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Woman photographing two dogs

The essentials

  • Keep it fun — You want to keep the experience positive and less stressful. Get them used to any equipment, use treats, and positive reinforcement.
  • Use a high-shutter speed — A higher shutter speed gives you the best chance of capturing a clear photo of your pet.
  • Be patient and practice — Don’t expect your pet to stay still, especially on the first go. Be patient, and with practice, it’ll become second nature over time.

Taking great photos of your pet demands careful preparation and patience. This process is rarely quick and easy. It’s more like an adventure. Whether you’re looking for a formal, posed portrait or a quick playtime snapshot, being well-prepared ensures you get great photos that capture your furry friend’s personality. Here are our tips for taking great photos of your pet.

1. Plan ahead

Planning ahead for your photo session may seem excessive, but it helps ensure you get the type of pictures you hoped for. Preparing can make all the difference if you want something more formal or styled. A clear concept and organization ensures you account for every detail. Planning may include organizing the concept, the logistics of your photos, a location, lighting, type of photo, or anything else you need. Make a detailed list and plan it out beforehand.

If your pet is particularly excited or energetic, planning a long walk or playtime before the session can help expend extra energy and nervousness. Tiring them out beforehand reduces your chances of getting blurry pictures since your pet may be more relaxed and easier to photograph.

Supplies needed

Choosing the right equipment will make photographing your pet easier. While smartphones suffice, especially in well-lit conditions, a camera with a higher shutter speed and larger apertures can help you capture action shots. Consider investing in a DSLR or mirrorless camera. These cameras offer lots of variation between the type of camera and the different lenses available. Higher shutter speeds and larger apertures are ideal for capturing sharp images in various lighting conditions, even when your pet moves quickly.

You’ll also want to make sure your supplies include treats and toys. These are perfect for positive reinforcement during the photo shoot. Treats and toys can help your pet feel comfortable, sit for longer sessions, and feel more relaxed and happy. Being well prepared can help ensure the experience is fun and not stressful.

👉 Looking for ideas for toys to use during your shoot? Check out our list of the best indestructible dog toys!

2. Decide on lighting

Proper lighting makes a huge difference in getting the right photo of your pet. Natural lighting is generally the most flattering and non-invasive (compared to studio lighting). Get your pet outside, in the backyard, or another outdoor area. Softly shaded areas beneath trees provide soft and scattered light. These areas reduce shadows, lessening the harshness of direct overhead sunlight.

The “golden hours” during early morning and late afternoon offer almost perfect lighting conditions and a warm glow, while overcast days act as a natural diffuser, softening shadows. If shooting indoors, avoid using direct flash or strobes — these can startle pets. Instead, use natural lighting from large windows and plain walls as backdrops.

3. Have an assistant

An extra set of hands can be extremely helpful. An assistant can engage your pet and get their attention to look at the camera or play with them to get action shots. They can use toys and treats or make sounds, which is excellent for portraits. An assistant can keep squirmy pets in place and distracted, helping you capture action shots. Don’t worry, you can usually edit out their presence later. If someone isn’t available to help you, invest in a shutter control. These remote controls are an inexpensive way to engage with your pet (as an assistant would) and simultaneously take a picture.

👉 Want to capture beautifully posed photos of your pet? Check out our guide on teaching your dog to sit.

4. Desensitize your pet

Creating a calm environment can help you capture incredible photos. Pets can quickly become stressed or anxious, especially in unfamiliar situations. When they’re relaxed, they’re more likely to cooperate and display their personality.

Regularly expose them to the camera, flashes, and equipment. Familiarizing them can prevent anxious, skittish, and fearful reactions. Use treats and positive reinforcement, and stay calm and patient. A calm demeanor and body language can reduce stress and increase the chance you’ll capture the photos you want.

5. Use a high shutter speed

The saving grace when taking pet photos is a high shutter speed. Pets move quickly and unpredictably. High shutter speeds capture fast movement like running, jumping, or playing, whereas slower shutter speeds usually produce blurry images during this movement. High shutter speeds also mean detail, capturing fur texture, whiskers, and their eyes. Experiment with different settings on your camera. Try using shutter speeds of at least 1/500th of a second when just sitting or playing. Try a higher speed for faster motions like running and jumping.

6. Get down on the pet's level

The angle at which you shoot your pet can change the outcome of your images. Try crouching down and getting on the ground at the same level as your pet. This gives a natural perspective, allowing their gaze to meet the camera at the same level. Try using a telephoto lens. Telephoto lenses can achieve the same shot without being close and up in their face. You can also try shooting at different angles. While eye-level shots look the most natural, try what feels and looks best.

7. Use treats and toys

Using treats and toys helps get your pet’s attention and encourages them to look where you want them to. Having treats on hand also allows for positive reinforcement, rewarding them with treats when they cooperate and behave well. Give them lots of affection to keep the experience light, fun, and stress-free.

👉 Want to bring some treats to the photo shoot but don’t know where to start? Check out our list of healthy dog treats.

8. Take lots of photos

Pet photography involves more than just having a camera. It’s about knowing how to capture your pet’s best moments. One way to do this is by taking continuous shots in quick succession. Pets usually will only stay for a short time, so this helps you get the best chance at capturing their personality.

Patience is key in pet photography. It may take your pet a while to relax and feel comfortable, especially in a new setting. As you gain more experience, you’ll learn more about the most effective methods for photographing your pet and the best techniques. Each session will improve your ability to capture your pet’s unique traits and personality.

Frequently asked questions

What are some common mistakes in pet photography?

Common mistakes when taking photos of pets include shooting from too high an angle and using the wrong camera settings. Other common mistakes include using too much or too little light, inadvertently cropping parts of your pet, and over-saturating colors in your photos.

How do I shoot better with my dog?

Use natural lighting and a fast shutter speed, and make it fun and exciting.

What settings should you use when photographing pets?

When shooting your pet, use a wide aperture or a low f-stop, a fast shutter speed, and a low ISO to minimize image noise.

How do you pose with your dog for pictures?

Have your dog sit and face the camera. Stand beside them, behind them, or hold them. This pose showcases your connection and bond with your pet.

What are some tips for good pet photography?

Make your pet comfortable, focus on their eyes, use the right shutter speed, lighting, and aperture, and be patient.