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How to Get Creative with Pet Portraits (10 Fun Ideas)

Last updated: March 13, 2024 - 10 min read
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You’ve probably taken thousands of simple, spontaneous, and silly photos of your pet. Snapshots like this are ideal for making unforgettable memories and lifting your spirits. But pet portraits can get a little boring due to a lack of creativity.

And a lack of creativity, as you know, can ruthlessly distance you from a photography genre you love. Even if you’re not planning to master the art of unique animal photography, you might be pining for better skills. If so, you’ve come to the right article.

Best Lenses for Pet Photography
Nikon NIKKOR Z 28-75mm F/2.8
Nikon NIKKOR Z 28-75mm F/2.8
Nikon NIKKOR Z 28-75mm F/2.8
Canon RF 24-105mm F/4L IS USM
Canon RF 24-105mm F/4L IS USM
Canon RF 24-105mm F/4L IS USM
Sony E 18-135mm F/3.5-5.6 OSS SEL18135
Sony E 18-135mm F/3.5-5.6 OSS SEL18135
Sony E 18-135mm F/3.5-5.6 OSS SEL18135
Fujifilm FUJINON XF 18-135mm F/3.5-5.6 R LM OIS WR
Fujifilm FUJINON XF 18-135mm F/3.5-5.6 R LM OIS WR
Fujifilm FUJINON XF 18-135mm F/3.5-5.6 R LM OIS WR

10 Create Pet Portraits

With the help of your imagination, you can take your pet photography to the next level. Even if you’re not a professional photographer, you can take wildly creative pet portraits with the help of these tips. You only need your imagination, a few special tools, and patience!

1. Invite Your Pet’s Best Friend for a Photoshoot

Animals tend to look hilarious when they have fun together. This is why you must take advantage of playtime. Bonus points if you have a pair of unlikely best friends.

If your pet has a best friend, invite them to a heart-melting photo session. Give pets their favorite toys. And make sure you involve yourself in their games. You’ll have a blast and make your pet feel comfortable in the presence of another familiar being.

It’s hard to predict much when it comes to active pets. So don’t be afraid of being spontaneous. While this isn’t a planned creative photoshoot, it provides many amusing photos. Some of which might end up in your portfolio!

Two white dogs standing in snow as an example for pet potrtraits
Shot with a Canon EOS RP. 85mm, f/2.0, 1/250 s, ISO 100. Barcs Tamás (Unsplash)

2. Shop for and Use Pet Costumes

Anything you can imagine in miniature form, including pet clothes, is probably available somewhere. Many affordable pirate costumes, tutus, hoodies, sweaters, etc., are available online. You can take fabulous pet portraits if your pet feels comfortable in them.

Accessories are a great way to catch your pet’s attention and add an interesting element to your photographs. If your pet, like mine, dislikes costumes of any kind, try using them as an alternative.

My cat doesn’t mind bows or hats. So, I often use them to add a spark of creativity to my portraits.

But you don’t need to go shopping to take imaginative pet portraits. Look for DIY pet costume tutorials online. And you’ll discover a whole new world of crafting fun!

A dog in a Christmas tree costume as an example for pet portraits
Shot with a Sony a7 IV. 70mm, f/8.0, 1/200 s, ISO 80. Karsten Winegeart (Unsplash)

3. Document Pet Moments With a Collage

Why limit yourself to one photo when you can include many in a single collage or diptych? Diptychs are two-photo collages that look visually appealing in portfolios.

Collages are ideal for capturing specific atmospheres. They can also tell deeper stories or creatively document the lives of pets.

You can create images with a specific theme, like daily pet routines. This gives your viewers a clearer picture of your pet’s life. These photos can feature your pet washing, eating, sleeping, or doing something amusing.

Make sure it has a theme, no matter what you decide to document. Here are a few creative pet ideas to spark your inspiration:

  • Favorite toys
  • Most comforting locations
  • A tour of your home from the pet’s perspective
  • What it looks like after bath time
  • Most common expressions
Collage of an orange tabby in four different poses as an example for pet portraits
Shot with a Fujifilm X-T1. Paul Hanaoka (Unsplash)

4. Treat Pets Like a Professional Model

Imagine that your pet is a professional model who wants to look glorious on the front cover of Vogue. Look at photos of people for inspiration. Notice simple light patterns that appeal to you and use them during your photoshoot.

Try to capture expressions that resemble human ones. Or do the complete opposite and make them look funny. This might sound “too professional” or even ridiculous. But it’s guaranteed to give you eye-catching results.

It’s unlikely that your pet will appreciate professional lighting equipment and setups. So stick to natural light when possible. The great indoors also have creative opportunities. Use curtain shadows, dappled light, and artificial rainbows.

These can all be used to enhance your pet’s features and add a touch of professionalism to simple portraits. Wide-angle and fisheye lenses can create the most creative results but skew features. Use the best lens you have for pet photography.

Side profile of a German sheperd as an example for pet portraits
Shot with a Canon EOS 6D Mark II. 105mm, f/5.6, 1/250 s, ISO 500. Christer Lässman (Unsplash)

5. Show Off Your Pet’s Selfie Skills

Animals can be masters of the selfie game, too. If you’re a fan of funny pet pictures, this one’s for you. Create a photo where it looks like your pet is taking a selfie!

The best thing about pet photography is that flattering angles aren’t an issue. Your pet will look amazing no matter what. This is why “selfies” featuring your pet are easy to make.

Take photos of your pet from a low angle using your widest lens. Your pet may not be used to this, so it may try to play with your camera. If this doesn’t attract its attention, use treats and toys. When it reaches for your camera, shoot away!

