Petlife logo

Pet Portraits

by Ian McKenzie 2 years ago in photography

How to photograph your pets for best results.

Photographing pets can be a challenge. Here are twelve rules you should follow to obtain better results.

1. Stay calm.

Animals can often sense if you are uptight and not relaxed. I think that even some insects have this ability. Many years ago I kept several hives of honey bees and very seldom got stung because I remained calm. Others seemed to get stung more often when they were close to the hives, because, I believe, they were nervous.

2. Be patient.

Taking photographs of pets on a day when you have a lot of other things to do is probably not a good idea. Just as being calm is important, taking your time to get a good shot, or shots, is imperative. Taking photographs of experienced models is a “piece of cake” compared with taking photographs of pets. They are nowhere near as likely to follow your commands, or wants.

3. Choose natural surrounds if possible.

My personal preference in most cases would be to shoot outdoors rather than inside. When shooting animals, it is better for the photographer to travel to the client, rather than the client travel to the photographer. If shooting outside is not a practical solution and you need to shoot inside, try to find a room which has good natural lighting.

4. Lighting is important.

I have already mentioned that using natural lighting is preferable to artificial lighting. However, sometimes you will need to use artificial lighting. If so, avoid using flash if at all possible. My preference for artificial lights would be LED lighting. It gives a good near natural light quality and does not cause undue heating like the old tungsten studio lights did. Also, they are inexpensive to operate.

5. Get in close to the subject.

A macro lens could be handy here. If you are physically unable to get in really close, the use of a telephoto lens would be a help. Vary your shots, but some close-ups with the subject filling the frame, or almost doing so, would be good.

6. Focus on the eyes.

This rule also applies to people portraits. If your camera allows you to spot focus, use the spot focus setting to focus on the pet’s nearest eyeball to the camera. It will help, of course, if the pet is looking at the camera.

7. Look for “cute.”

If not cute, then different. An unusual pose or expression can often result in a good shot.

8. Get down to their level.

If you are able, these angles will make for some more interesting photographs. Talking of angles, try to find angles that are a bit unusual and unexpected. They will add interest to your photographs.

9. Pets are family.

People often take more photographs of their pets than they do of their own children. Regardless of whether or not this is the case, pets are an extension of the family, so try and obtain photos of pets and family members together. Once again, looking for “cute” in these photos can lead to some good shots.

10. Use digital cameras.

If you are using a digital camera, take heaps of photos. Make sure that you have a few spare memory cards available. When using film cameras, we had to be more careful with composition and not take as many photos, otherwise the cost could get out of hand. But, with digital cameras, this is not an issue.

11. Continuous shooting.

If you have continuous shooting mode on your camera, use it. Often out of a batch of photos taken in continuous shooting mode, one will be outstanding.

12. Don’t forget the treats.

I always have a pocketful, or a bag full of treats available when shooting pets. Just like all of us, they like rewards for being good also.

Ian McKenzie
Ian McKenzie
Read next: Calling All Wannabe Pet Owners
Ian McKenzie

Lover of life and all it has to offer. Retired from full-time employment, but keeping busy with things I am passionate about including: family, friends, photography, writing, sustainability and keeping Australian native stingless bees.

See all posts by Ian McKenzie

Find us on socal media

Miscellaneous links