July the 11th is officially Pet Photo Day and I just have to celebrate. Join me!
Every pet lover adores a good pet portrait – right? There are often special sections in photo contests for the superb amateur shots submitted.
All of you aspiring and intermediate photographers who visit Dash Kitten know we aim to inspire and help so I have gathered a fabulous bundle of tips and reflections from fellow bloggers and websites that cover pet photography.
These will give you key insights into developing your skills from the first step you take and encourage you to be part of the pet photography community. They will inspire you to take pet photos like a pro. Join Basil, Bentley and Pierre and me for a tour through the top tips right now.
On what is called All American Pet Photo Day (in the US) I will not discriminate against any pet, and all pets are welcome. I know that there are reptile fans who love their pets as much as others love cats and puppies.
You see a lot of cats because I just happen to have a cat family. Several bloggers who responded to my appeal for top photography tips have dogs but the tips collected here apply to any reptile you love, any rat you admire or any rabbit you have hopping about your home and garden.
I remember while attending BlogPaws®, I had a memorable visit to the PetSmart HQ in Phoenix, AZ. The staff are allowed to take their pets to work and I spotted a superb bearded dragon in their own personal tank.
If you have a patient pet who tolerates being dressed up, or who is accustomed to appearing in public dressed up, like our friend Summer a therapy cat and regular cat show attendee. Dress to your theme – patriotic, celebratory, fun.
TOP TIP: Do NOT dress up your pet if they are reluctant to ‘play along’. You cause them a lot of distress and set yourself up to fail every single time.
- Sharing on Social Media? The hashtag is #AllAmericanPetPhotoDay
Katie Allan Sample
Katie from Simply Southern Siberians takes a great dog photo and had really important starter tips.
One question I often get about my photos is how do I get the dogs to hold still long enough to take good photos. I honestly do not do a lot of posed photos with my dogs where they have to stay still, but instead take photos while we are out having fun.
I will occasionally do poses, but I find natural candid shots come out better than the ones where I have them pose. I use a Nikon DSLR camera and often use the action shot mode to capture them moving and on the go.
Otherwise, it might come out blurry if you do not have the settings right. If you have a dog or cat bouncing off the walls and you just can’t get a good shot, try to distract them with a toy, treat, or by talking to them. I will also usually get down on their level to take photos.
If I want them to look at the camera I will call their name or say a word that they like (like “food” or “treat” or “ball”) and try to take multiple photos of each moment rather than just one shot. Especially with movement photos, the shots can vary a lot even just one second apart! Bonus IG for the Siberians.
Get low, so low.
Blogger Tiffany photographs dogs and teaches dog tricks. Her own dogs are the perfect models although she does sneak off and photograph dogs for rescue organisations.
1) When possible, it’s best to shoot at and on your pet’s level. This makes the photo feel more personable to the viewer, so get down low or on the floor to create that perfect angle.
2) The background should be as de-cluttered as possible. Try for a clean background to have focus on the subject. Solid colors and solid patterns such as walls make for great settings.
3) Use treats, toys, or whatever your pet finds interesting to get their attention, though it’s best not to overdo it. You can make funny noises and treats are great to get them comfortable and posing for the camera. However, if your pet isn’t interested in either and is super distracted, instead move yourself to try for a natural capture.
- Have a DSLR? Check out my beginner’s post.
Cats and dogs, reptiles and rabbits will all pick up tension and nervousness if you worry about taking photos.
You want the alert ears of interest, not the ‘aeroplane ears’ of fear or anger. This means taking a breath and relaxing yourself and letting your pet know everything is OK.
Preparing for your shoot includes a few deep breaths for your and a bag of treats, or a squeaky toy for a dog.
Make sure your photos are well-lit, clear and close enough to show your pet’s face.Get Your Pet
Dan of Cabin Critic has some tech advice for those with a DSLR.
Get a new perspective by using a wide-angle lens (or zooming out as much as possible) and bringing the camera closer to the dog.
Also, make sure you are taking the photo at the dog’s level instead of looking down at the dog. This will really make your dog’s personality come to life in the photo.
Kat Kern is a blogger and an officer of the CWA (Cat Writers’ Association) ready to share her reflections on the impact of photography on her as a blogger and her cats Bear and Ellie.
