Your pets are the cutest, and of course you want photos of them to post online or just have around the house! However, whether they stay still or bounce around, pets are a tricky subject for photography. We have to work with the pet to get them to look at the camera, and we have to be quick when taking photographs.
Hold the camera out to the animal for a good sniff. Anytime an animal sees something new, it's going to be curious, especially cats. Let the animal take a moment to give the camera a good sniff all over, so they will be less likely to do so in the middle of your photo shoot.
If you're not photographing your own pet, let the animal give you a good sniff as well, so they are more comfortable in the session.
Get them used to the flash and shutter sound. Sometimes, the flash will freeze an animal in place for a second, which can be good if you're trying to get a still shot. However, both the shutter sound and flash can distract the animal enough to ruin the shot, so take a few shots just so they can get used to that part of the camera.
Try shooting a couple of shots towards the ceiling so the animal can hear the shutter sound and see the flash.
Give your pet a minute to explore a new area. If you go outside or you take your pet to a new area, they are going to want to explore. Give them a few minutes to look around first! That way, they won't be as distracted when you're ready to take the pictures.
If your pet is on a leash, walk them slowly around the area, letting them sniff as you go.
If you're in a confined space with a small animal, give them a chance to walk around by itself for a minute.
Go outside if you can. Natural light is great for any photography, and pet photography is no exception. If it's especially bright, pick a shaded area where you'll get ambient light for your pictures.
Try the hour just after sunrise or the one just before sunset. These hours, called the "golden hours," have the best light. Avoid the harsh light of midday.
Of course, you won't be able to take some pets outdoors. In that case, try to get your pet in an area with as much natural light as you can. Open blinds and curtains to let in the light!
If natural light isn't an option, try using a detached flash. Point it up at the ceiling, and it will reflect back down on your pet to create perfect lighting
Pick a background that's not too busy. Aim for mostly solid colors in the background, instead of patterns and other people. For instance, grass or even a solid color piece of furniture work well in the background.
If the background is too busy, your pet won't stand out as much as you'd like.
Try to pick a background that makes your pet stand out. For instance, pick a bright color for a black cat, or a dark color for a blonde dog.
Target the pet's face. Most of your pet's personality will show up in its face, so make it prominent in the pictures. If you're manually focusing the picture, use the eyes as your target!
Your pet's personality shows up in their face, so try to capture that! Work on getting a photo of your pet's expressive eyes or goofy grin.
Make your pet the whole picture. Get up close to your pet, so that they take up the whole photo. That way, your pet is the focus, and not some interesting thing in the background.
It helps to get down on your pet's level if you can. Lay down on the floor or sit down. As a bonus, your pet will probably wander over to see what's going on.
If you need to, you can crop the photo later to cut out the extra space.
Wait for the perfect shots. A treat can entice a pet to look your way, but it may not. However, eventually, most pets will look at you and the camera. Just be patient and wait your pet out.
While you're waiting, have your shot already set up so that when they look at you, you're ready to take the shot.
Include your pet's personality. Whether your animal is goofy, lazy, playful, or stubborn, try to make that a part of the photo. If you're not photographing your own pet, ask the owner about the animal's personality quirks.
For instance, if your animal tends to be lazy, try to capture a photo of them sleeping.
If your pet can do a special trick, show that off!
Try different angles and shots. Pets, like human subjects, look different from different angles and framing them in a variety of ways can bring a variety of perspectives to your shots. In your photo shoot, take some tightly cropped facial shots (even focusing in on a single features like the eyes, nose, or ears) but also make sure you take shots that show off your more of your pet's body.
Working on different angles may give you an unexpectedly good shot you never would have gotten if you hadn't moved around some.
Work in short increments to keep your pet interested. Think of your pet as a toddler, and you'll have a good idea of how long you can keep its attention span. By taking breaks and only shooting a couple of photos at a time, you'll have a happier, more engaged pet for your photos.
Set an alarm for a couple of minutes if you keep forgetting to take breaks.
Bribe your pet with treats. Most animals love treats, so now is the time to break out your pet's favorite one. Split the treats up into small bites, as you may need to bribe your animal quite a few times.
Try asking someone to hold a treat in their hand near the camera. Make sure the pet knows they have it, and then have the person hide it away. This trick usually evokes good expressions from the animal, especially dogs
Ask your pet to play with you using one of its favorite toys. A playful pet will make for good photos, and using a toy will help keep your pet nearby. Grab the toy, and play with your pet like you normally would.
If you have another person nearby, it might be easier if they use the toy to play with the pet while you snap pictures.
Tug-of-war toys work great for dogs, and string-type toys work well for cats, as you can entice them to come over. Any toy that keeps your pet mostly in the same place should be fine.
Balls don't work as well, unless someone is throwing a ball in your direction. Otherwise, the animal will be running away from you.
Use the appropriate voice for the type of pet you're photographing. For a dog, be very, very cheerful. Dogs love upbeat voices, especially when you're telling the dog what a good boy or girl they are! Other pets may do better with calm, almost cooing voices.
You know what your pet likes to hear! Use the pet names you have for it, using your happy voice.
For instance, try a cheerful but calm voice when working with cats. For birds, be very cheerful, but not so loud you scare them. Whistles may help, too!
If it's not your pet, get the owner to talk to the pet instead, as they may have better luck than you.
Surprise your pet so they look your way. Of course, you don't want to scare your pet, but something new and exciting can make them want to see what's going on. For instance, you could have a person pop out from behind you or use a squeaky toy to make a noise.
You could also try unique noises, such as finger drumming, tongue-clicking, scratching, and whistling.