Pet photography is its own photographic niche these days. Whether it’s photos of your furry friend for your Instagram, or professional dog show pictures, knowing how to successfully photograph pets is a key skill.
It’s also a great way to practise for better photography in general.
Your pets are unpredictable and fast, providing you with all of the subject matter you need to improve.
Some photographers step away from this natural, candid state and opt for portraits. It is difficult enough trying to get a human to sit there and take direction while you snap away.
Luckily, pets will do most things for a snack or treat. These might be your own pets, or, if you decide to try out pet photography as a business, pets that belong to another family.
Our article will take you through everything you need to know, from camera recommendations to post-processing your images.
We will give you creative inspiration, show you what you need to look for and which lenses you and your pet photography will benefit from.
If you are looking to turn this into a business, look no further. We have many articles on how you can turn your talent into a healthy profit. You will need time and patience.
Let’s show you how to turn your neigh shots into purrfect images.
Animals, as you may have noticed, do not stay still. Although I would say any camera can take pet photography images, you really want something digital.
This offers you the chance to take many images that you can check immediately. A system that allows you to change lenses and have full control over a range of settings is also recommended.
This is why we suggest that a DSLR is a great tool to have. There is a wide range of lens types at your disposal, along with accessories and other equipment designed for your Canon or Nikon model.
Read our article here on what we recommend to get those stunning pet photography images.
Lenses are what make your photograph what it is. A differential focus comes from the aperture on your piece of glass. The wider the aperture, the less the photograph will be in focus.
The background becomes more and more blurry, adding interest to your image and cutting out distractions. A wide-angle lens offers you a broader perspective of the scene.
A zoom lens gives you the chance to photograph from close and afar, staying out of the scene and distracting your pets.
Having a few different lenses will give your photography more flexibility. Check out the article above for the best Nikon and Canon lenses for pet photography.
Shooting pet photography with an ultrawide angle lens can yield some amazing effects and perspectives. With a lens such as the Canon EF 17-40 f/4L USM, you have a 93° degree angle.
You need to get very close to your subject to place the focus on them. This will, in turn, distort them, the amount of which depends on your lens.
Here, you are able to give treats to the dog, talk to them and tempt them with toys. You can use this lens to not only capture the animal but also show the surrounding scene.
Read our other tips here on why you should have a wide angle lens as part of your pet photography kit.
A telephoto lens is a great way to capture scenes without being in the immediate area. This is a great way to stay out of your pets’ zone to capture those candid shots.
It also allows your dog not to be distracted by you, your camera or noises that your camera makes. This is also a great way to deal with shy or unruly dogs.
Using a telephoto lens for pet photography is a great way to allow the dog or pet to become used to you, without getting in their faces.
If you are shooting someone else’s pet, this is a way to capture a beautiful scene between fluffball and owner. Read our article for all the tips you need.
A prime lens is one with a fixed focal length. You cant zoom with this type of lens, instead, you will have to move yourself to tighten or loosen your framing.
As you can see, speed is key. If you have dogs who like to run around, then it will be difficult to get the frame and focus while chasing them.
What a prime lens can offer you is quality and a wide aperture. The wide aperture is perfect for low light situations and getting that small area in focus.
To see all the other pros and cons of using a prime lens, you need to read our article.
A polarising filter has three main effects. To darken skies, to manage reflections and remove glare from reflective surfaces found on metal and water.
You might find that using this type of filter has side-effects that can help to make your pet image more impressive.
In an outdoor shoot, use this filter to darken and bring out more colour and detail from your skies. You might also find that it will enrich the colours of your subject.
The other advantage is that your lens is protected from potential curious noses coming to inspect you.
A pet photographer will have more in their bag than just the camera kit. There are accessories they will need to use, such as an off-camera flash and camera cleaning kit.
To get the attention of the canines and other pets outdoors, toys and treats will make you approachable. They will also take direction if they know they will get something out of it.
Business cards are also a great idea. You might encounter other pet owners while you’re on a shoot. They are potential clients if you do this for a living.
Extras of everything ensure you won’t miss that shot because a lead snapped or your battery is somehow dead. Read here for all the info you will need.
Exposure, put simply, is the amount of light that enters your camera and hits your sensor. This is controlled by the three things that make up the exposure triangle; ISO, shutter speed and aperture.
Terms such as underexposed or overexposed are used to describe the lack or abundance of light in your image.
As a rule of thumb, ISO offers you the highest quality and f/8 will give you the sharpest image.
