7 ways to take better pet portraits

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by David Em
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Whether you’re taking photos of your pet or someone else’s, learn how to capture perfect and adorable pet portraits.

Cat hugging a dog.

1. Use natural light

Natural light is easy to work with, free, and will result in beautiful pet portraits. You don’t have to worry about artificial lighting or making the pet feel comfortable in a studio.

Related: 8 outdoor portrait photography tips

The best places to shoot with natural light are outside or near a large window.

Look for places with shade, so there aren’t any hard shadows. If it’s a cloudy day, you can shoot anywhere.

When you’re indoors, the window can help diffuse the light, which results in soft and flattering light on the pet.

Related article: The complete guide to Sigma Art lenses

It’s also important to avoid using flash. It can scare the pet, and the red-eye effect can occur.

2. Have treats and toys on-hand

French bulldog sitting on grass with its toy.
Photo courtesy of Unsplash.

You can’t tell a pet to pose the same way you’d tell a human, and that’s what makes it difficult.

However, the key is to use treats and toys. It’ll change the entire dynamic, and you’ll be able to capture great pet portraits.

Whether you’re photographing a cat or dog, treats and toys will encourage them to do what you want. It’s the best way to keep them engaged.

3. Use a fast shutter speed

Black dog running in the snow.
Photo courtesy of Unsplash.

Pets like to move around, and they can move quickly. You need to use a fast shutter speed because it’ll freeze movement.

By using a fast shutter speed, your photos will be well-exposed, in sharp focus, and the pet’s movement won’t be blurry.

Use manual mode or shutter priority, and set the shutter speed to 1/250 or faster. If you’re photographing a dog running, you may want to use a shutter speed of 1/1000.

Along with a fast shutter speed, you can ensure that you capture a great photo by using continuous shooting or burst mode.

4. Get down to their level

Cat with blue eyes sitting on a blanket.
Photo courtesy of Unsplash.

For a personal, emotional, and striking photo, follow the same guidelines as photographing children by getting down to their level.

When you photograph pets from their level, you’ll capture their face, a great perspective, and a more intimate portrait.

You’ll have to crouch down or lie on your stomach. However, the results are worth it.

5. Portray their character

Pets have unique personalities. When you’re shooting pet portraits, portray their character because it’ll make it unique.

If you’re taking photos of your pet, it’ll be easy. If you’re photographing someone else’s pet, talk to them and get to know their pet.

When you capture the true character of a pet, it’ll result in an adorable and special photo.

6. Focus on the eyes

Large brown dog in a field and looking to the side.
Photo courtesy of Unsplash.

In your pet portrait, make sure the eyes are well-lit and in sharp focus. In addition to well-lit eyes, try to get a catchlight because the pet will look full of life and expression.

7. Include people

People love their pets, so capturing photos of them together will lead to happy memories. It’s also a great method to make pets comfortable.

When you include people in the pet portraits, you’ll capture great candid photos. The result of a candid photo is genuine emotions and movements, leading to a better photo.

Frequently asked questions

What’s the best lens for pet photography?

A 35mm lens and a 70-200mm lens are the top lenses for pet photography.

How should pets pose for a photo?

When you’re photographing pets, capture photos of them sitting, walking, and playing.

Does portrait mode work on pets?

Apple’s portrait mode works well on pets.

Conclusion

Pets are fun to photograph. The key is learning how to make them look picture-perfect. By implementing the right tips and having patience, you’ll be able to capture adorable pet portraits.

More resources:

Featured image courtesy of Canva.

About David Em

David Em.

David Em is the founder of Portraits Refined. He’s a published portrait photographer dedicated to helping photographers develop skills, capture incredible photos, and build successful businesses.

About Portraits Refined

Portraits Refined (PR) is a media company that publishes the latest expert-backed portrait photography tips, in-depth camera gear reviews, and helpful advice to grow your photography business.

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