Having trouble getting genuine and crisp images of pets? Here are 12 tips and tricks for improving your pet photography!

I don’t know about you, but I love to change up my sessions! Pet photography can be a really fun and rewarding type of photography. It is often popular, as most people consider their animals to be a very important part of their family! A cherished pet can often create a great dynamic in a photo (especially when it comes to children and sweet puppies/kittens). Your clients in this case, however, can be *slightly more unpredictable than their human counterparts! Here are our 12 quick tips for getting the most out of your pet photography sessions!

1. Focus on the eyes!

photographing pets

Just like you would in a regular session, you want to focus on your subject’s eye closest to your camera.  Because animals can’t communicate like humans, the eyes really ARE the windows to their soul.  It’s really important that you create that connection with the animal, just as you would with a person.   At all costs, you want a sharp photo just as you would in any other photography session.

2. Keep your shutter at a decent speed.

You’ll want to make sure that you keep an eye on your shutter speed for obvious reasons. Basically, treat this session as you would a session with toddlers! Continuous focus may turn out to be your best friend, so look into your camera settings and see if it’s a possibility!

3. Stay clam and use slow movements.

improving pet photography

If you’ve ever been around new animals, it can sometimes take a fair amount of time to get comfortable around one another. Make sure to use slow movements and allow the animal to check you out before making any drastic moves. Use slow movements and act in a non-threatening way. This can make a world of difference in making friends, or making for a really difficult session.  Keep it calm and let them take the lead.

4. Use natural light.

Animals usually don’t love a flash going off in their face! Try getting them to face a window if you are photographing the pet inside of a home.  We all know that they may not cooperate, so don’t beat yourself up if things don’t work out the way you had envisioned.

pet photography

5. Catch them in their element.

Just like you would in a lifestyle session, try to grab some shots of your subject being themselves! If it’s an energetic puppy, let them play a fun game of tug of war. A lazy cat with an attitude? Take the shot of him basking in the sun while simultaneously being annoyed by your presence.

pet photography

6. Use a longer lens.

Sometimes when we come across an extra skittish four-legged friend, we want to keep our distance. In this case, a longer lens may suit you, if you have access to one (it’s certainly not a requirement). A fixed prime lens would work, like an 85mm or a 135mm.  If you’re interested in zoom lenses, a 70-200mm is known for its versatility and great quality images.  Either way, remember that invading any creature’s space can be slightly intimidating, so keep that in mind when you’re packing your camera bag.

pet photography

7. Try something new.

If things are going well during your session, and you have a really cooperative subject, start playing around more with your composition! You can try to direct the animal to a particular place you’d like to photograph, use the rule of thirds, or just mess around with new fun ideas. The great part is, with a willing pet, it’s always a fun session.

8. Plan as much as possible.

Communicating with your verbal client about your non-verbal client is never a bad idea. Just like people, animals sometimes have a time of day that they are more cooperative.  We don’t want to interrupt any meals or nap times anymore than we would a toddler.

9. Wear appropriate attire!

This may sound silly, but if you know you may be chasing an energetic horse around a pasture, maybe it would be a good idea to leave the flip flops at home.  You may end up running, laying in the dirt, getting covered in fur or stepping in something you wouldn’t want on your nicest stilettos. Just be mindful of your subject and their living conditions.

10. Keep their interest (and bring treats).

Bringing a toy or a tasty treat is never a bad idea. You will want to check with the animal’s owner to make sure if all types of treats are ok for their pet, but if you get the go-ahead, it’s a really great way to coerce your new buddy.  Balls that light up, anything that makes a squeaky noise will work for dogs (and some cats), but be aware of the type of animal and what treats THEY like. A loud rubber chicken probably won’t be your first choice for a horse, for example.  Keep it simple and ask! The owner will be very grateful you did.

11. Stay aware of the animal’s mood.

Just like with cranky toddlers, sometimes we need to call it quits before things turn really sour. If the animals seems agitated or shows any kind of aggressive behavior, it’s ok to stop the session. We all know that some animals can be unpredictable, and we don’t want anyone, including the animal to get hurt. Make sure to check with your insurance company to see what you’ll need to include pet photography in your business. This can sometimes be overlooked, but on the off chance something DOES happen, you want to make sure you’re covered!

12. Be patient!

This one seems obvious, right? Thankfully, pet photography isn’t quite as nerve wracking, as say, newborn photography, but patience is still a HUGE quality to possess in this setting. Let the animal do their thing, try to coax without getting frustrated, and just get the images you can.  Just like when photographing kids, their parents often fall in love with the images that show their baby just being themselves.

When it comes to pet photography, take your time, have fun and try to capture the animal in their natural state. Try new techniques, play with your composition, and do your best to be flexible. This is usually a time when you can experiment! Keep shooting, have a blast and see what you end up with!