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11 Best Tips for Taking Family Photos With Dogs and Cats

Last updated: March 13, 2024 - 9 min read
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Today, we give you the best tips for taking family photos with dogs and cats, who are a part of the family for millions of people across the globe. And for many families, taking photos with their furry friends is a cherished tradition.

But getting great shots of everyone in the family—including the pet—can be tricky. Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered! Whether you’re a pet photographer or pet owner, these tips will give you the best family photos with pets.

Best 50mm Lenses for Family Photos With Dogs and Cats
Canon EF 50mm F/1.8 STM
Canon EF 50mm F/1.8 STM
Canon EF 50mm F/1.8 STM
Nikon NIKKOR Z 50mm F/1.8 S
Nikon NIKKOR Z 50mm F/1.8 S
Nikon NIKKOR Z 50mm F/1.8 S
Sony FE 50mm F/2.5 G SEL50F25G
Sony FE 50mm F/2.5 G SEL50F25G
Sony FE 50mm F/2.5 G SEL50F25G
Fujifilm FUJINON XF 50mm F/2 R WR
Fujifilm FUJINON XF 50mm F/2 R WR
Fujifilm FUJINON XF 50mm F/2 R WR

11 Best Tips for Taking Family Photos With Dogs and Cats

Here are our 11 best tips for taking family photos with pets.

1. Prepare Owners and Pets for Photoshoots

A family photoshoot that features pets needs preparation. If you’re shooting for clients, discuss the session with them beforehand. Determine the best location and time of the photo session with their input.

Shooting outside is better because the pet has more freedom to move around. You also have better natural light outdoors. Try to find a place where the pet feels comfortable. It can be the dog’s favorite park or the family’s garden. It’s, of course, best to consult with clients about this.

It’s also good to make the pet familiar with the camera. Practice taking photos of the dog, cat, or other pet before the photoshoot.

Ask the owner of the pet to do the same at home. You want to start the session with a pet not afraid of the clicking sound and cameras being pointed at it.

Finally, make sure that you or the owner cleans the pet. While cats are very clean animals, dogs can get muddy and dusty even after one walk. Ask the owner to comb and clean the dog’s hair so they look their best for the family pet photo.

A mother and daughter walking a small dog as an example of family photos with pets


2. Find Natural Light

One of our best pet photography tips is using natural light. This can be outside or indoors near a window.

Using artificial light for pet photography can be difficult and even dangerous. The animals can knock over the lights and burn themselves. Avoid using flash when taking a family photo with pets. The sudden light can spook or annoy the animals.

Try to find a place where you don’t have a weird mixture of light and shadows. A picnic under a tree can be a fantastic candid opportunity and location for a portrait photoshoot with natural light.

Family portrait having a picnic with their dog as an example of family photos with pets


3. Get to Know the Pet

Every pet is different, and some are shy in front of strangers. If you are not the owner, get to know the pet. It’s the same principle with any portrait photography. Subjects are more relaxed and comfortable in your presence if they are familiar with you.

Take the dog for a walk or play a few tricks with him. Let the cat approach you and sniff you around. Some dog breeds are very friendly, while others fear unfamiliar people. Some dogs can even get protective if they think their owner is in danger.

Make sure you and the client have a friendly tone and show the dog that you have good intentions. For pet photography, you must be a dog and a people person!

A girl sitting on a bed with a dog as an example of family photos with pets


4. Make the Pet Happy Before the Photo Session

You cannot work with a pet that is hungry or needs to take a walk. Feed the animals before the photo session. And make sure that the dog gets its exercises before starting to take photos. Otherwise, you won’t have an easy time trying to capture it running around.

If you photograph cats, make sure they go out for a wander before the sessions. Cats can be desperate when they want to be outdoors and won’t stop meowing at the door.

If you photograph puppies or kittens, play with them a bit before starting to shoot. Don’t exhaust the pets, though! A sleeping animal won’t look very exciting in the family photos.

A girl embracing a Dalmatian as an example of family photos with dogs


5. Use Treats and Toys to Get the Best Pet Pose

Always have treats and toys with you for pet photography sessions. You can direct and reward a dog with treats. You can play with a cat and get its attention with a feather wand or an interactive catnip toy.

But when you give treats to the animals, don’t overuse them. You want to keep the pets’ interest as long as possible.

If the dog has a favorite toy, use it during the session. Ask members of the family to bring their favorite objects, too. This will help to make the family photo even more personal.

Some dogs get very excited when they see the toy they like. Take it out only when you’re ready to take photos!

A girl playing with a little Husky on a bed as an example of family photos with dogs


6. Learn Tricks and Commands

Learning a few basic commands can improve pet photos even if you are not the dog’s owner. “Sit” and “stay” work like magic, adding a few extra calm moments.

