If you have the opportunity, it’s best to take some pet photos with the needs of a portrait specially in mind. For some pets, a beautiful photograph capturing their best qualities is very easy, while for others it is frustratingly elusive. Many choose a professional pet photography studio for this reason, and while this can be a good solution, with a little preparation and plenty of patience you should still be able to achieve similar results yourself. After all…who else knows your pet better?
Above all, remember to have fun and don’t be in a rush. Patience is most definitely a virtue when it comes to photographing pets! Be ready to click away and take plenty of shots. Here are a few simple yet effective tips I’ve found can give the best results…
The best possible lighting is achieved outside in natural light. Try to do this even if your pet is an indoor only pet – though of course safety comes first and this may not always be possible. Having your pet close to a large window, with plenty of natural light coming from behind or slightly to the side of you as you face your pet, is the next best option.
Avoid direct sunlight, as it can alter natural colouring and increase the contrast between shadow and light, hiding some features. A bright but overcast day is perfect.
Don’t use a flash, as this can cause red-eye and distort the true colouring & shading of your pet. An exception to this is if your pet has a black coat, in which case a flash or bright sunlight can actually bring out shading and texture which may be lost in photos taken under other lighting conditions.
Photograph your pet on their level. Don’t have them looking up at you unless this is how you wish the portrait to appear. Don’t make them come to you. Instead, go to where they are most comfortable and see the world from their point of view. Sit on the grass, lie on the floor, whatever it takes. This is especially important for full body shots, which look best from the side rather than above.
Take plenty of facial photographs with a zoom lense if possible, and have their face fill the frame while still in sharp focus. Try taking some three-quarter views as well as from the front, as a slightly angled pose can sometimes make a beautiful portrait photograph.
If your pet will not sit still, have someone hold them in position. If these pictures are solely for the portrait, then hands and arms in the frame do not matter and are easily removed as long as they do not cover important markings.
Keep your pet as comfortable and at ease as possible. Cameras can be distracting for some animals, so if you cannot get your pet to behave normally, try having someone else present to divert their attention and keep them engaged.
Capture the most characteristic expression & pose of your pet. If they are generally happy, try to catch them doing their version of a smile.
A good idea is to have favourite treats or toys at the ready. Hold them up near the camera to catch (and hopefully hold) interest in the right direction. Most importantly, don’t be afraid to be silly. Try making funny and unusual noises or movements to get their attention.