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How To Guides

How to: Photograph Pets & Animals

Now, more than ever society considers our four-legged friends more than just “pets” but an equal member of the family. I’m not saying people haven’t always loved their pets, because that’s just not true, but the increase of dog parks, pet clothes, pet daycare, and pets in public being more acceptable like restaurants and stores, well all the signs are there.

Whether or not you want to pursue pet/animal portraits for fun, or serious profit the tips I’ve outlined below should help you get started. This is a basic list of things to consider when snapping pictures of your family pet, and I hope you learn something. The great thing about living in our digital world, you can get great technical results with little to no knowledge about your camera (but I suggest you go BEYOND the automatic settings), so use that to your advantage and work on great composition, and honing your creative eye.

Be patient! I can’t stress this enough. Your pet can’t take your creative direction. You can’t allow yourself get frustrated because your furry friend isn’t standing still or looking at you enough. It’s not their fault. You must take your time and wait for the perfect moment. I admit it, I’m a VERY impatient person except when It comes to photography, and especially animals. I know that waiting will yield magnificent results, and experience tells me that, a great shot is only a few seconds away. It’s all about prediction and determination to get the shot you want.

      My Iguana, Midori.

Focus on the Eyes. What do you first notice when you see a great portrait of someone? For me, It’s the eyes. It’s just as important with animals. The eyes are the doors to the soul, so expressive and emotional and with your pet it’s no exception. This can be tricky because the nose tends to stick out further than the eyes, just like with people so always double check your focus point.

Camera Settings You can expect your pet to be super fidgety, they’re almost like children! So getting the settings right on your camera is important so you don’t end up with a blurry mess. If you do not have a manual camera, you can use the Sports/Action mode on your camera.

  • ISO:  100 or 200 – You want to limit as much grain as possible. Most modern digital cameras can go up to about ISO 400 in bright light without detrimental grain.
  • Shutter Speed:  Aim for 1/320 or faster. This speed is “time-stopping” and will be fast enough to capture your puppies wink or your kittens lip curl.

Remember you can make adjustments to both your aperture and ISO setting to increase the shutter speed when needed. This are just good starting points, and depend on the lighting available to you.

Get low and close. Having a unique point of view will increase the overall effectiveness and the interesting factor of your photo. Pictures of your pets are very special to you, but for others, maybe not so much.  Get down on the ground, to your pets level and take some shots from their perspective! Towering over your pet makes them feel less dominate, so getting on their level should help them relax a bit. Think about filling the entire frame with your Spots face just like you would do if you were taking your grandma’s portrait.

Shoot the Details. For a pet portrait, your job is capture your best friends personality and overall being. If your lucky enough to have an animal with a unique smile, coat pattern, or expressive fuzzy face be sure to zero in on these tiny details- after all it’s what makes them stand out!  Photograph your favorite part of your pet, maybe it’s your dogs nubby tail, or the way your cat’s whiskers curl like string, or your birds colorful tail feature.  It’s literally all about the details, and it’s going to make or break your shot. Capture the emotion when you give your pet it’s favorite toy, snack, or the reaction you get when you pick up the lease and say “You wanna go out?.”

Watch your background.  Keeping all of the tips below in mind consider your background before snapping the picture. Household furniture or clutter can be a huge distraction and you don’t want to take attention away from the star! If you can take your pet outside comfortably and let him or her run around in the grass or at local park then try and get away from the other people and their pets for a few pictures. If you just can’t avoid background objects or can’t take your pet outside just be watchful and try out using a shallow depth of field to blur the stuff in the background.

Interaction. Isn’t it the cutest to see your kitty all curled up in her favorite nap time spot..like the sink! What about your kitten and puppy are all snuggled up together? Let their spirits shine in their most comfortable places around the house or with other family members. Don’t let those special moments pass you by-shooting your pet in his own environment makes for a photo.



About PixelGrin

Photography. Punk Rock. Art. Travel.



  1. Pingback: .PiXELGRiN. - 22 July, 2011

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Hi Hello I'm Jennifer Jackson. ...and the world is my oyster...



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