There are a few commands you can use when it comes to cats. Some owners teach tricks to their cats. But these animals are very independent and typically behave as they like.

The best trick to use with cats is their sleep time. They spend most of their day sleeping or getting ready for a nap. And when they clean their body, you have a few minutes to take photos before they pass out.

A tabby beside a little boy as an example of family photos with cats


7. Be Patient and Spontaneous

Patience is the most important trait when you take family photos with pets. A dog can be the smartest and most obedient creature, but change its mind about staying still!

You can prepare for pet photography sessions but can’t plan them. You have to be spontaneous and ready to capture the moment.

Don’t let the photography session last long. Animals become bored, and a dog needs to go for a walk every few hours.

It helps if you own pets at home and you know how they behave. When you take images of your pet, it’s better to have the camera ready. You don’t have to schedule a photoshoot because you can turn any moment into one.

A small dog and Siamese cat being held by their owners as an example of family photos with pets


8. Prepare Camera Settings for Best Results

Being spontaneous means you are always ready for action shots with dogs and cats. This means having the best camera settings to capture pets with family members.

A fast shutter speed also helps you freeze the moment. Finding a shooting location with enough light for a quick shutter speed is best. Switch your camera to burst mode to capture many pictures quickly—the odds of getting a successful image increase!

Use continuous focus to keep any moving subject sharp in your photo. In this mode, your camera follows the pets’ movements and refocuses accordingly. It’s also helpful to put on eye-detection autofocus if your camera has it so your portraits have the best focus.

A girl doing yoga beside her cute dog as an example of family photos with pets


9. Highlight the Pet’s Personality

Every pet has a different personality. Highlight that in your images and let them be themselves. I always have to adapt my pet photoshoots to our more sensitive cat.

Our two cats at home have the most contrasting personalities. One is so easy to photograph because she feels comfortable with being constantly touched. But we can only touch the other if she’s “in the mood.”

My sensitive and less approachable cat has two weird habits. She jumps into the empty bathtub and waits until I open the tap so that she can drink from it.

She also likes to come to me or my father when we work in front of a computer. She has often walked over to my keyboard and typed in something!

If you or your client have a pet with similar habits, set up the scene around it. If a dog has a favorite position to sit in or has a certain way of asking for food, show it in your photo. These can make for highly creative pet photos.

Cute portrait of a curly haired girl holding her cat in front of her laptop as an example of family photos with pets


10. Show the Relationship Between the Pet and the Owner

When you can spot their intimacy and relationship, a family photo with pets feels personal. Encourage the family to give belly rubs to their dog or play with their cat. Capture hugs, kisses, or cuddles. Let the animals jump on their owners or sit in their laps.

People often say that a dog and its owner look alike. You can create amazing and funny images based on their similarities.

Ask the family member to dress up the dog in clothes that match what they wear. You could even take one portrait of the dog and one of the owner and create a diptych.

Convey as many emotions and connections as possible. You want to end up with real photos of a family with their pets, not cold or inauthentic poses.

Mother and daughter petting their cat as an example of family photos with pets


11. Have Fun and Let the Pet Enjoy the Session

Having fun is among the most important pet photography tips. Creating a relaxed and enjoyable atmosphere for pets and owners during photography sessions is also important.

When capturing family photos with dogs and cats, letting the pets have fun and enjoy the session is paramount. This ensures genuine expressions and natural interactions. And it helps ease any stress or anxiety pets may feel in front of the camera.

Encourage playful activities. By observing their behavior and adapting to their energy levels, you can capture authentic moments of joy and spontaneity.

Remember to remain patient and flexible. Allow pets to dictate the pace of the session and provide breaks as needed. Prioritizing the happiness and comfort of the pets leads to more engaging and heartfelt family photos.

Mother and daughter petting their dog outdoors as an example of family photos with pets


Conclusion: Family Photos With Dogs and Pets

Family photos with dogs and pets need a lot of patience and spontaneity. It’s the kind of genre that you can only enjoy doing if you love animals. We hope our tips help improve your pet photography with family members!

For all you need to take dog portraits, read our eBook, Perfect Pawtraits

Best 50mm Lenses for Family Photos With Dogs and Cats
Canon EF 50mm F/1.8 STM
Canon EF 50mm F/1.8 STM
Canon EF 50mm F/1.8 STM
Nikon NIKKOR Z 50mm F/1.8 S
Nikon NIKKOR Z 50mm F/1.8 S
Nikon NIKKOR Z 50mm F/1.8 S
Sony FE 50mm F/2.5 G SEL50F25G
Sony FE 50mm F/2.5 G SEL50F25G
Sony FE 50mm F/2.5 G SEL50F25G
Fujifilm FUJINON XF 50mm F/2 R WR
Fujifilm FUJINON XF 50mm F/2 R WR
Fujifilm FUJINON XF 50mm F/2 R WR