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15 Best Dog Photography Tips (For Perfect Pet Portraits)

Last updated: November 12, 2023 - 9 min read
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Dogs are the perfect subjects for all kinds of pet photography. Their energy, unpredictability, and joy can be turned into eye-catching dog photography.
We have a few dog photography tips to help you get started. So read on to learn how to capture the best photos of your four-legged friends!
Wide-Angle Shots
Canon EF-S 10-18mm F/4.5-5.6 IS STM
Canon EF 10-18mm f/4.5-5.6 IS STM
Capture stunning wide-angle shots of your furry friend with a high-quality superwide lens. Inspire your dog photography with a lens that’s perfect for capturing their energy and joy.

Top 15 Dog Photography Tips

Here are our top dog photography tips. They’ll ensure you’ve got amazing pictures of your furry family members forever!

1. Make Sure You Know the Dog’s Personality

Portrait photographers often get to know their clients before the photo session. By getting a glimpse of their personalities, they have a better idea of what to avoid and how to give instructions. You can use the same technique when photographing dogs.

If your pet model is very energetic, you’ll be able to prepare yourself for a fast-paced and unpredictable photo shoot. If it enjoys lazing around, you can bring a few treats with you to catch its attention.

You can also use this information to inspire yourself. For example, professional travel photographer Theron Humphrey often finds inspiration in his dog’s quirks and habits.

Observe your subject and include its strengths in your pictures for the most natural results.

photo of a brown dog in the sunset2. Capture Owner/Pet Relationships

If your subject feels uncomfortable in your presence, you can ask the owner to join the picture.

Dogs tend to feel most comfortable in the presence of their loved ones. You can use this opportunity to take heartwarming portraits.

If the puppy is yours, don’t be afraid of taking self-portraits!a woman photographed with her white dog in the park

3. Focus on the Eyes to Create Depth

Emotive dog portraits focus on the eyes. It is like human portraits. You can use the eyes to create depth, emphasize an unusual eye color, or create a sense of familiarity. Use a wide aperture (f/2.8 or lower) to enhance this feeling!

Often, the puppy won’t start posing as soon as you pick up your camera. I recommend taking emotive portraits at the end of your photoshoot. That’s when your subject has used up all of its energy and is ready to relax.

A close up dog photography portrait
For the sharpest results, use manual focus

4. Use a Black Background for Classic Portraits

Not every dog portrait has to be taken outdoors. If you’re a fan of studio photography, you can create a backdrop using a few simple tools. All you need is black paint, cardboard, and (DIY or professional) lighting equipment.

A black background will put the spotlight on your subject. It will create the illusion of depth. And it makes your photos look like professional fine art prints.

Black and white photo of a dog from the side, with a black background

5. Take Photos Using Burst Mode to Capture Motion

Continuous shooting (burst mode) is perfect for taking epic and hilarious photos of dogs. Active dogs are unpredictable. This means you won’t be able to compose a shot during your session.
Instead of waiting for the perfect moment, take spontaneous images. Burst mode is a handy feature that allows you to take lots of pictures within seconds. You’ll capture all kinds of angles and expressions while your dog is on the move.
action shot of a dog running after a ball

6. Use a Wide-Angle Lens for Fun Portraits

Wide-angle lenses have short focal lengths. This allows them to create wide compositions.

You can use them to create funny and unusual pictures of your pet.

Here are a few wide-angle lenses that we recommend for dog photography:

7. Use Manual Focus for Sharp Portraits

In pet photography, autofocus isn’t always the solution. You can use manual focus when your dog is resting or taking a calm walk. This allows you to focus on the right parts of their face and take sharp portraits.

If you want to have full control over your pictures, shoot in manual mode. Other modes, such as aperture priority, will do some of the work for you. Using this might quicken the shooting process. But it might not give you the results you want. Manual mode is best!

photo of a cute dog lying on the ground looking up

8. Use Natural Light for Striking Pet Portraits

Natural light is the most accessible and helpful tool you’ll ever have as a photographer. Thanks to its ever-changing nature, you can use it to take all kinds of striking pup portraits.

Here are some of the best times to take beautiful pet photography:

  • The golden hour. Shortly after sunrise or before sunset, the sun creates a hazy, golden atmosphere that’s ideal for joyful photos.
  • A cloudy dayClouds won’t help you take bright photos. But they’ll create a pleasant glow. This will help you take well-lit photos no matter where your pet goes.

