How to photograph your pets

I’ve had a few people write in and ask me questions about photographing their pets.  With some research and from my own experience, together with my husband as avid photographers, PHC have put together a few pointers for you to keep in mind when you want to take great pet pictures.

Photography is an art form of expression, seen through the eye of the beholder (via the lens).  Capturing a moment in time requires certain form of skill, or in my case a few skills put together (like keeping fit is one of them and the other is knowing how to edit your photos when you need to).  It defines the photographer and is a secret passage to their soul.  Photographing your pets not only helps you to preserve a moment in their lives, but it also gives you an opportunity to capture moments that will make your heart melt forever.  What matters most is that YOU like your photographs, and we hope these tips and ideas will help you to like your own photographs of your pets even more.

We all love the fact that our cell phones and cameras are now so easy to manage, and the photo editing apps/software available are helping us to make them that much more special.

You don’t always need expensive professional photography gear to take great photos these days, but if you do have a good camera, it is an advantage for sure.  The best photographs are the unplanned ones, but to get a good photo, you need to have your camera in your hand as much as possible.

Remember that perfect photographs are those ones that represent your pet in their true from, running, playing (in the mud or with a ball), sleeping and all the activities they do in their natural environment.  You know how it is when someone asks you to 'smile' for the camera, vs catching you having a good laugh.  They are just not the same, are they?  This same technique applies to your pets too, don't force them to do something, catch them in the act doing it.

Here are some useful tips to help you get a great photo:

1.  Always have your camera handy.  I say this because often your camera is packed away in a cupboard somewhere, and when you need it, it's too late.  Keep it in the car (hidden under your seat), or on the kitchen counter if you have to, but try to keep it with you as much as you can.

2.  Think about what your pet does most often and plan to be ready with your camera.  They are (like us) creatures of habit, and will repeat much of their actions daily.

3.  Look at what other great pet photographs look like (see links below) and get ideas of what you would like to photograph.

4.  Keep the camera on their eye level.  This means you need to bend down (sometimes be on your knees or lie on the ground) and shoot from the bottom up.  Wear suitable clothes and comfortable shoes.  I have been caught out on a hot summers day with my sandals and a summer dress, needless to say, the photos were nice, but bending down and running after my dog was not as much fun as it could have been had I worn suitable clothing.

5.  Zoom in.  I don’t ever like zoom as it reduces quality, but with a good lens you can cheat a bit to get a close up.  Especially cats don’t like to be disturbed, it is therefore better to zoom in on a cat to capture their ‘keen concentration’ or moment of relaxation.

6.  Ask someone to help you.  Sometimes it’s difficult to do it all alone, and if someone can encourage your pet to take action (or not) for you to get the shot, then let them help you.

7.  Use props for fun.  Give them a hat or a pair of sunglasses.

8.  Tricks for treats.  As any animal trainer will emphasise, rewarding your pet for ‘good behaviour’ is a great way to encourage them to get the shot.

9.  The ever so cute ‘Head Tilt’ photo will always be a winner.  Get out the squeaky toy and start snapping away.

10.  New toys might just bring out the curiosity which you are looking to capture in your photos.

11.  Dog parks are great places to capture your dog playing with other dogs.  Group photographs make for excellent pictures.


Keep in mind the following basic photography tips:

1.  The rule of two thirds.  It’s not cast in stone, but most good photographs need a horizon that is two thirds of the photograph.

2.  Keep the horizon straight.

3.  Be creative, which means point 1 and 2 above could fly out the window if you feel like being a bit more daring in your photographic styles.

4.  If the animal is looking to the LEFT, then create a bit more space towards the right (and the other way around).  It always depends on the shot, but it is good to keep this in mind when setting up the shot.

5.  If you are shooting into the light, then allow the light to silhouette the animal from behind.

6.  If you are shooting with the light behind you, avoid getting your shadow (or the shadow of another object) in the photo and allow the light to shine onto their face.  If you have to move something out of the way, then do that.  You are the creator of your art, be in control of the outcome by orchestrating it the way you want it to look like, always.

7.  Flash photography is a big no-no, unless you know how/when to use a flash.  When using a flash you always end up with red-eye photographs, so try to steer away from using the flash.  Be creative if you have to use a light and shine a flashlight on the animal (away from the eyes).  Here a much slower shutter speed is needed (you can also up your ISO) to get as much light into the lens for night time photos.

8.  Try to keep the focus on their eyes. 

9.  Use a fast shutter speed for moving pets (running, jumping, swimming etc).

10.  Take as many photos of a scene as possible.  The better shot might be the one you did not plan to get.

We are very lucky to be exposed to the new age of digital photography, where taking good quality photographs has become more and more accessable to most of us.  We can simply take as many pictures as we like, and merely delete the ones we don’t want.  You have access to great editing tools and software, so all you now need to do is get your minds eye to see the photos before you take them.  Always keep your camera (or cell phone!) near by and try to be as patient as you can.  Keep the above tips in mind and we wish you all the best in capturing amazing pet memories.

Image Credits:,


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