How To Photograph Pets

If you have ever tried to take a photograph of your pet you will have discovered that it is not as easy as you might have thought.

Taking photographs of them while they are sleeping is not really a problem, but once they wake up and are running around causing mischief you will need lightening quick reactions in order to get a good picture.

pet photography tips

Photo captured by Andrea Canestrari (Click Image to See More From Andrea Canestrari)

There is a phrase often quoted, particularly on television about ‘never working with children or animals’. Even if your pet is being a bit mischievous or is full of energy, you will want to take good photographs of them and if you have lots of patience you will be rewarded with a stunning portrait that you will want to cherish forever.

There are a lot of exotic pets around such as snakes, bearded dragons and chinchillas, but for most of us, having a pet usually means a cat or a dog.

It is so rewarding to capture the personality of your pet in a portrait. This can easily be achieved because they know you very well, are comfortable with you and are less likely to be anxious, particularly if they have a camera whirring and clicking in their faces.

For the best pictures you should roughly follow the same basic principles as you would when taking portraits of people:

  • Make sure you shoot at the animals level (in other words, not directly from above.
  • Focus on the eyes
  • Fill the frame
  • Use a slightly longer lens and avoid having a distracting or busy background or direct flash.

You want your pet to be as natural as possible in the portrait, so take the photograph a little further away and shoot using a telephoto lens. The animal well be less anxious and the result will be a far more natural photograph.

how to photograph pets

“Days gone by” captured by Robert Dowling (Click Image to See More From Robert Dowling)

Lighting

Natural daylight is always your best option and results in a much better picture.

If, for example, you want to pick up the texture of your pets fur, you will need to use fairly directional light coming from one side. As with humans, the best pet portraits are often taken with the subject sitting next or near a window.

Tip: If your pet has dark fur, you will need to be careful as it might fool your camera’s metering system so you may need to alter the AE-C setting to lighten it slightly, using the ‘+’ setting.

Just as you would with people, when taking pictures of your pet it is vital that try to capture the character of your pet in the photograph. I have seen some pictures where somebody’s adorable cat looks positively demonic on the photograph or their lively, lovable dog looks either rabid or completely docile.

If you have ever taken a photograph of a baby you can use similar tactics for your pet: use a favourite toy to attract their attention, or make funny noises or gestures to get a reaction.

As mentioned earlier in most cases photographing your pet not only requires patience but you will need lightening quick reactions in order to be ready to shoot at any moment.

This applies even more in the case of small pets such as hamsters or rodents. To make things easier, it may be better to have somebody hold the animal while you take the picture. With careful cropping using a program like Photoshop you should be able to erase the image of the person holding the animal from the frame.

pet photo

“Shoelace” captured by Aage Crow (Click Image to See More From Aage Crow)

As you would with any kind of photography where the subject is moving and you need to snap the picture quickly, you need to combat potential problems such as focus or camera shake by using a fast shutter speed and taking lots of shots.

If you follow these tips you will manage to take a stunning portrait that will capture the characteristics of your pet, something that you will treasure forever.

About the Author:
This article was written by Danny Feildman (learndigitalphotographynow.com).

Like This Article?

Don't Miss The Next One!

Join over 100,000 photographers of all experience levels who receive our free photography tips and articles to stay current:

2 responses to “How To Photograph Pets”

  1. Tina Hyde says:

    I’m a 15 year old girl who loves to take pictures and wants to become a photographer. I’m pretty good at taking pictures of The “outside world”, But I am having trouble with the other objects like pets and people. So I’m hopeing that the tips that I find on this website will help me start my photography.:)

  2. Iwona says:

    Great tips for taking pictures of pets. Definitely patience is requires. Thanks

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

New! Want more photography tips? We now offer a free newsletter for photographers:

No, my photos are the best, close this forever