as well as doing what is needed to perk up those ears.

Close-up portrait.

Close-up portrait.

Cats can be trickier, but some of the same rules apply. While I’d fall off my chair if I ever had a cat who would stay in one place because I requested it, toys and treats are great ways to get your cat to look pretty for the camera. You have to be quick with cats, though! It seems like they are constantly in motion whenever they’re in front of the camera. Here I used a feather toy to get Figment’s attention (and to keep him where I wanted him).

Eyes on the prize.

Eyes on the prize.

Action shots!

Action shots are so much fun. Capturing your dog running with his lips flapping everywhere is a hoot. Catching your cat at the moment he flips a catnip mouse into the air is priceless.

Action shots can be full-body or they can be close-ups. Again, enlisting the help of an assistant can be tremendously useful. A well-placed thrown toy can help you get the photo of your pet running toward you or across a field in front of you. Teasing a cat with a toy and getting him jumping around creates wonderful, sometimes hilarious photos.

In this case, Zen was being called across the field, giving me the opportunity to snap a head-on, lips-flapping view of him as he returned enthusiastically to his owner for a treat.

Big mouth bully on the run.

Big mouth bully on the run.

Candids are great, too! Keep your eyes open and your camera handy, your batteries charged and your memory card installed. There are photo ops around every corner, and capturing those special moments with your pet can help you hold onto your memories for a lifetime.

Nothing does flappy lips like a St. Bernard.

Nothing does flappy lips like a St. Bernard.

I hope you found this post useful and inspiring. We would absolutely love to see what you can do with your camera. Please please share with us, either in the comments here, by email, or on Facebook. Everybody loves showing off their pets, so see what you can do to capture special moments. Think outside the box! Use different angles, dress your pet up in a funny hat, pose them somewhere unexpected, use the filters built into your camera or phone (Instagram, anyone?)– whatever it takes to capture your pet’s unique personality.

And above all, have fun!

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Posted by on February 27, 2014 in Cats, Dogs, Just for Fun


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