dog photographer Northamptonshire

Sit, stay, smile: Taking photos of your pet

Feb 7, 2022 | Guides

As a nation of animal lovers, it’s only natural that our phones, cameras & computers are crammed with photos featuring our four-legged friends. I mean, what else are we supposed to show to our friends and family?

But it isn’t always easy getting that perfect shot of our pets – they’re notoriously naughty, wriggly and downright difficult to take pictures of! But don’t despair – I’ve compiled a list of my top tips for getting the most out of your pet photos. Let’s get started…

Take your time

Not everyone enjoys having a camera shoved in their face, and the same goes for our pets! Take time to get your pet used to your phone or camera, and practice some positive reinforcement training so that they start to associate photos with good things (like tasty treats!).

If your pet starts to show signs of stress or discomfort, take a break and let them calm down. Do not pick up your camera again until they’re fully comfortable – their wellbeing should always be your number one priority.

Small black and tan dog sitting in grass in parkland

Go outside

Unless your house is blessed with big, beautiful windows and is flooded with natural light, it’s best to head outside to take photos. Natural daylight is much easier to work in than artificial indoor lighting.

If it’s an overcast day then you can take photos almost anywhere as the clouds will create lovely, soft lighting. If it’s a bright, sunny day, seek out some shade. As long as the light is falling evenly on your pet, you should be fine (watch out for ‘hot spots’ of bright light that often filters through the trees).

If you’re stuck indoors, try to take a photo near a window. At the very least, make sure your room is well lit, and check that your light source is falling evenly on your pet (not directly behind or hitting them from just one side). It’s also important to make sure that there’s plenty of light falling in front of your pet – not too harsh though, we don’t want to make them squint!

Tiny kitten standing on bed next to DSLR camera

Get down low

Getting down onto your pet’s level is one of the most effective things you can do and will instantly improve your photos! You’ll get a much more engaging shot, and it works for almost any pet, in any lighting conditions & any location.

If your pet is on the small side or you’re struggling to get down to their level, you can always pop them on a chair, sofa or bed – just be sure that the surface is solid and steady before you start snapping.

brown cockapoo in coventry bluebell woods

Focus on the eyes

Even if you don’t have a fancy camera, most smartphones will let you choose a focus point for your photo (usually by tapping the screen on the spot where you want to focus). With pets, focus should always be on the eyes – they are the windows to the soul, after all!

Another thing to watch out for is ‘catchlights’. These are the bright spots of light that appear in our eyes and create that ‘sparkle’. Without them, eyes can look pretty lifeless. So unless your pet has a fringe or an impressive set of eyebrows (I’m looking at you, Schnauzers), you should aim to capture catchlights in their eyes.

The best way to ensure you get nice catchlights in your pet’s eyes is make sure you’ve got a nice big light source behind you (facing your pet). This could be something as simple as the open sky behind you, or  a big window.

golden retriever dog photography Northampton

Black/white pets

Owners of a black or white pet will often tell you how hard it can be to take a nice photo – too often you end up with a big black blob or a bright white ball of nothing! But there are a couple of tricks you can use to get better photos of your pets.

For black pets, photograph them against a dark background (like a shady area, a dark fence or garage door). This will give your camera a more even scene to capture. It’s also important to make sure that there’s plenty of light falling in front of your pet. This will help pull out details in their face and fur.

For white pets, you do the opposite – find a light-coloured background. This could be a white wall or cream bedspread, anything with similar tones to your pet. And be careful with your lighting – if the light falling on your pet is too bright, they’ll end up being ‘blown out’ and we won’t capture all the detail in their furry faces!

German Shorthaird Pointer standing in bushes

Keep it simple

At the end of the day we’re taking photos of our pets, to capture them. So don’t worry about dramatic landscapes. Forget about fancy props or poses. Keep your backgrounds de-cluttered and your scenery simple, and focus on the star of the show. You’ll be surprised at what you can achieve if you just keep things simple!

Brown tabby cat sitting in tall garden grass

Final tips

Get as close to your pet as possible (as long as they’re comfortable with you doing so). This will help your photo stay in focus. And don’t be afraid to take lots of photos. It’s rare that you’ll capture the perfect shot straight away, so snap away! And remember, when your pet has had enough, be sure to give them a break.

FEELING INSPIRED?

Hopefully this post has reassured you that you can take some amazing photos of your pet – all it takes is a little bit of planning, patience and a few tricks of the trade!

How about turning one of your photos into a bespoke pet portrait?



Fine art pet portrait artist | Northamptonshire, East Midlands, UK