At Pet Photo Saver, we are obsessed with taking adorable and amazing pictures of our pets. Here is some advice to help you take pictures that show off your precious pet’s personality.
While animals’ inherent cuteness definitely plays a big role in the popularity of pet photography, there is so much work behind each photo. In this article, you’ll learn everything you need to prepare for an animal photo session in order to capture beautiful pet images that truly reflect your furry friend’s character.
1. Mind your timing
You might be used to choosing a shooting session’s time and location based on light conditions or weather forecast. However, pet photography demands a whole new level of planning. In addition to taking light, weather and other regular factors into account, you will need to consider the needs and routines of each subject.
Think about how their mood changes during the day and how that affects the pictures you want to capture. For example, dogs “smile” when they are tired so you might want to take them for a long walk before. If you want to get adorable sleeping cat pictures, feed them right before you start shooting.
2. Take advantage of their curiosity
Ever heard that curiosity killed the cat? That inquisitive nature can also be found in dogs, and can be a great asset for your compositions. Let them be and simply wait for the next new thing that will catch their attention.
Unlike actively trying to direct their focus to the camera, this will result in more spontaneous and natural expressions. For example, a wide-angle lens paired with a subject curious about photography can lead to some very interesting close-up portraits.
3. Plan the shots
Take some time to create a general guideline of the photo shoot beforehand. Focus on the emotions you want to evoke rather than on specific compositions. This will allow you to think about the expressions and mood you need to recreate without getting frustrated about not getting the exact image you pictured beforehand.
Keep in mind that pet photography can be unpredictable, as your model might simply not feel like giving you the shot you’re looking for. If that happens, allow yourself to move on and look for a different approach.
4. Get on their level
Images shot from eye level are usually more attractive to viewers and also induce empathy. This is especially important when working with subjects that are much smaller than you, such as the ones you’ll be working with during pet photography sessions.
Of course, that doesn’t mean that every single one of your pet pictures should be taken from the same perspective. Simply keep your natural, standing-up viewpoint for a few, selected shots.
5. Play with angles and perspectives
Don’t be afraid to try new things. Look for close-ups and explore how you can break photography composition rules. Focus on specific details rather than on the eyes. Seek textures and contrasts. Use different lenses and see how they affect each composition. Diversifying your shots will keep you engaged in the session and can lead to some fun, creative results that you can develop into your unique photography style.
6. Pay attention to the background
It can be easy to ignore a background scene when you have a lovely puppy playing in front of your camera. However, the background will stand out once you’re looking at a still image. Before you start taking pictures of pets, look out for elements you definitely want to keep away from your compositions. Examine your full surroundings rather than a specific area, as your pet will likely move around during the photo shoot.
The same concept applies to indoor shootings, as there is nothing more annoying than having the perfect cat portrait ruined by a dirty litter box in the background. Additionally, try to find colorful backgrounds that contrast with the color of your pet’s coat to avoid bland results.
7. Get rid of distractions
It takes very little to distract an animal. While you probably cannot eliminate all distractions, you should keep them to an absolute minimum. Find a secluded location away from the crowd, or remove every unnecessary element from the room. In fact, even you and your camera count as a distraction. Unless you actually want them to look at you, try to move as slowly as you can to avoid drawing attention.
8. Capture their character
Just like humans, every animal has its own unique personality. If you’re photographing someone else’s pet, make sure to ask about their character and spend some time with them beforehand to see it for yourself.
Focusing on what makes each one of them special will result in more natural and unique images. For example, don’t try to take action dog photography with an old, lazy pup. The same applies to cat photography: aiming for a still portrait of an energetic kitten will likely end with blurry shots and a lot of frustration.
Animals are in constant movement. They blink, turn their ears, twitch their whiskers, and look away at the most inopportune moments. These moves are sometimes so fast that they can go unnoticed during the shooting. However, there isn’t a worse feeling than going home after a session and realizing that most shots are not good enough.
To avoid this, set your camera to burst mode and capture numerous shots of the same scene. This might mean you’ll need to spend more time on your photo editing software, but you’ll be happy to have that safety net once you see how many cute pet pictures it saved.
10. Pay your model
No species likes to work for free. Luckily, working with some of the most beautiful pets out there will only cost you a bag of treats and maybe a squeaky ball.
Use food to get pets to feel comfortable and toys to reward good behavior. This will make them like you more and also encourage them to let you take photos for a bit longer when they start getting tired.