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Tips for Great Pet Photos

taking photos of your pets

Photo by Jean Grandmaire

–Updated from 4/2/2010–

Most pet owners view their companions as family members, so it’s no surprise that having that perfect pet photo of our dog, cat, or other favorite pet is just as important as having one of your sweetheart, your kids, or mom and dad to show off to others. Here are a few tips on how to get that perfect shot of your beloved pet.

Photo Lighting

Most of us take photos for fun, not as a profession, so our equipment can be pretty basic. Although you may only have a point and shoot camera, you can get pretty nice pet photos by making sure you have the best lighting possible.

  • Natural outdoor light is the best. If you can’t photograph your pet outside, pick a spot indoors that provides plenty of natural lighting. Early morning or late evening is best for natural light.
  • Don’t use a flash as it is too harsh and will cause the dreaded “red eye.” If you have a red eye filter on your camera, use it.
  • It’s best to photograph on an overcast, but bright day instead of a sunny day. Direct sunlight will be too bright and there will be too much contrast between light and dark features. If you do photograph on a sunny day, be sure to find a shady spot to take your photos.
  • An exception to the no-flash and no-direct-sunlight rule: some very dark-coated animals might do well with a flash or sunlight to bring out the different shades and textures in their hair. Also, if it’s difficult to get your animal to sit still, you may want to use the flash. If you can adjust it, try it at the lowest setting and be sure to turn off the auto red-eye feature which delays the flash.


  • Get down to your pet’s level. They’re a lot shorter and smaller than we are, so don’t be in a position where you are pointing your camera down toward them. Sit or crouch down, or even lie down to get the best shot.
  • Don’t be afraid to fill the frame with your pet. Zoom in for tight head shots or make sure their whole body fills the frame.
  • Keep the background in mind. You probably don’t want to shoot your all-black cat on a dark couch. Solid colors are usually a better choice than very textured or multi-colored backgrounds because they can distract from the star of the pet photo.


  • I’m sure we all see our pets as having different expressions. Try to capture that special look only your companion has by making sure he or she is comfortable, relaxed, and having fun. This shouldn’t be an ordeal for them.
  • You can get your pet’s attention by using their favorite treats and toys, or making silly noises to them.
  • Don’t forget that candid shots can be the best ones. Let your pet loose to do what he/she wishes with a toy, with a treat, or with an animal or human friend. If you can, increase the ISO settings of your camera to a fast shutter speed to better capture your animal in motion. This may increase graininess in the photo, but you will have captured the shot.
  • If your camera’s various sounds (beeps) distract your pet, turn the audio alerts off.
  • Experiment! Try different angles. Use unusual props or backgrounds.


As with anything pet-related, you have to practice a lot of patience. Be gentle and have a happy attitude about what you’re doing. If you pet just doesn’t want to cooperate, just end the session and try another time. With some practice, and trial and error, you’ll be able to produce a pet photo you’ll be happy to show off.

Send in your best tips for taking great pet photos.

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