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How To Get a Great Pet Photo

Taking great photos of pets is a skill like anything else. It is learned through practice, patience, and often trial and error. In this article, we will explore some basic techniques and guidelines that will help you master pet photography. Whether you want to get the perfect shot to frame or to use to create a pet portrait, we have it covered.

1. Burst mode + live focus/portrait mode

It's nice to have a good camera, but it's not a necessity. It's entirely possible to take great photos of your pets even with a cell phone camera. What's more important than the camera is the actual composition of the photo. To get good composition, you need to make your pet the center of the photo. A super helpful tip is to go into your camera's settings and enable burst mode. Burst mode will take a series of pictures with one click. This comes in very handy because pets move, look around, and facial expressions change. Take several burst shots from different angles and surely at least one of the photos will be a keeper. Additionally to burst mode taking your photos on Live Focus (Android) or Portrait mode (Iphone) is the key to professional-looking photos. This feature is amazing, it focuses on your pet and blurs the background. You get to decide how little or much blur you want. There are also different styles of blur to choose from. If you haven't tried out this feature it's a must for breathtaking pet photos.

good photo for a dog portrait
When you take a close look you can see how the background is slightly blurred so all the focus remains on the dog.

2. No flash and only use natural lighting

There are several reasons why flash should be avoided when taking photos of your pets. The sound of the flash can scare or distract them and ruin the photo. It can become difficult for them to trust you near a camera if you have a nervous pet. Most importantly, flash more often than not will make your beloved pet look like a red-eyed monster or worse. When it comes to pet photography, it's all about indirect natural light. Your pet should be near sunlight, but not directly under it. A helpful tip to remember is to always shoot with the sun behind you. When the sun is behind you. Your pet will be evenly illuminated. Direct sunlight results in harsh shadows. Soft shadows is what you should aim for when it comes to pet photography.

bad photo for a custom pet portrait
This picture was not taken with the sun behind the person taking the photo. Resulting in improper lighting and harsh shadows.
good photo for a pet portrait
The sun is behind the person taking the photo and they used live focus. The dog is the focus of this photo.

3. Be silent

Anything that startles your pet needs to be minimized. If your camera makes beeping sounds while you're going through the menu, turn off the sound. Not to distract your pet and ruin a good shot turn off all sound from your camera or cellphone. Great photos tell stories and capture spontaneous moments. You want to capture your pet's natural state, not the bewildered look of a startled pet.

4. Take photos at eye level

It has happened to everyone to accidentally open the front-facing cellphone camera. Needless to say, we know that those pictures are never posted because they are unflattering. The same applies to pets. Pictures taken from too low or too high will make the proportion of your pet look off. Find your pet's best angle and take some flattering photos at eye level.

bad photo for a pet portrait

5. Try and try again

Patience and a pocketful of treats will help you and your pet enjoy the process. At the end of the day the most important thing is that you and your pet have fun. Take as many pictures as possible and you will be sure to have at least one that will be worthy of being framed or turned in a custom pet portrait.

good photo for a pet portrait

6. Experiment

Get creative, add props if your pet will let you. Try different angles and different blur backgrounds.

good photo for a custom pet portrait

7. Focus on the Eyes

When it comes to photography, the expression “Eyes are the window to the soul” rings especially true. Unless you're taking a picture of your pet sleeping. In that case, focus on the eyelids so the pet remains the center of the photo. These pictures tend to be the easiest to take because your pet is not moving around. Keep in mind that a picture of a sleeping pet generally will not result in a good pet portrait.

good photo for a cat portrait

8. Capture the personality of your pet

Every pet has a unique personality trait and you should try to display your pets unique character in the photos you take. Their reactions to different situations and different subjects are usually pretty entertaining. Try to show it with the help of photos.

9. Plan the session ahead of time

The secret to all good photos is planning. If you know your pet is sleepier during a certain time of the day it would be best to take advantage of that moment. If your pet is too hyper it will be hard to get a good shot. They will likely come out blurry.

Good monkey photo for custom portrait

10. Get someone to help you

A helper is always appreciated. If you can have someone to hold a treat out while you take some pictures it will probably help out.

Priceless moments

Whether your aim is to simply frame that perfect photo of your pet or to get a pet portrait if you follow these tips you can't go wrong. Practice makes perfect. If you don't get the photo you wanted the first time around don't get discouraged you can always try again another day.

Create your very own pet portrait
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