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National Photography Month: 7 Tips and Tricks for Picture Perfect Pets

Author: Libby - Printique by Adorama

While you might not be able to teach an old dog new tricks you can certainly learn a few tips and tricks to capture memorable photos of your pet. Pets play a huge part in many households. Capturing the personality and charm of your furry friend (or feathered or scaly) can be a cherished keepsake.

This photo makes a great greeting card or printed piece for your home.

Capturing great photos of your pets.

What started out for me as a few furry photos has become a big part of what I love to take photos of. Here are 7 of my best tips and tricks for taking fantastic photos of pets:

  1. Get to know your pet. It’s important to ease into the relationship with the pet you’re photographing. When I first meet a client’s pet I let them get to know me by gently extending my hand to allow them to sniff me. I also display a genuinely warm and caring attitude. Pets can sense fear or trepidation so it’s important to exude confidence and caring.  If they are very shy have the owner hold them for a cute and cuddly photo.
    Hold shy pets if you need to.

    For those shy pets have the owner hold them for a cute and cuddly photo.

  2. Pet friendly parks. Find a few pet-friendly parks in your area. Many parks do not allow pets to be off leash so be sure to check and observe the rules of each park. At the onset allow the pet to roam and play to extend some of their energy. I often take a few test photos at this point to set my exposure and shutter speed.
    Be sure to follow all the rules at a public park.

    Check whether your pet can be off-leash at a public park.

  3. Trick or treat. I typically do not give out treats until the very end of a session. I want the pet to be himself or herself and not guided by food. Oftentimes the clients like to bring a few favorite treats and that is okay to use as a reward, but use them judiciously.
    Can your pet have a treat during a photo session.

    Hand out pet treats judiciously especially if your pet is food motivated.

  4. Toys and noises. Dogs typically respond to squeaky noises. I have a few toys that squeak and oftentimes take the squeaker out of an old toy to have on hand to get their attention. If I forget my squeaky toy I make a high lilting noise or knock on wood (to mimic someone at the door) to get their attention. Cats respond to playful toys. I’ll often have the owner take a toy and position it behind and above my head to have the cat look in my direction for a head on shot.
    Crouching cat.

    Get a cat toy to capture a cat’s curiosity.

  5. Camera settings. When I work with children and pets I set my camera in shutter priority (Tv) or if I am on manual mode I make sure my shutter speed is at least 1/200. And I also set my camera to take continuous shots. Because pets, like children, don’t sit still for long I need to be sure my camera is ready to take that amazing shot at just the right time.
    Swimming Dog

    Set your camera to fast shutter speed to capture a pet in motion.

  6. Focus on the eyes. Pets speak through their eyes. Be sure to focus your shot on their eyes. Buy a poster size white foam core or poster board and have it propped in front of you to get nice highlights reflected in the eyes.
    Focus on the eyes of your subject

    Aim your camera’s focal point on the eyes to capture their essence.

  7. Up and down. One of the best tips for pet photography is to take the photo from different angles. Try getting down at pet level to capture the perspective they see. Or take them from above with the pet looking up. These angles mimic the perspective that either the pet views the world or how you view the pet in real life.
    Capture a photo from different angles to capture a pet's perspective.

    Be sure to take photos from different angles to capture the right perspective.

Take a shot at capturing some of your favorite pet photos with these tips and tricks.
What are some of your favorite tips and tricks for capturing picture perfect pet photos?
Tina Case is a writer and photographer out of the San Francisco Bay area.  She writes for a number of sites and co-writes for the photography blog Moms Who Click where she shares photographer tips, tricks and interviews.  Tina shares her parenting stories and more on Yahoo! where she is a featured “Parenting Guru.” Check more of her photos at Tina Case Photography, on Facebook and Instagram