A cat selfie as an example for pet portraits
Shot with a Samsung S8 camera phone. Joshua Hoehne (Unsplash)

It’s important to watch out for your pet’s claws. Your equipment will be within reach since you must get close to your pet to take these photos. This might result in scratched fingers or, in worst-case scenarios, a scratched lens. To avoid this, take pet selfies when they’re calm.

You can also take a regular selfie with your pet using your smartphone. I love these because it strengthens the pet-owner bond. Whenever I take self-portraits with my cat, I notice a change in her comfort level.

When I take photos of her alone, she’s more restless. In my arms, though, she happily poses for the camera. This is why I often feature her in my professional portraits.

6. Find Things to Fit Pets Into

Do you know those oddly satisfying YouTube videos? The ones that feature impressive cake icing skills or objects perfectly fitting into things? Well, it’s just as satisfying when adorable pets fit into boxes, camera bags, and more.

If your pet loves getting cozy in small spaces, you’re in for a creative treat! My cat (like most cats) loves boxes of any kind. So, I have no trouble taking photos of her sleeping in them. These boxes can be transformed into houses, ships, or anything you feel like making.

Similarly, photograph your pet in handbags, backpacks, or strollers. Be as creative as you like. But make sure your pet feels comfortable wherever you place it. Don’t force it into a space it doesn’t want to hang out in.

Two hairless cats in a handbag as an example for pet portraits
Shot with a Sony a7 III. 116mm, f/4.5, 1/125 s, ISO 640. Ki Zhang (Unsplash)

7. Take Portraits From a Pet’s Point of View

How do you think your pet sees you? To find out, take photos from their perspective.

You can again try to take self-portraits with your pet. 

Try to fit both of you in the frame, but try to frame it from your pet’s point of view. This might be tricky to master at first. You’ll likely need to set up a tripod or free to shoot this with the help of a friend.

Alternatively, you can take photos of your friend with their pet in the same style. This makes controlling focus, exposure, and other camera settings for pet shots easier.

This kind of photoshoot changes your photographic perspective. It helps you experiment with new angles and creatively highlight your pet’s world.

A dog looking at an owner on a walk from its point of view as an example for pet portraits
Shot with a Canon EOS Rebel T3i (600D). 50mm, f/1.8, 1/400 s, ISO 280. Matt Bradford-Aunger (Unsplash)

8. Capture All Those Precious Details

I try to include details in every photography genre that I experiment with. It helps me appreciate my subjects and create interesting resources for diptychs or double exposures.

For pet portraits, I spend half the time focusing on details alone. Like collages, they tell a deeper story and turn seemingly insignificant moments into timeless photos.

Details don’t always have to feature your pet’s face. I encourage you to avoid it. Truly creative photos have a voice of their own, one that doesn’t demand the full picture.

Take detailed photos that reflect your pet’s personality, home, or interests. Your results may look unusual and abstract, but they will make sense. If you want to take it further, use these details in a collage or diptych.

Details of snow on a cat's as an example for abstract pet portraits
Shot with an Nikon D5500. 300mm, f/6.3, 1/40 s, ISO 100. Rémi Müller (Unsplash)

9. Make Them Look Like You

We all have distinct personalities, fashion tastes, and interests. Since we’re all unique, why not create pet versions of ourselves? The results will be nothing but creative!

If you were an animal, what would you look like? Find out what makes you stand out as an individual. It could be your glasses, your love for reading, or an item of clothing that means a lot to you. Use these items in your pet portraits.

If you want to be even more creative, create a diptych featuring your pet and you wearing the same clothes or accessories. You’re guaranteed to get incredible feedback with such creativity.

A dog wearing glasses as an example for pet portraits
Photo by Bri Tucker (Unsplash)

10. Create a Masterpiece in Photoshop

My final tip requires knowledge of an editing program like Photoshop. As you can see in the photo below, the leaves weren’t a part of the original image. But this doesn’t stop the image from overflowing with creativity and sweetness.

You can recreate this using your pet’s favorite items, parts of nature that stand out to you, or anything else you find appropriate.
There are no limits when it comes to photo manipulation.

This is why you shouldn’t get rid of your outtakes. The simplest pet portraits could turn into creative works of art with the help of a little imagination. Look for some photos and see what you can do with them. You’ll be surprised by the number of ideas you get!

A cat laying on a black table with colorful autumn leaves around it
Shot with a Fujifilm X100S. 23mm, f/2.0, 1/1,000 s, ISO 1,600. Nadi Whatisdelirium (Unsplash)

Conclusion: Getting Creative With Pet Portraits

No matter how many simple, spontaneous, and silly pet photos you’ve taken, you have the potential to create fantastic pet portraits. The good news? You don’t need to be a professional pet or dog photographer to achieve this.

Just use your imagination, embrace the unknown, and make the most of your time with your beloved pet. Before you know it, you’ll have a rich collection of creative pet portraits. They will not only make you smile but inspire thousands of people!

Are you looking for more great tips on photographing your furry friends? Check out our Perfect Pawtraits eBook!

Best Lenses for Pet Photography
Nikon NIKKOR Z 28-75mm F/2.8
Nikon NIKKOR Z 28-75mm F/2.8
Nikon NIKKOR Z 28-75mm F/2.8
Canon RF 24-105mm F/4L IS USM
Canon RF 24-105mm F/4L IS USM
Canon RF 24-105mm F/4L IS USM
Sony E 18-135mm F/3.5-5.6 OSS SEL18135
Sony E 18-135mm F/3.5-5.6 OSS SEL18135
Sony E 18-135mm F/3.5-5.6 OSS SEL18135
Fujifilm FUJINON XF 18-135mm F/3.5-5.6 R LM OIS WR
Fujifilm FUJINON XF 18-135mm F/3.5-5.6 R LM OIS WR
Fujifilm FUJINON XF 18-135mm F/3.5-5.6 R LM OIS WR