Avoid harsh, direct light as much as you can. Midday light will create unflattering shadows and make you (and your dog!) squint.

photo of a dog sitting in a park in the sunset

9. Distract Untrained Dogs for an Easier Shoot

Some dogs seem to have an endless amount of energy. This might make your photoshoot more challenging. You can try to distract them from their adventures using these handy objects:

  • Their favorite treats
  • Squeaky toys
  • The sound of your camera shutter (if they’re comfortable with noise)
  • Their owner’s encouragement

    A close up of the photographer feeding a treat to a large white dog
    You can even take pictures while someone rewards the dog with treats

10. Use the Panning Technique for Creative Dog Photos

The panning technique is often used to emphasize movement and create textures. If you like abstract photography, you’ll enjoy this creative approach to dog photography.

For this to be successful, you need to have an idea of where your puppy will run. Once you’re ready, move your camera in the direction your pet is running. Then press the shutter.

Try to master this technique prior to the shoot. You can practice by photographing moving vehicles or wild animals.

action shot of two dogs running in the park

11. Hold a Reflector to Eliminate Shadows

If you’re working in a studio, you might find it difficult to light every part of your puppy’s features. The popular side-light technique, which is often used for portraits, doesn’t always look flattering in dog photography.

Your goal is to cast an even amount of light on your entire subject. This helps make their eyes sparkle.

To do this, use a reflector. You can either buy one or make one at home. In fact, it’s likely that you already have one! A large sheet of white paper or a sheet of tin foil can easily replace a professional reflector.

It helps to have an assistant who can help you hold the reflector.

Photo of a happy-looking black dog with its mouth open and tongue out in front of a white background
A reflector will make it easy for you to photograph black dogs because it will remove harsh shadows

12. Get on the Dog’s Eye Level to Calm Them

There’s nothing wrong with taking photos of dogs from unusual angles. But it’s important to get on their level for some shots.

This will make them feel more comfortable. It will also encourage you to experiment with new angles. Shooting from the puppy’s eye level will get you the cutest pictures.

To take this tip to the next level, photograph your dog as it plays, runs, and rests. You’ll end up with unique photos that you and your clients will love!

photo of two dogs and their puppies sitting in the park

13. Find Inspiration in Natural Poses

Every pet has its quirks. Instead of forcing it to pose for you all the time, find inspiration in their natural poses.

Your pre-photoshoot knowledge of your model’s personality will help your dog photography a lot.

a dog and its owner playing with the leash

14. Zoom In to Give the Dog Space

It’s important to give your subject enough space to feel comfortable. Especially if it’s not your puppy. With the right amount of space, a dog will be more inclined to play.

They’ll probably forget that the camera is even there. But they may not forget if you’re standing close and staring at it through a lens.

A zoom lens will help you take high-quality photos of your subject from a distance. This will help the puppy get used to your presence. And it will give you enough space to experiment. You can try different compositions, crop out distractions, and create gorgeous bokeh.

A pet photography portrait of a white dog

15. Start With Action Shots

Even though dogs can be unpredictable, you can still plan your photoshoot to make the most of your time. Once you’re familiar with your subject’s personality, you’ll know how and when to take specific photos.

Shooting strategically helps you avoid a lot of unnecessary stress and makes you a better planner.

For example, if your dog is very active, you should focus on taking action shots. Use the panning technique at the beginning of your session. Don’t forget to use Continuous Focus mode to get sharp results.

Once they settle down, you can switch to manual focus and take classic dog portraits. During breaks, you can reward it with treats and take beautiful close-ups.

Cute pet portrait of a brown puppy sleeping
Sleeping dogs are the ideal subjects for photographers who want to sharpen their focusing and lighting skills


Every dog lover deserves to have great dog photography. With a bit of practice, you can learn how to work with different personalities. Master how to shoot strategically and adapt to various camera settings. You’ll become a skilled dog photographer in no time.

Even if you’re not planning to become a pro, you can still use these pet photography tips. They will help you take the best possible photos of your beloved pet.

Check out our Perfect Pawtraits e-book to take amazing photos of your beloved pets!