7 Tips for Better Pet Photography

We all love photos of animals, but pets are notoriously difficult to photograph well.

Try these simple tips to get frame-worthy shots of your fuzziest family members.

Practice getting your pet comfortable around the camera.

If your pet acts nervous around a camera, put yourself in their shoes: there’s suddenly a one-eyed monster staring at them! Try introducing the camera slowly. Let your pet see it and sniff it before you start shooting, and make the whole experience positive with lots of treats, encouragement, and petting. Happy, relaxed pets make the best photos.

Take a walk before you shoot.

It’ll help get the wiggles out before you start snapping, keep your dog calm during the shoot, and make everybody—including you!—more relaxed.

Bring treats and toys.

Treats can be used to direct your pet’s attention, bribe them into staying in the position you want, and reward good behavior. A favorite toy can give an active pooch something to focus on while you shoot. Plus, treats and toys will make the whole exercise feel like a fun, playful training session!

Skip the flash.

Sudden bright lights can be startling or even scary to animals who don’t expect them. In certain lights, they can also cause red-eye. So make sure to turn off your camera’s flash and use natural light instead. If you’re inside, try shooting near a bright window; if you’re outside, shoot when there’s plenty of daylight. Just avoid direct sunlight, which can make white and light-colored pets look washed out.

Think about your dog’s body position.

In other words: nobody wants to see dog junk. You might not notice it while you’re shooting, but you (and everybody else!) will notice it later in the photos. Be particularly mindful when photographing seated male dogs; instead of shooting straight-on, try angling their bodies slightly to one side instead.

Get down to your dog’s eye level.

Getting closer to your dog’s height makes photo subjects feel family members, whereas photos taken from standing height often give the impression of looking down on an animal. It might be awkward to get down on the floor, but it’s worth it.

Shoot now, edit later.

Borrow a trick from the professionals: just keep shooting! It doesn’t matter whether you’re shooting with a smartphone or a professional-level digital camera, so long as you give yourself lots of photos to choose from. Not every shot will be a winner, of course. But you can easily delete the blurry ones—and you might just find some winners, too.

Meet the Author: Charlotte Austin

Charlotte Austin is a Seattle-based writer and mountain guide. She has climbed, explored, and led expeditions in North and South America, Nepal, Europe, Alaska, and Patagonia. Her writing has been featured in Women's Adventure, Alpinist, Stay Wild, and other national and international publications. When she's not guiding in the Himalayas, she's exploring her hometown (Seattle, Washington), trying new recipes, and hanging out with Huckleberry, her giant black Great Dane-Lab mix. Read more about their adventures at www.charlotteaustin.com.

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