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Eight Tips for Taking Great Pictures of Your Pet

by Josh Kirschner on October 17, 2011

In the past, we've offered tips for photographing babies and toddlers, and some of our readers have asked, "What about photographing pets? They're a part of the family, too."

So, I sat down with Andy Katz, professional photographer and a Sony Artisan of Imagery, to discuss pet photography. He gave me eight tips that will help any pet owner take better photos of his or her treasured companion.

1. Create an effect of movement

Shoot at a slow shutter speed while holding the camera still so the background is still but your pet is in motion. If you’re not using a tripod, keep image stabilization on to keep the background sharp.

2. Take a lot of photos to get one great shot

With the large memory cards in modern digital cameras, “Pixels are free”, says Andy, so keep shooting your pet and sort through the shots later to find the best.

Whale tail out of water

When shooting animals, you'll have a better chance of capturing special photos if you take lots of shots.

3. Beautiful light makes for beautiful photos

The best light is early in the morning and late afternoon, it has a warmer color and creates more interesting shadows than at noon. If you are shooting at noon, place your pet in shade or shadow for prettier light and more image detail. Flashes look unnatural, so try to stay with natural light sources, use a slower shutter speed if necessary and follow our tips for shooting in low light.

Dog in shade

Notice how the shade really brings out the color and texture of the fur.

Dog in sun

In direct sun, the dog becomes washed out by light

4. Use color if it adds to the photo, or B&W to bring out the details

Always set your camera to shoot your pet in color and then decide later whether color ads to the photo. If not, try removing the color through your photo editing software, such as Adobe Photoshop, to accentuate the details.

Seal on rocks

Ok, not technically a pet, but a great example of where texture and lighting is more important than color.

5. Shoot RAW, if possible to ensure you get all the details

A RAW file contains all of the information captured by your camera’s sensor. When your camera converts an image to a JPEG, it compresses the image and some data are lost. It’s better to keep the files RAW and convert them to JPEG after you have finished editing or cropping them.

6. Use selective focus to change a photo’s mood

Choosing whether to place your pet in focus or the foreground/background can completely change the mood of the photo. Try it both ways and see which image you prefer.

Dog behind fence

In this photo, the focus is on the fence.

Dog behind fence

And here the focus is on the dog. Do you notice how the mood differs between the two photos?

7. Highlight the eyes

Find a shot that creates highlights in your pet’s eyes. If the eyes look good, your pet will look good. Look back at the photo in #3 above. Your eyes are drawn to the dog's eyes and there's a vibrancy that you wouldn't get if the highlights weren't there.

8. Let your pet be a pet

Don’t get caught up in having your pet pose for a photo. First of all, given that they’re animals, pets don’t listen very well and you're likely to get frustrated. Secondly, letting your pet act like a pet will give you more natural photos that capture your pet’s true character.


All images courtesy Andy Katz/Sony Electronics


Cameras and Photography, Family and Parenting, Pets, Tips & How-Tos, Tech 101

Discussion loading


From Michelle Lessing on October 17, 2011 :: 10:59 am

While we have two black Labs who we consider part of the family and try to get them in shots, of more importance with this article I own a business that caters to dog owners (custom dog beds, collars, leashes, tote bags) and we’ve been trying to get great pictures of the dogs with our products on the website. These tips should certainly help.




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