There is nothing on the planet that makes me feel like a professional photographer more than a digital camera in my hand. I am far from a professional, but I do happen to love photography and I LOVE my pets; they are certainly my furbabies. Like any other proud Mom, my poor pets, and their “cousins” are subjected to me pointing a camera into their faces more often than a normal person. I’ve seen some beautiful professional pet portraits in my day, but there is nothing like getting that one photo that captures the true personality of your pet. I’ve learned a lot of tips along the way and hope these will help you take a perfect pet portrait!
1. Patience, patience, patience and MORE patience
You cannot FORCE a good pet portrait. Just like everyone knows when your kid is making that goofy “I’m smiling because someone told me to smile” your pet will reflect the way YOU are feeling when you take the photo. If you fuss they will drop their heads and try to figure out why they are in trouble!
If you have dogs, take them outside and let them do their business, watch how they move and interact with their world. THEN start snapping photos. Be prepared to have A LOT of blurry and out of focus photos. Be prepared to delete 90% of the photos you take, but it’s ok, because that is how you get a stellar photo.
Start out using an action or sport setting in auto mode. This will help with overall blurring that happens from movement, but it will make close up photos grainy. You’ll have to find that sweet spot with your camera.
NO USING FLASH.
Did I say that loud enough? NO FLASH. No one wants that creepy cat eye reflection and no one wants their dogs to look like a demon. Flash can help stop motion, but overall it’s a much better bet to pull the curtains back and encourage your cat to jump up to the window or take dogs outside. Natural light early in the morning or around dusk work the best in my opinion.
3. Use an Assistant
It’s helpful to have someone else who knows your pets well to help you manage the photos. Some of my best photos have come from the dogs having playtime with Dad. He gets them going, that personality comes out and BAM I get a great shot and the dogs have a blast too. If another member of the family has a better bond with the pet than you, use that to your advantage and have them help.
4. Use toys, playtime and trigger words to get your pet’s attention
An extension to #3 is pretty simple. If you have someone else getting the attention of your pet and making their personality shine, you are free to take a great photo. Can you imagine trying to play fetch while getting in the correct position to take a photo, adjusting settings, and making sure you catch epic moments at the same time? NO WAY. Get some help.
Trigger words are another great way to get a good personality shot. Try to avoid asking if they want to go for a W-A-L-K (Sorry didn’t want your pets to hear me say it), but find other sounds or words that make them perk their ears or look in a certain direction. For instance, every time I ask our dog, Pip, if he has doofy ears, he raises his ears up and looks at me. It’s flippin’ adorable!
5. Get down and dirty with your pet
There is nothing I LOATHE more than a photo of a tiny dog or cat where the owner is clearly standing ABOVE the animal. Get down to their level. If you have a bigger dog, sit on a chair or the ground. If you have a tiny pet lay on your stomach on the floor or ground. No one makes you sit down and look above your head for a photo and your pets shouldn’t have to do it either. On top of that, it makes it really easy for them to give you lots of kisses (assuming your pet kisses) and who can complain about that?
6. Not all photos are perfect, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t keepers
Sometimes you have that slightly out of focus photo. Sometimes the lighting isn’t great or the room is messy. It’s ok. The moment in this photo will never happen again because we lost this little guy way too soon, but there is no photo out of my entire collection that shows how much his Dad loved him more than this one.
Do you have any great tips for taking pet photos? Tell me all about them!