Tips for Taking Photos of Your Pets

We all want gorgeous pictures of our fur babies to keep and share, but taking photos of your pets it isn’t always easy. They tend to move around a lot and aren’t always cooperative.

At the shelter we understand the value of a good looking photo. In the past couple months, The Humane Society of Southern Arizona (HSSA) has invested in high quality photo equipment and cameras to help showcase our animals. The Shelter Art Foundation visited HSSA last fall and taught classes on the basics of photographing animals, and it was very informative! Now our photos come out clearer and help show the true personality of the pets. Pets can look sad and unapproachable in their kennels, but for some, these photos are their only chance to be seen in a good light. One good photo can mean the difference between another month in the kennel and a new home and family to love!

Check out our top tips for taking photos of your pets. I hope you find them useful for your own furry family.

dog laying on sidewalk
Use a quality camera

Most smartphones these days have decent cameras, but they’ve got nothing on a DSLR camera. We use Canon DSLR cameras here at HSSA. We usually set the camera to automatic sport mode because we don’t have the time to manually focus and meter every shot. It works very well! Animals who move around a lot are captured, often doing some very funny things! You can also take photos manually if you want, and experiment with the aperture and shutter speed.

natural light
Use natural light

Everyone looks good with a little sunshine on their face! Use natural light whenever you can. Take your photos outside or in front of a large window. Avoid light that is too harsh or bright, because it’ll wash out your photos and probably cause some squinting! The best time to take photos is at dawn and dusk, or on an overcast day. Clouds act as a natural soft box, making the light more uniform. You won’t get the stark contrast of highlights and shadows that you would get on a very sunny day. The same holds true for dawn and dusk, when the light is more diffused. You’ll also want to make sure your subject is always facing the light source, not in front of it. Your photos will be too dark if your subject has their back to the light.

Use a backdrop

Our photos got so much better after we started using a backdrop. If you are going to be taking photos of your pet regularly, we suggest you invest in a backdrop. When you put a pet up against a solid colored background, it makes the viewer focus on the pet without any other clutter. You can find affordable options on Amazon, and don’t forget to shop using our affiliate link or your Amazon Smile account.

taking photos of your petsAgatha 817034

Andrea Mitchell, HSSA’s Public Relations and Social Media Coordinator, is responsible for the professional new photos of adoptable pets. Here, she is photographing adoptable pooch, Agatha. With a few Photoshop tools you can turn photos into professional pieces!

Use a background that complements your pet’s coloring

Make sure you take your photos with a background that is complementary to your pet’s coat. Avoid putting a black or brown cat on a dark background, or a white pet next to a white wall. Have you ever heard the old adage, “like trying to take a picture of a cat in a snowstorm”? You want to be sure your pet stands out. Your photos will look cleaner and more professional.


Use treats or toys to focus your model

It can be challenging to get your pet to smile for the camera. Try dangling treats or toys above your camera so they look up at you. We often get our pets into position and at the perfect moment one of us will squeak a squeaky toy and BAM, we’ve got our winning shot.

enlist help
Use a friend

Having a friend or family member help you with photos can make it so much easier. It’s nice to have someone who can get your pet’s attention while you snap your shot. They can also help you restrain pets if you are taking photos at a shelter and need to take turns with the backdrop. This is also a great way to get your kids involved. Children will be delighted to make noise to get their furry friend’s attention. If you have a budding photographer in the family, let them try their hand at taking some photos. And be sure to include them in the process of choosing photos, talking about why each of you likes your favorites.

shallow depth of field
Use a natural pose

If you aren’t doing photos with a backdrop, try to take photos of your pet in their element. If your cat loves to eat, get a cute shot of her chowing at her food bowl. If your dog loves to chase tennis balls, take shots of him in action. Also, remember that for every 50 photos there is one winner so don’t be afraid to snap a bunch. Natural poses will help bring more personality into your photos and help the viewer get to know your pet.

macro shots
Use macro settings

Close ups are fun, too! Macro mode is a setting on your camera that will allow you to focus on items that are close to the screen. Take photos very close to your pet to show added detail, like the twinkle in their eyes and the variations in their coats. These are easier to do when the pet is sleeping or relaxing, so they aren’t moving too much. Show off your photography skills with detailed macro shots.

Use your pet’s perspective

Get down on your pet’s level when you photograph them for a look into how they see the world. You will also get a good idea of the pet’s size if you move your camera to their eye level. This is very important at HSSA because we want the pictures to portray our available pets accurately.

Do you have pet photography tips to share? We would love to hear them. Leave a comment below.  We’d also love to see any photos you take of your 4-legged friends. Send photos to [email protected] or leave them in a comment.

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  1. Compliment and complement are two different words. In the sentence above the correct word is complement.

    PS The new photos have been excellent and I really enjoy looking at them.

  2. If you have to use an on-the-camera flash, try to use one you can aim up at a 45-degree angle and bounce the light off the ceiling. Alternatively, try using a diffuser, either plastic or fiber, to spread the light. Even a single sheet of Kleenex over the camera’s built-in flash will help reduce “hot spots” and washed-out white fur.

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