10 Pet Photography Tips

10 Pet Photography Tips

Capturing Candid Shots Can Be Easy

Our pets are cute, whimsical and playful—characteristics we like to preserve on film for a lifetime of memories.

As active and uncooperative as our furry companions can sometimes be—after all, how many of our pets will sit and pose for us—it’s not surprising how difficult it can be to take a photograph that isn’t slightly out of focus or overexposed.

The good news is you don’t have to be a professional photographer to take frame-worthy photos of your pets. Nor do you need a high-end camera with fancy settings. With the help of pet photographer Laura Cowen, we’ve zoomed in on 10 pet photography tips that will fine-tune your skills behind the lens.

1. Capture Pets Off Guard


You might discover that some of your best pet photos are those taken when your pet is unaware you’re wielding a camera. Try capturing your pet in a “pet-parazzi” style, shooting from different angles while your subject matter is sleeping, playing or simply goofing around.

Some of the best pet photos, says Cowen, are those taken when your pet isn’t posing for the camera and you can showcase your pet’s personality.

2. Use Props


Toys and treats can be a pet photographer’s best friend, according to Cowen. Use a squeaky toy or a dangling pet treat to get your pet’s attention and capture a particular expression.

If your pet is a masterful beggar, you’ll undoubtedly coax one of those longing, big-eyed looks that you find so endearing on a daily basis.

3. Zoom In


Try your hand at a more editorial style of photography and get up close and personal with your pet. Rather than photographing your pet from a distance, move in closer and focus on particular features, such as his or her eyes, or a side facial profile. Using the macro setting on your camera, if possible, will showcase the finer details of your pet’s whiskers and fur and produce a sharper image.

If you have a camera with a zoom lens, says Cowen, you can capture these shots without having to actually get within inches of your pet and the overall quality of your photos will improve since cameras with zoom lens are built to isolate the subject matter at close range. If your camera doesn’t have a zoom lens, don’t sweat it: you can easily crop images on your computer using an editing application which lets you zoom in after the fact.

4. Choose a Location


Not every photograph will feature your pet close up, so consider what role the background could play in your photographs. Some pets will feel more comfortable in a familiar setting such as a room at home, a favorite spot on the patio or in the backyard.

You might also consider a favorite place of your pet’s, such as a park or the beach. Scenic shots will also go a long way in adding character to your pet’s photos and tell a story, advises Cowen, as will an ornate door frame or artwork inside your house.

Prepare ahead of time so you won’t be disappointed with the outcome of your photos if the background is more distracting that complimentary.


5. Avoid Photographing from Above

Photographs taken from an angle looking down on your pet can distort the image.

Your dog, for example, will appear to have a large head out of proportion from the rest of his or her body.

In addition, getting on your pet’s level will depict your subject matter naturally. Cowen advises that you’ll have the best depth perception standing in front of your pet versus towering over your pet.

6. Try Different Angles

Have some fun taking your pet’s photo: use creative angles.


Some of the best shots, says Cowen, are taken off-center at a side angle, at eye or shoulder level. If your dog or cat is down on all fours playing with a toy, experiment by positioning your camera on the ground near your pet to get a unique perspective.

If you’re using a digital camera, set up your self-timer to take multiple shots every two seconds so you can capture your pet playing through a rapid succession of photos.

7. Use Natural Lighting


While it’s tempting to always use flash when photographing pets because it reduces that blurred-out effect, it also washes out some of our pets’ best features and creates the dreaded red-eye. Some pets may also become frightened by the flash.

Natural lighting will dramatically improve the overall outcome of your pet photos. Cowen suggests finding a room inside that has an abundant source of natural light and one that isn’t too confined on space so you aren’t limited with your angle of approach. If possible, head outdoors to the backyard or a patio.

8. Play With Shutter Speed


If your pet can’t sit still and you’re having difficulty taking photographs that aren’t blurry as a result, experiment with your camera’s shutter speed. Most pocket digital cameras allow you to shoot in manual mode or offer you a “theme” mode such as “pets and children,” “portrait,” “nighttime,” “outdoors,” “sports,” and “beach.”

The faster your shutter speed, the quicker your camera can respond to your pet’s speed of motion and prevent taking photos that are out of focus. Try using “pets and children” or the “sports” mode first.

If you’re using a film camera, there are different speeds of film which you can purchase that will maximize your camera’s potential during action shots.

9. Experiment With Editing Applications

Along with the digital camera revolution came the wide variety of editing applications you can use on your computer. Nowadays, many of these applications can be found online and are free. And, says Cowen, they’re incredibly easy to use, with simple instructions that’ll have you feeling like a pro in no time flat.

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One of Cowen’s (free) favorite editing applications is picmonkey.com. All you have to do is upload your photos and within minutes you can get to work.

Try your hand at some funky filters that give your photos an antique finish or turn your image into a sketch drawing. Use these online tools to adjust the lighting or color of your photos, or crop and sharpen images.

10. Don’t Delete Photos!

Cowen advises pet owners not to delete photos that look out of focus in your camera’s viewfinder.


You may be surprised, she says, to discover once you’ve uploaded them into your editing application that these may be the best photos you took. With the availability of editing tools these days, you can also try sharpening slightly out of focus images for the perfect finishing touch.