Photographing Pets – How to Get Started

I recently read an article from the UK, which stated that “Animal loving Brits take more photos of their pets than their children” and it made me stop and think. What is it about our pets that make them more photo-worthy than our children? I should be in a good position to answer that question since I actually have both. I have kids and a new puppy, and of course, I love taking photos.

Are our pets cuter than our kids?

This is a really tough question. You see, I have two teenagers at home. Not the easiest time in the Cable household. So, right now, if I had to compare the cuteness factor of two teenagers to a 12-week-old puppy…well…I think I have my answer!

A pet puppy being photographed
Our new puppy, Cooper

For one thing, the puppy does not mind me shooting endless pictures of him. And you know what? He looks cute in almost every image. Compare that to my kids who give me that, “dad – are you really going to take more pictures of me?” look every time I grab the camera. Our pets seem to be willing subjects whenever we have that urge to photograph them. They love the attention, and keep that attention focused on us. This undivided attention makes it easy to capture images of our pets, regardless of whether they in action or relaxed on the floor.

Getting started photographing pets

Pet photograph
View at puppy-level

Even though he is only a puppy, I ask our new family member, Cooper, to do something and HE actually listens to me. Yep, even as a puppy, he is more tolerant than my kids. In this picture I placed him on our outside chair (which was in the shade) and got down low, to his level, to take this picture. Shooting images at their level brings you into their world. Too many people take pictures of their pets from a standing position. Get down and show them at their best. Trust me, I have seen countless images of me as a baby and I was never this cute – ever!

The eyes tell the story

Look at these cute eyes! The only way that I get this look from my kids is when they are looking for the car keys, food, or money. They say that the eyes are the window to the soul, and for this reason, you should make sure to capture the eyes of your pet in your images. Shoot a lot of images, because every second can be a different look. This is true when photographing people, too. It is amazing how two images taken a split second apart can show a totally different expression.

Our old dog who is not with us, and our new dog. Both photos showcase the pet's eyes in different ways.

Endless energy makes for great photography

Action photo of a pet
Our dog, Cooper, fetching his toy.

Ok, when it comes to the energy level of our puppy and our kids, this becomes a close race. Both like to sleep a lot, both leave stuff all over the house, and once awake, both run all over the place and never seem to be exhausted. But, once again, it seems like the dog is happier to be on camera. It can take many photos to get a good action shot, and the dog seems to understand that. One of the great advantages of digital photography is that you can take hundreds of pictures at almost no cost. I can keep throwing a toy for the puppy and then shoot his run back to me. Try any action shot with my kids, and after a few minutes, they are done and back to watching MTV or texting their friends.

Capture your pet’s personality

pet photo of a dog
Bailey, showing his hip attitude

Both kids and pets have a lot of personality, and your job is to capture that personality in a photo. Regardless of the subject, I would rather let them be themselves and capture images of who they really are, than pose them. If you want to catch your pet’s true personality, let them go about their normal routine and follow them with your camera. Don’t direct the action, just let it happen in front of you. If you really feel the need to stage the picture, I find that offering a simple tasty treat to my dog will incent him to work with me. This too is much easier (and less expensive) than photographing my kids, because their desired treats are new iPhones or video games.

Separate your subjects

Having a 16-year-old son and a 14-year-old daughter, means that we have sibling arguments, and there are many times when I have to separate them. This works well for your pet images too! If you have a camera that allows you to control the aperture, try shooting your images at the maximum aperture (lowest number) to separate your pet from the background, which can often times be distracting.

Jeff Cable is a proud parent of his two teenagers, and although he likes to poke fun at them, he spoils them every bit as much as the puppy.  For more, check out his blog at: jeffcable.blogspot.com and LIKE his Facebook page.

10 thoughts on “Photographing Pets – How to Get Started”

  1. In addition, one thing I have realised is to try to cover as much space in the photo as possible. pet photos from a distance do not usually look that good unless ofcourse they aer action shots. I usually get into their faces and especially since I am at their level, it becomes playtime for my dogs.

    This is just an opinion based from the endless photos I have taken of my Dogue de Bordeauxs both in inside and outside of show ring. Show photos are more hard to take since you have limited degrees of angles to work with.

    Hope this helps 🙂

  2. I soooo agree with you – teenagers vs. puppy – puppy wins! I just got the last of my two out of the teen years. So thankful we all survived. Because of the abundance of pics of our furry four-legged family members, I often get accused of loving them more than the two-legged ones. Hmmm…. They might be on to something? 🙂

    I really enjoy your posts. They are helpful and always a great read! Thanks!

  3. I agree that taking picturesof our dogs is great. But it’s also very tricky. Maybe You could add some nice TIPS for shooting pictures of dogs in motion especially?

    There is no problem when a dog is lying or standing. But rinning dog? Are there any tips for this? The main problem is that with low aperture number my dog runs out of the focus very quickly. When he’s moving towards me there is almost no chance (or rather I don’t know how to do it 😉 that I get focus on him. Focus is almost everytime on his tail or somewhere around it 😉 I use continous focusing on my Nikon D90 but it barely help. Maybe there are some easy tips of how to do this? Maybe it’s just almost impossible with low aperture? Maybe I should start taking photos with f/8 or higher as it would help to keep running dog in focus?

  4. It is always helpful to have something else that will distract the dog and not have hm run towards you…my dogs love to play with ball or a rope…so i usually leave it out for them so they dont come running towards me everytime i try to take a photo. hope that helps. 🙂

  5. I love taking photos of animals!
    People say never work with animals & young people & I do it every other day just to get that emotion & action pictures that they have to take away for them for life after they have done the course 🙂

  6. I have an extremely handsome male Mastador (LabxMastiff) who is very big, masculine, strong, broad and so so photogenic, the issue I have photographing him is that he is pure black, trying to correctly expose him without overexposing the rest of the shot, as I’m usually out side I use the flash to solve this or try get a low sun and keep it behind me but I still have troubles getting a good keep rate, my last trip to the beach with him was about 10% keepers. Any one got any tips other than what I’ve mentioned, preferably without the flash?

  7. My contribution is squat down or kneel when photographing animals (and children) and even adults. Nothing looks more unnatural than the foreshortening of legs on a horse or dog if you shoot from a standing position. Lowering your angle will look totally natural. Trust me, you will thank me for this tip.

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