Capturing the moments we spend with our favorite animals can be very rewarding, especially when those images let us glimpse our furry friends’ personality and emotions. The following five tips will help you create better pet photos of your dog (or cat)!
1. Get Low
Unless your buddy is a Great Dane, you probably aren’t seeing eye to eye with your subject. Just like your favorite Instagram model, Walter the Chihuahua has a good side, and it isn’t the top of his head. Moving the camera to your pet’s eye level brings their face into the shot with a more pleasing angle and lets you frame the world from their perspective. This also allows you to use the same portrait composition tools you would with a human subject by focusing sharply on the eyes and locating them about ⅓ from the top of the frame. Eyes are the windows to a dog’s soul too!
2. Find the Light.
You don’t need fancy flashes or lighting equipment to take great pet photos, you just need a softer light without harsh shadows. In fact, many animals might react negatively to flash lighting and would feel more comfortable in a naturally lit environment. So take your Frenchie Pierre and walk out to the park, find a shaded area, not in direct sunlight and make sure the background is not brighter than where your subject is. If you’re indoors, play with your pet near a north-facing window, which will naturally let in diffused light. If you want to get more advanced, shoot your pet photos around sunrise or sunset when the low angle of the sun can be used to backlight or sidelight your pet, this works especially well to highlight the texture of their coat, Pierre will be happy he woke up early to look this good!
3. Stand back, Zoom in
For the best candid shots, you need your subject to be somewhat oblivious to what’s happening. When photographing your Shar-Pei Shondra, you want her to be relaxed and herself, not overly excited. You don’t want Shondra to shy away from her portraits, you want her to shine! If you’re using an SLR, select a longer focal length, somewhere between 70 and 200mm. This gives you some working distance from the pet and will compress the depth of field, which leads to flattering portraits. If you’re using a mobile phone, many come with optical zooming capabilities, so still take a few steps back, and zoom in. By not being right in your pet’s face with the camera, they will have a more natural appearance and won’t be as curious about what you’re doing.
4. Bring Help
We all know that some pets can be a handful, but even the best behaved could use a wrangler to keep them composed. Having a friend available to play with your Black Lab Ruby will keep her distracted and focused on toys and fun, allowing you to focus on photography. It’s never easy to issue commands from behind the lens, especially when Ruby wants to run to you instead of staying in her pose. Having an assistant just out of the frame can help you keep that beautiful model in her place. Don’t shy away from treats, we all like to be rewarded for a hard day’s work and Ruby is no exception; you’ll also get some fantastic facial expressions when she knows that a treat is on its way.
5. Be patient
Sometimes, that first click of the shutter leads to a fantastic portrait of your Kitty Cat. But other times, Kitty just isn’t feeling her most beautiful and would rather be waiting in her trailer eating nip than on the shoot. Don’t get too discouraged if you can’t capture exactly the kind of shot you want, animals can only be expected to cooperate as much as they feel up to. If it’s not Kitty's day, week, month, or even year, you just need to be patient, take a break, and wait for her to come around to being photographed. She’ll be there for you eventually and ready for her close-up, but remember that you can’t force her until she decides it’s time for the spotlight. A little patience and you’ll be capturing amazing pet photos, in her best light, in no time.So remember, for the best portraits of your favorite canine (or feline), get down on their level, place them in soft light, give them some space, have a helper on the side, and patiently wait for the right moment to click that shutter. If you follow these guidelines, your pet’s personality will shine through the final results and you’ll have some cherished images to share the memories you make together.This article was written by Stephen Hoppe @ Stephen Hoppe Photography. Stephen specializes in architectural and landscape photography. He shoots a variety of national and state parks, cities, buildings, and lighting projects. He has two cats, Ringo and Joey, and when he's off on a photo shoot, he loves getting updates from his pet sitter via the Scout app.To check out Stephen's work visit him on Instagram