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By Christine DeSantis
October 11, 2021

Contrary to popular belief, you don’t need to be a professional photographer to take effective photos of your pet for social media content. In fact, you don’t even need a professional-grade camera! Technology has come so far that even the average smart phone can now take wallpaper-worthy photos. It doesn’t matter whether you’re using an Android, iPhone, or a DSLR camera; with the right tips and tricks, you can significantly improve your pet pictures.

I created the following list of suggestions based off my own photography experience and industry research. Here are ten tips for taking the best photos of your pet:

1. Use the rule of thirds

The rule of thirds is a photography term that refers to an image’s composition. Simply put, the “rule” is a parameter that divides a photo into both horizontal and vertical thirds. This grid serves as a guide for any significant features or lines in the picture.

 Align important aspects of your image with the gridlines. This will help you keep your image straight and avoid angles that are unflattering to the eye.The four dots where the gridlines intersect act as pins for points of interest. So, the next time you go to shoot a portrait of your pet, aim to place their head along one of those points.

2. Stick to natural light

Natural light is typically much softer in photos than your everyday residential lighting, making it easier for beginner photographers to work with. Position your pet near a bright window or bring them outdoors (during sunrise/sunset is best).If you must shoot indoors, consider studio lighting options like a soft box (or DIY one). This will diffuse the light for a gentle, natural result.

3. Get on their level

This is a tip that can drastically improve your pet photos. You don’t want your subject to be “reaching” for the camera. Position your device to be parallel with their face. When I take pictures of my miniature dachshund, I have to lay on the ground. I get into some pretty awkward positions, but my dog would look disproportionate in the frame if I didn’t!

4. Focus on the eyes

Always set your focal point on the eyes. If your pet’s face is at an angle, position the focus on the eye that is closest to the camera. Eyes are what we naturally look for in pictures, so you want to be sure that your subject’s gaze is clearly defined. There are exceptions to this (for instance, a close-up snoot shot with the focus on the nose), but for most portraits the focus should be set on the eyes.

5. Keep the photoshoot short

You know your pet’s attention span, interests, and limits. No animal wants to continuously pose in front of a camera for 30 minutes straight. Work in increments and don’t exceed your dog’s willingness to cooperate. Know when to wrap things up! 

6. Use treats to keep them engaged

Treats are an excellent way to get your pet interested in the camera. I recommend giving your pet one or two “freebies” before you start taking photos. Your pet will likely remain attentive once they realize you have some food. Just be sure not to give them too many! It’s best to set aside an appropriate portion of your pet’s favorite treat before you begin your photoshoot, that way you’re sure not to get carried away. 

7. Take breaks for play

A terrific alternative to my previous tip is to sub out treats with your pet’s favorite toys. Have a quick game of fetch or tug-of-war to make sure your pet doesn’t get bored. This can be particularly useful for overweight pets looking to burn some extra calories. Toys are an excellent prop for pet photos as well. 

8. Accentuate your pet’s character

You know your pet better than anyone. What’s their personality like? Are they feisty? Goofy? Grumpy? Friendly? Highlight what makes them unique! Showcase your pet’s silly expressions and quirky characteristics.

9. Be spontaneous

If you get into a repetitive photoshoot routine, your pet will likely get used to (and tired of) it. Be creative with your photoshoot locations, times, durations, and activities during shooting. You’ll probably snap more candid shots as well.

10. Keep calm!

The worst thing you can do during a pet photoshoot is get frustrated. Your pet can sense that irritation, and you definitely don’t want to give them a negative experience! Also, an unhappy model is not going to result in favorable shots.

Following this advice won’t make you the next Animal Photographer of the Year, but it should help you to eliminate some awkward angles and encapsulate your pet’s personality in a style that is pleasing to the eye. Just remember to have fun! Creating an unbreakable bond with your pet should be your top priority. Your photos are simply a reflection of that. Do you have any pet photography pointers that you’d like to share? Please consider posting a comment with your suggestions. Your ideas might inspire or encourage others!

Christine DeSantis is a Digital Media Specialist with a B.S. in Public Relations focusing on Multimedia Production. Her fond affection for pets has inspired her to pursue a career in pet-niche marketing. Through her work as a content creator, manager, and copywriter, she has used unique professional opportunities to express her love for animals. When she's not taking photos or spending time with her miniature dachshund, Leroy, you can usually find her searching the streets of Austin, Texas for the best tacos in town!