5 Tips For Pet Creative Photography | How can I improve my pet photography

Get Ready for Your Shoot

As you prepare for your shoot, know that photographing animals is a challenge. Don’t be discouraged if your shots don’t look like National Geographic right out of the gate.

Pets can’t take direction like humans do (unless they’ve been professionally trained), so keep your voice and demeanor calm and friendly. Bring along plenty of treats to use as a reward, and be sure to pay your model with head pats, back scratches, and belly rubs. Hold a favorite toy or treat to the side of the camera as you shoot to keep them focused in your direction long enough to get a good picture. If you can, bring a friend to help with pet wrangling so you can concentrate on the shot.

When it comes to the location of the shoot, start with a place that’s familiar to your pet so they can relax, like their favorite park, your backyard, or a well-lit room in your house.

Tip 1: Get down to your pet’s level

When doing pet photography, it’s important that your camera is eye-level with your pet.

All too often, pet photographers shoot from an upright position, looking down. While this can sometimes work (we’ll discuss one example in Tip #3 below), it generally results in an unflattering pet portrait. This is because the ground makes for an unpleasant background.

Instead, crouch, kneel or lie down in front of your pet.

dog – Creative Pet Photography
I got down on my knees to photograph this dog (named Cookie Monster).

Notice the way the background changes from hard ground to a softer bokeh. You might even get a beautiful image of your pet’s head lying in the grass.

This is exactly what you want. It will make people stop and look twice. It will make your pet pop off the page.

So, when photographing your pet, get down low.

husky dog Creative Pet Photography
I photographed this husky mix, Penny, from a low angle.

Tip 2: Use a wide-angle lens

You can capture beautiful images of your pet no matter your equipment. However, it’s pretty standard to use a portrait lens, somewhere in the 50-85mm range, to photograph pets.

If you want a unique image, switch it up and pull out your wide-angle lens.

wide-angle Creative Pet Photography

With such a lens, the opportunities are endless. You can take an environmental portrait, one that shows off your pet in a stunning environment.

Or you can show your pet from a more intimate perspective by getting in close.

Regardless, you won’t go wrong using a wide-angle lens. You’ll capture beautiful pet portraits that will make your friends jealous.

Tip #3: Use the cute pose

The cute pose is my name for the pose that dogs often show. You know the one: in a sitting position, big eyes, looking up. The sort of pose that makes your heart melt.

cute pose – Creative Pet Photography
Lincoln exhibiting the cute pose.

How do you actually capture the cute pose?

I like to hold a treat just above my camera and tell my dog to sit. That way, he strikes the pose without any other prompting. His head points up to follow the treat. His eyes plead.

If you want a special image of your pet, the cute pose is an excellent way to go.

cute dog Creative Pet Photography

Tip #4: Get close

Do you want intimate pet portraits? I know I do.

One of my favorite ways to do this is to get close.

dog eye – Creative Pet Photography
I focused on the eye of this beautiful dog.

Many pet photographers often aim to capture the whole of their pet. But for a different image, try zooming in, getting close. Focus on a small part of your pet: their head, eyes, nose, or teeth.

The resulting image will be both intimate and unique. You’ll capture the details of your beautiful pet. And you’ll make more artistic, aesthetically pleasing images.

dog nose – Creative Pet Photography
I wanted to focus on the colorful fur of this dog, Hamilton.

To create intimacy in your pet photography, get close.

Tip #5: Capture the tongue

My final tip for unique pet photography is one of my favorites: capture your pet’s tongue in action.

People often strive to create static, formal images of their pets. These are nice, but sometimes you want to loosen up a little. You want to portray not just the physical features of your pet, but their personality.

That’s where the tongue comes in.

dog tongue – Creative Pet Photography

This involves a lot of waiting and watching. Some pets do more with their tongue than others. I like to wait for my dog to yawn. When his mouth is open, tongue lolling out, that’s when I press the shutter.

If you can capture your dog or cat with their tongue out, I guarantee you’ll love the resulting image. First of all, you’ll feel a connection to your pet, one that a formal portrait doesn’t really provide.

Second, viewers will feel a connection to your pet. They’ll start to understand his or her quirks better. They’ll start to appreciate your pet the way that you do.

licking tongue – Creative Pet Photography

To sum up: To capture unique images of your pets, make sure you photograph their tongue.

Some cameras support eye-tracking autofocus, so check for that. Sony cameras can now even track your pet’s eyes. If you don’t have access to such features, using a continuous autofocus mode on a DSLR/mirrorless SLR will help keep a fast-moving subject in focus.

You may also want to avoid shooting from too high up. Instead, get down at your pet’s eye level to take the portrait. This will make the perspective of the shot feel more natural, and it generally looks great. That said, playing around with unusual perspectives can create some interesting and funny portraits too. 

If you’re more of a visual person and looking for an in-depth resource on pet photography, check out this hour and a half tutorial from B&H Photo for more tips. 

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