Are your pet photos a little… blah? Are you discouraged because photography seems like a complicated and expensive hobby? Fear not! You can still get some stellar shots and capture some of those precious memories in style. Here are a few tips to DIY professional pet photos!
Get on their level
This is number one in every list of pet photography tips ever. But here’s the thing. That’s because it makes such a huge difference! Getting on your pet’s level makes for a much more intimate and interesting portrait. It draws you into the picture and lets you capture their faces in a more natural and comfortable pose. It’s also easier to get their attention when you’re already right there in front of them!
There are plenty of pets out there whose RBF is never more evident than during a photoshoot. Or maybe it’s not RBF so much as their normal expression is serious or anxious or grumpy or they just look stoned. One of the easiest ways to get them looking happy and alert is to play with them! For dogs, that “smile” I go for when taking photos isn’t so much actual joy as… just a little bit of panting. A few rounds of fetch or tug can make a somber-looking dog smile in no time! Check out this article about different types of dog play and why your dog enjoys them so much. You can use these methods to get great shots of them in action!
Cats are unlikely to smile, but play can still help them to relax, loosen up, and look friendly and engaged.
Get their attention
If your pet is enjoying playing with a toy, then it may be the perfect tool for this next step! For most pet portraits, of course, you want your pet to look at you. The easiest way to do that is to offer them something that interests or intrigues them. Depending on the pet, that might be a treat, a toy, or an interesting noise. For dogs, asking them to sit or lie down and then holding their treat or toy just behind or above the camera tends to get good results! Cats will often respond well to toys, but for the treat-hounds among them, you’ll generally get the best results by shaking the bag.
Put them at ease.
The most important part of the DIY professional pet photos process, especially if it’s your own pet, is that they’re enjoying it. Particularly with an anxious or sensitive pet, be aware of the things that might be freaking them out. Are there too many people involved? Are you or someone else trying to physically move them around in ways they’re not comfortable with? Are you using equipment that might weird them out, such as a big noisy camera, tripod, or lighting? Are you using props or settings that scare them? Keep in mind that an anxious or unhappy pet will generally LOOK anxious and unhappy. So even if you finally get your pup to sit in the little car and wear the top hat and little beard, it’s not going to be a cute picture if he looks miserable.
Things to smell! Friends to greet! Plants to pee on! Is that a bird? Your pet did not grow up dreaming of being a model or Instagram star. They don’t know or care that you’re trying to get a good photo of them. They’ve got other things on their minds! If you want your pet to settle down and focus on you, do what you can to remove other distractions. Are you in a busy public place or somewhere unfamiliar to your pet? Give them a chance to sniff around and get their bearings before trying to take photos. Do you have a friend “helping” you get the shot by calling your pet’s name and offering them treats… about three feet to the left of where you actually want them to look? Ask them to chill out- be still and quiet, go somewhere else, stand behind you, or interact directly with your pet if you want them in the shot. The less your pet is thinking about everything going on around them, the more they can focus on you… and the treat or toy in your hand!
Keep lighting in mind
This is one of those things that can get complicated as you get into it, but the basics are… well, basic. When you’re using a phone to take photos, the phone does the adjustments for you, but it’s still good to know what you can do to affect your photo.
Essentially, if there’s a lot of light, your phone can capture movement pretty well. If there’s not, it can’t and any movement will cause your photo to be blurry. Lighting isn’t always easy to control in the moment, but if you can- turn the lights on!
Capture THEIR personality!
Not every pet is a pose-and-smile sort! Maybe you’ve got a goofball, a curmudgeon, or a nerd. Maybe they’ve got crazy eyes or out-of-control ears. Embrace it! Celebrate what makes your pet who they are. That’s what makes the DIY professional pet photos experience so much fun! Sure, you can keep trying for that school-picture type photo, but don’t miss out on those “imperfect” shots- sometimes, they can really showcase your pet’s unique personality.
Not much of a pet paparazzo? Well… when you schedule pet care with 4-Legged Kids, pet photos are part of the deal! Okay, it’s mostly just so you know they’re doing okay while you’re away, but I mean… have you seen some of our pics? It’s worth scheduling a dog walk just for the bonus photoshoot! Check out our services at https://4leggedkids.com/our-services/
Janie founded 4-Legged Kids, Inc in St. Louis, Missouri, in 1997 and provides education through her PetBizHIVE podcast and her PetBizMBA membership and courses. She is a Certified Professional Animal Care Operator, Fear Free certified and a Certified Professional Pet Sitter. Learn more about the Founder, Janie Budnick.