1) Just shoot and shoot and shoot and shoot. It doesn’t matter what camera you have – just do it. When I started blogging, I never considered photography.
The truth is that I’d given up on photography years earlier – when Bear was 2 or 3. I got so frustrated that I thought I had such a great model and my pictures never lived up to my vision! It drove me so nuts that I quit bothering unless Bear was doing something completely crazy. You have no idea how much I regret that.
Now that Bear’s 14 – I wish I’d captured more of the time he was full of life and mischief. He was always into something – and now those memories are dependent on what I can remember instead of being remembered forever in a photo album.
- Check my beginner’s tips here.
When I started blogging, I knew I needed pictures – so I started shooting. At first, it was really discouraging. And Bear wasn’t used to having his picture taken – so the pictures reflected his discomfort with this new gadget. I don’t really remember how long it took – but all of a sudden, it seemed like he was playing to the camera! By taking 20 pictures of the same shot, I learned a little about how better to compose and set up pictures.
Taking lots of pictures
- I’m still shocked that I can get 300 pictures in a photo shoot – and what seems like should be the exact same shot is SO NOT THE SAME.
Pets are fluid Their expressions change – their carriage – every little detail. I get made fun of a lot for taking 50 pictures of one view – but it really does make a difference. Not only am I learning how better to adjust to light and shadow as I shoot, but I’m also getting a variety of expressions and angles. I can’t tell you every adjustment I make as I shoot – it’s just instinct now.
And the times I look at my pictures and rue a mess in the background of the PERFECT shot of my subject – I know better the next time and keep the background in mind. Taking a ton of pictures – just to get the feel of the camera and seeing what works and what doesn’t is the best way to learn. Getting your cat(s) used to the camera, is the best way to get them to cooperate! Don’t be afraid to take thousands of pictures – and don’t get discouraged if some of the pictures you were super-excited to take don’t turn out. It will come: I’m proof-positive of that! Just take the pictures!
Find a good basic photo editing program
Photoshop can be almost too much. The learning curve on a program like that is steep – and even now, after five years of using it, I’m still learning a lot of new stuff (thanks to Marjorie, now I know what “dodge” and “burn” mean!!!).
We get almost NO natural light in our condo – half of it is underground. So I have to change the color temperature and exposure quite a bit for all my pictures to bring a photo to the realm of what most people start with. My pictures changed DRASTICALLY when I learned how to do these simple manipulations.
Some people swear by free applications – but I never spent much time in them – because I had a fancier program (Which took WAY longer for me to master than a free program would’ve. I’m not sure my pictures are any better with the program I use than with the free applications.).
A smaller piece of advice that speaks to me
Find and take the pictures that ignite your passion. Photography and all the technical stuff is boring to me. But I LOVE my cats. My passion for taking good pictures of them – to always remember them – is why I persevered. I don’t care to have an award-winning shot.
What I want is a photo-journal to remember my cats when their short time with me is over. I want to share them with our readers too – so THEY fall in love with my cats too. THAT is why I continue to work at my photography. Find your passion for photography.
- Hint: if you find yourself smiling as you take the shot … you’ve found it!
An animal with a long snout or nose will need more depth of field when shooting close up to prevent the tip of the nose is out of focus. Take your shots using a small aperture to avoid this or shoot when their head is turned to one side.ePhotoZine
Top Dog Tips recommends one thing I had completely forgotten. I am so glad they did.
A spare battery. I am so used to just having one battery in my camera that it did not occur to me that this one might run out leaving me high and dry. A battery is now on my shopping list.
Get Your Pet have a post packed with simple tips for rescue volunteers. Bookmark it for reading later.
TOP TIP: Make your photoshoot a fun experience for both you and your pet, and your shots are likely to reflect it!
My Own Top Tips
- Keep trying, you will make mistakes, get better and start taking great pictures.
- Know your camera by reading the manual.
- Check out tutorial videos online for any problems you face. PhotoGenius has plenty of helpful and inspiring tutorials.
Finally for Pet Photo Day
I hope these tips help you gear up for some great shots on Pet Photo Day. Thank you to the many contributors here have been so ready to help
Have you your own favourite tip, or have you had some inspiring advice from a fellow photographer that made a big difference to you?
Let me know in the comments and I will add it to the post with a link to your page or site.