How To Photograph Pets

According to a recent pet owner survey, over 62 percent of U.S. households own a pet – equating to 71.4 million homes. And for a great majority of these households, they look at their pet as a part of the family. Which means it’s an ideal source for your photography business.

If you’ve ever photographed small children, you know how difficult it can be working with something that has a mind of its own. In that manner, pets are a similar subject matter. It can be a challenge to keep them still, make them “pose”, and get them into a great position. But the results can be monetarily rewarding. Here are 7 tips to get you started.

1. Develop a trust. Determine where you’ll be photographing: the client’s home, your studio, the park? Meet your client there and plan on spending the first five to ten minutes playing and warming up to the pet. (Okay, you may not have to do this if it’s fish, but definitely with a dog or cat.) Talk with the owner about ways to shorten this process, like introducing a favorite toy or treat. If they trust you, they’ll work with you easier.

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2. Choose your background. Keep your background as clean and uncluttered as possible. If you’re meeting at the park, watch what angle you’re photographing from. Are there cars in the background? Groups of people? Switch your angle to ensure the most pleasing look. Then be prepared for taking a variety of photographs to ensure you get the best angle and poses.

3. Move to the pet’s level. One of the first things you’ll learn when photographing children is get down to their level. The same holds true for pets. If you’re photographing a 10 pound Yorkshire Terrier, photographing from above will distort the look you’re trying to achieve. Sit on the ground, or better yet, lay down and photograph directly from her angle.

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4. Look for the “cute” factor. Ask the owner for some of their favorite moments with their pet. Maybe they love when their kitty is cuddled up in a blanket. Or when their dog tilts their head to the side, ready for a walk outside. Then go for that image. Work with the owner to get their favorite expression, and be ready to capture it.

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5. Don’t forget the owner. One of the best ways to calm a pet down is to have the owner jump in the image too. They can pet and sooth him or her until they’re calm, allowing you to get some great interactive images as well.

6. Think multiple images. You’re looking for more than one great image – you’re looking for a series. Put your packages together so the owner can select more than one image to include in a frame. If they see it in your portfolio, they’ll expect it. And it can allow you to make more profit.

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7. Look for different angles. When you take your images, look out for the obvious and the unobvious. Just like children’s portraiture, an owner will always try to get their pet to look at the camera. But you may be able to capture just the right feeling by looking beyond the norm. Concentrate on different angles, and focus on what the pet is doing. Especially with digital, you can take a wide variety of images, selecting only the best to show your client later.

3 thoughts on “How To Photograph Pets”

  1. As a Volunteer at a local Animal Shelter, I photograph animals that are available for adoption, most of which are either strays or owner turn-in,It is quite a challenge to get these guys in a decent frame so I use a lot of High iso.High FP Flash I found out that having one of these so called dog whistles is a great help so long as I have my eye in the viewfinder and using a wide lens.

  2. Jim, I also photograph adoptable dogs for a dog rescue organization that my wife and I run together. I had read a tip that playing a high note on a harmonica can help get a dog to perform the perfect cute head tilt, and it has worked successfully for me on a few shots. It can be a little tricky having a camera in front of your face while blowing into a harmonica, but can be worth the effort!


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