Wherever there are pet lovers, there will be people looking to have high grade, professional portraits taken of their companions. Shooting with animals comes with its own set of challenges, but pet portraits can be some of the most engaging pictures you’ll take and the rewards are definitely worth the work. In this article, we’ll walk you through all the most important pet photography tips and techniques to help you get the best compositions possible. From putting yourself into the animal’s perspective to utilizing the right DSLR settings, this list will guide you through everything you need to know about how to take pet portraits.
1. Get On Their Level
One of the best pet photography tips you can follow is to get on your (furry) friend’s level. Your goal is to capture the essence of what makes your pet so great, and by getting down on your hands and knees when shooting you can really pull the viewer into the scene. You may need to put yourself into some uncomfortable situations to capture the perfect shot, but it will be worth it once you do.
2. Use Natural Lighting As Much As Possible
When it comes to pet photography lighting, it’s best to avoid flash and spring for natural lighting whenever possible. Not only is there the possibility of spooking your pet with flash, the harsh light can cause red eye and other unwanted visual elements. Get your pet outside or in a room with a large window and plenty of natural light and start shooting. The natural light will help reinforce that the photo exists within the animal world and your pet will thank you for skipping the flash.
3. Use A Fast Shutter Speed
Using a fast shutter speed is one of the most important pet photography tips we can offer. Unlike working with human models, it can be difficult to get even the most obedient of pets to sit still for a photo op at times. Because of this, it is often essential to shoot with a fast shutter speed when it comes to professional pet photography. Of course a faster shutter speed will mean less light is entering the camera, so you will need to compensate this fact by shooting with plenty of natural light.
4. Be Quiet
Staying quiet is another important pet photography tip. If you want to know how to take pet portraits, you must remember that you are trying to capture the animal’s personality. It’s fine to give some commands and set up different scenarios, but give your furry friend a chance to pose freely and be themselves. By quieting down and just capturing the moments as they happen, you can wind up with a lot of great but unexpected shots you might not have gotten otherwise.
5. Keep The Eyes In Focus
It has often been said that the eyes are the windows to the soul, and this is especially true when it comes to photography. Of all the pet photography tips and techniques you will need to learn in mastering the craft, keeping the eyes in focus should be chief among them. The eyes are one of the most expressive features of any pet, and keeping them crystal clear in your pictures will help the viewer make a connection with the finished product.
5. Be Still
As we’ve already mentioned, animals tend to almost always be in motion, especially when you try to get them to sit for a portrait! While we remedy this with a fast shutter speed, one of the top pet photography tips we can recommend is to try and stay still when taking pictures. There’s enough movement happening in the shoot as is, so it’s best to put yourself in a good position, stay still and shoot awhile. You will, of course, need to change angles as with any shoot, but try to get a number of good shots from each position.
7. Use a Macro Or Telephoto Lens
Using a macro or telephoto lens is another important pet photography tips to consider when taking animal portraits. Pictures where your subject fills the frame are often more engaging, so getting unusually close to the pet you are shooting can offer a captivating perspective. The fine details that we don’t normally notice are often the most interesting photographic subjects, so look for unique angles that capture the animal in a new light.
8. Capture Their Character
What are the quirks that make the pet you are photographing so special? This is a fundamental question you should be asking yourselves when it comes to pet photography. Just like with human portraits, your pet photographs should be a reflection of their unique personality. Keep in mind that most pets have much shorter life spans than their owners do, so when people pay for pet portraits, they are hoping to preserve those qualities that set their pet apart. If all the pet photography tips out there, this one is very important.
9. Freeze Action
We’ve already discussed using a fast shutter speed to capture animals in motion, but you can take this even further by capturing action shots where the subject is running or jumping. If you’re shooting a dog for instance, try taking them out to a park and letting them run free. You can get some amazing shots of animals as they run, and the unique athleticism that can be captured in pet photography is part of what makes the category so interesting to view.
10. Get Some Props
Pet photography can get very cutesy very fast, especially if you introduce the right props into the mix. You can create compelling pictures that will have your viewers gushing by placing your subject into various situations to humorous effect. Perhaps it’s a Christmas shoot and a kitten has crawled into a stocking with its head poking out, or a dog wearing a silly outfit. The possibilities are truly endless, so be creative when it comes to decorating the scene.
11. Choose A Great Location
While the pet will be the subject of your photo, you need to take the background into consideration as well. This will be especially important for action shots where the background will take up more of the composition. There’s no point in capturing a great pet portrait if a poor background choice ruins the finished product, so make sure you’re paying attention to your surroundings and how you incorporate them into the scene. If you plan on shooting outdoors, spend some time at different parks and look for areas with good light and nice views.
12. Reward Your Model
We’ll finish off our list of pet photography tips with one that often gets overlooked. While photographers often have to compensate human models with cash, reward your pet models can be much cheaper. A new bone or a good head scratch can go a long way with pet models, and helping get the little critter into a good mood will ensure you achieve better results with your pictures. You can always capture the moment you present the animal with its new toy or treat, you’re sure to get plenty of keepers!
The most important pet photography tips and techniques involve getting the photographer on the animal’s level in order to capture their unique essence. While the photographer needs to have an understanding of the right settings and gear to use when shooting with pets, the key to capturing the perfect pet portrait comes from being patient, letting the animal be itself and connecting with the personality traits that make each subject unique. We hope these pet photography tips will help you get some great shots!