Start by using shutter speed priority (S/Tv) and move your dial until your camera reads f/8. If you find that your shutter speed is around 1/250, you are good to go.
Read more about the settings you should choose for your pet photography.
Aperture is what determines how much of your image is in focus. Your pet photography can benefit from a wide aperture if you want to single out one specific detail.
A wide aperture is also good to allow the ISO and shutter speed to move, giving you more play with your camera settings. A narrow aperture, such as f/16 will help show off your location.
A beautiful scenery shot is better at f/16, and the distractions are removed by using f/2. Read more about aperture in pet photography here.
How To Shoot Your Pets
A cheat sheet is there to make sure you have all the hints for what you want to photograph. Our cheat sheet here will run down all of the things you need to know across all areas.
If you want to include your dog into a family portrait, use a staircase as a base and create two rows. You will also benefit from having treats and a toy, to minimise distractions.
All of the lists are here, no matter what pet photography you want to create.
To get the most from your dog photography, you need to know when your dog is more and less active throughout the day. When they are calmer and more relaxed, this is a perfect time for portraits.
Those action shots come when they have an abundance of energy. Schedule and plan around these times, depending on the shots you want. Organize efficiently so that you aren’t left taking candids.
11 more tips await you in our article, which you can read here.
Shooting a portrait of your pup can be a great way to create presents to celebrate the holidays. Every one of your extended family and friends will receive cards for EVERY holiday once you get this down.
Natural light is great for outdoor shoots, but for indoor captures, you might need more. An off-camera flash or strobe is your key to adding more light.
Alongside the flash, your pet photography will benefit from using reflectors. This will allow you to highlight the shadows, and bring details in those underexposed areas.
For all the information you will need to capture these one light portraits, read here.
We always look to the experts for help. Who knows more about animals and their behaviour than veterinarians? What about vets who become photographers themselves? Seems like a no-brainer.
When you are photographing other people’s pets, you need as much information as possible. Commit their animals’ name to mind. This gets you off on the right foot.
Find out as much as you can about where you will be photographing them. How much light is in the area, what is the background like are both valid questions.
The more you know, the easier it will be. Read here for all the information you will need to capture great portraits.
Cats and dogs are the usual pets, but some people have horses and even ones that are a lot more exotic. Some people even keep arachnids as pets!
Horses can be a challenge to photograph as they are (generally) much bigger than the average dog. They have different behaviours and need to be treated differently.
The number one tip here is that you need to use a long lens. This can be a zoom or a telephoto and is better than a wide angle as they present a lot more distortion.
Keeping your distance is also key, as horses can kick and lash out if they feel uncomfortable. Read here for more equine photography tips.
Now that you have a good base of what it is like to photograph pets, let’s look at how to improve your images. One area to look at within pet photography is the rate at which you capture.
This can have a huge impact on your work, as photographing faster means nailing the shot, rather than just missing it.
Burst Mode and Continuous Focus are the stresses here. Burst mode will take a succession of images from the pressing of the shutter release. This rate differs among different cameras.
Continuous focus mode allows your camera to keep focusing on a moving subject. This ensures they stay in focus as they move. Neat!
Cats, cats and cats. The entire world wide web is crazy about cats, so they get their own mention. They are also a little more difficult to photograph. They make their own waves.
As cats are very nimble creatures with a lot of personality, your photography will benefit from a multitude of angles. Variety is the spice of life.
If you find they are happy with their location, move around. Capture them from different angles and perspectives to add that punch to your series. It will get you thinking on your feet.
Our other ten tips are just as informative. Go check them out here.
Smartphone pet photography can be a great way to capture those precious moments. It is the camera you have with you most of, if not all the time.
When it comes to photographing anything, you need to look for different perspectives. Photographing at eye level is boring, overdone and is uninteresting to the viewers.
Get down to their level. This places the focus on them and shows their importance. It also gives the viewers a slice of what their perspective is like too.
All of our tips looking at cell phone pet photography can be found here.
Action shots of your dog or pet for pet photography will always be the most challenging area. Animals are unpredictable, fast and sometimes clumsy. They also don’t think about their expressions.
The amount of light present will help correctly expose your subject, but also gives you room to play with your camera settings. You need a fast shutter speed to freeze the moment.
Photographing with the brightest part of the sky behind you in a great way to accomplish this. As the dog runs towards you, your camera settings are at their best.
