Be a Better Pet Photographer

Young photographer taking a photo of playing dogs | feature | Be a Better Pet Photographer
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Pets are wonderful subject matter for photographers even when they are naughty. Knowing how to artfully and successfully capture our furry friends’ true essence is every pet photographer’s goal.


Check Out These Tips To Be A Better Pet Photographer:

Unclutter First

Nobody wants their puppy to play with an empty drinks bottle or to see a garden hose snaking behind your dog when it’s in a perfect pose for your pics.

Some of the time, pet photography takes place in front or backyards. Take a look around your “studio” and get rid of clutter or distracting objects in the background.

If an element serves no purpose in enhancing your background or making your composition look aesthetic, consider moving to other locations.

Follow the Light

Good lighting plays a big role in pet photography. Brightness and the diffusion of light create flattering pet portraits.

Carefully examine your environment before shooting and determine the best direction for your desired brightness or diffused light; then move to that location, ideally outdoors or near a window. Stay away from dark rooms or heavily overcast skies.

Once you lock in your camera’s spot, have an assistant with you to hold a reflector, and follow where the light is.

Focus on Eyes

Eyes can capture the character of your subject matter perfectly. Eyes are the window to the soul, and in any portrait photography, lighting effects can turn an average photo into an incredible one.

The white reflective parts (or catchlights) in your pet’s eyes are priceless for every pet photographer. Because pets can’t form verbal expressions, their eyes convey more powerful messages than humans’.

That’s why the recipe to create engaging portraits of pets focuses on the eyes and facial expressions.

Into The Woof Woof World

Little boy with camera is shooting his dog | Into The Woof Woof World | Be a Better Pet Photographer

A good pet photographer will get to know their furry and scaly friends first to gain better insight into how to understand their world. It’s always better to observe the world from their point of view.

A shoot at the height of your hips is ideal for tall dudes like Great Danes. For a Chihuahua, a pet photographer should aim at the level of their ankles. Pulling out a step ladder is a great way to capture cats while they’re busy climbing trees. Look for any habitual gestures or reactions and try to capture these concepts.

Be flexible. Bend, crawl, roll up your sleeves and be ready to get dirty. Sit on the ground, level down, or do whatever you need to do to shoot at their eye level. Let those muscles stretch out a bit to get your desired composition.

Treat The Models

An experienced pet photographer is the one who motivates the animal to do what they want without forcing them outright; otherwise, they will become disinterested and wander off.

Reward them when they do something “right” (or something that’s aesthetically “right” for the shoot). Dogs may want some toys or treats, sometimes just a slight patting on their heads. Cats love paper bags, toys, blankets, tuna fish, or catnip.

And if your models are horses, rabbits, or parrots, just remember that most animals are highly food-motivated. Never come, empty-handed!

Work Fast

Make sure your camera works at the same pace as your Scooby-Doo. Animals don’t stay put or sit for long, so keep your fastest shutter speed to capture their unexpected moments.

Whether you want to capture a sudden wagging tail, fluffy fur, a charming attitude, facial expressions, or grins, every pet photographer should be prepared with a handy shutter speed of 1/250th of a second or faster.

Such speed may exceed your standard portrait sessions, so boosting your ISO higher should be considered. An ISO of 400 is a recommended starting point. But don’t be afraid to be more adventurous by stepping up to 640 or even 800 if your camera functions well without getting too grainy.


young woman taking a picture with camera on mirror of her cute small dog watching by the window | Relax | Be a Better Pet Photographer

Animals are a little like “emotional sponges.” They can sense stress and anxiety and are easily affected by our emotions. “Ears flattened” and “concerned eyes” are typical “symptoms” of a stressed animal, which doesn’t translate well into pictures.

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You can’t talk to them using our language, rather, interact with them in the way they understand. Shouting out commands repeatedly and uncontrollably is the quickest way to confuse a dog or freak out a cat.

If you want a curious puppy to stare straight at your camera, a well-timed whine (from you) can reel their focus easier than a “woof” shout. Think of how to communicate well with your models and be relaxed. Remember, pet photography is all about having fun.

What’s more interesting than being a pet photographer? Animals are lovely creatures, and each one is beautiful in their own way. Try out our tips and become a better pet photographer with One Percent Better!

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