Read here on how to nail your dogs’ action shots all the time. Ok, most of the time. Some of the time? Dogs are really fast!
Composing your shot well makes for an interesting pet photography image. One of the most common mistakes in all areas of photography is that the images are not composed.
One easily overlooked area is the chosen location doesn’t have an attractive appeal. More specifically, the background has had no thought in the preparation process.
We all love candid, natural-looking images, but without proper attention to the background and setting, your images will suffer. Read here for more compositional rules you should follow.
There is one simple way to make your images interesting, and keep them separated from the crowd. Pet photography is one of the biggest areas of photography, and you need to set yourself apart.
Most people with a camera tend to photograph at eye level. That is never going to show a subject or scenario in an interesting light because we all see the world from that same angle.
Get down on the ground and photograph that puppy at HIS eye level. People, and your viewers, rarely, if at all, see the world from that perspective. It’s interesting because it’s different.
For more tips and ideas on how to change your perspective, read here.
Being able to take creative pet photography will set you apart from the competition. This is a great way to make your images more interesting, as your images will be very unique.
Your own creativity is important as it is what makes your images yours. ~No one else experiences the world as you do. Time to put your own spin on things.
There are many ways to go about this. Do you want to make some humorous images? Are you interested in seeing and showing a small slice of a pets’ character?
Do what is important and interesting to you, and no one else’s images will compare. Read here for all the information you need.
We all need some inspiration from time to time. It helps to see what other people have come up with, looking at the world of pet photography. It might give you the perfect idea.
Pinterest is also a great place to look. There are hundreds of thousands of cat’s in all sorts of poses, from all kinds of perspectives. Put your own creativity in yours to set them apart.
Have a look at our list of inspiration. It might just make you purr. Sorry.
Business Side of Things
A pet photography business is a great idea if you find you like photographing animals. Talent will always be the number one rule to success, but you cant survive on talent alone.
Social media is the area that you need to own, without going overboard. Sharing your images on your own website is a start, Instagram, facebook and twitter are the next steps.
Business cards work wonders. The best thing is that if you are photographing pets outside, they will usually be in the same areas others do the same. Take advantage of the situation.
Read all of our tips on starting your pet photography business here.
Pet photography as a business is not (just) a walk in the park. You might be great at photographing cats and dogs, but what about exotic animals? How large is your repertoire?
You need to manage yourself. Organising, finding and meeting clients, creating content for social media sites. All of this takes time, money and effort.
It’s even more difficult if it isn’t your passion. Our number one tip for you is to research and learn as much as you can. Read books about cats and dogs, looking at their behaviours.
The more you learn, the closer you are to understanding the animals. In turn, you become closer to them, finding it easier to represent them on screen. Purrfect.
Pets are like furry children, they won’t always do what you want. Thankfully, dogs will do most things for treats. My child will take the treat and still won’t do what you ask.
If you are running a business, you can’t turn owners away just because their dog is a little unruly. You need to go out there and own it. The dogs’ owner will appreciate a great shot.
A tired dog is a good dog. They will sit still for longer and won’t feel the need to dash off at a moment’s notice. Don’t do it yourself, have the owner run them ragged beforehand.
All of our tips on working with unruly dogs are here.
Before you start a pet photography business, there are a few things you need to be aware of. Do you really love animals? Is it your passion?
Think about it. You will see animals all the time. You will spend hours running around after them, framing, shooting and culling. In the rain, snow and baking heat.
This is after feeding them, talking to them and rewarding them. After the shoot, you need to edit many images of animals, to send, to share and to print.
We haven’t even talked about all the research you need to do. This is all in one day, as tomorrow is the same. Do you really love animals that much?
The Brenizer effect is named after the famous photographer Ryan Brenizer. The idea is that you use your DSLRs images to mimic those of a large format camera.
This involves stitching together many images together during the editing stage. The final image is a wide angle shot, but with a very small depth of field.
Read our article here on how to create this final image, looking at all of the steps beforehand.
There are processes that many photographers do while editing. Either they have seen it somewhere else or felt like their photography benefits from specific styles.
We are here to tell you that your images should look as realistic as possible. Reality, only better. One of the most common mistakes it having blown out highlights with no details.
Don’t add too much fill light when editing. If it was present when you photographed the subject, add some blacks and mid-tones back into the image.
For a step-by-step guide, read our article here. You’ll also find the other 4 most common mistakes, and how to fix them.
A note from Josh, ExpertPhotography's Photographer-In-Chief:
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