The furry, the feathered and the scaled, as well as the fuzzy and the fuzzed. Humans’ best friend and companion is their pet. Pet photography is a popular hobby. It could be a smartphone photo of your cat, or a professional shoot at a dog show. Animal photography is a very popular and profitable area of photography.
It’s not as easy as we would like. Photographing animals is difficult because of our inability communicate with them and their unpredictable nature.
These are our top ten tips for animal photography so that you capture the best of your furry friend.

Make sure you are prepared

It all comes down to the tools you use for your images.
Your camera, lenses and technique.
These determine the types of images you capture and how effective your photography is.

Cute cockerpoo puppy waiting for tummy rub amongst spring flowers

Cameras

The speed or low-light orientation of your camera body will determine whether it is low-light or fast. It all depends on what type of pet photography you do.
The Canon 5D Mark series, Canon 7D series and Canon 1Dx series are all common cameras used for pet photography.
Camera bodies that are able to capture low-light images, such as those used for indoor pet photography, will be more useful if you’re doing a lot of studio or indoor work. Indoor sessions will produce darker images than outdoor. This applies regardless of whether artificial or natural lighting is used.
This happens because animal photography requires you to increase your shutter speed. To compensate for darker images caused by faster shutter speeds, you will need a higher ISO.

Lenses

The most commonly used lenses for animal photography include the 50mm lens and the 24-70mm lens.
The 50mm, also known as the ” fifty”, is well-known for its low aperture numbers. These lenses create a beautiful and creamy depth of field. Common apertures for 50mm include f/1.2 and f/1.8.
The focal length of this fixed lens is very short so it will allow you to get close to your subject. This allows you to really concentrate on the interaction with your pet while taking photos.
Fixed lenses are sharper than variable lenses.

This 24-70mm lens can be used for wide-angle shots as well as close-up portraits. You can interact with your subject, or take photos from further away.
The 85mm lens has the exact same shallow depth-of-field as the 50mm lens. It allows you to stand far away and not be in conflict with your subject.
This is especially useful if you don’t wish to be noticed. A fixed millimeter has the disadvantage that you must physically move your position in order to adjust the composition.
The 70-200mm Telephoto Lens is the right choice for you if you are looking for a telephoto lens. Sometimes the best shots in pet photography are those where you have no involvement.
You will often find it to your advantage to stand further back and use a zoom or telephoto lens to not distract from the curious animals in front.

Filters

Animal noses are attracted to places they don’t belong, like right in front of your lens.
A filter protects your lens from any curious creatures. A simple filter made of glass is often sufficient.
A neutral density filter can be used if your client insists that they shoot outdoors in bright noon sunlight. This will allow you to shoot wide open in bright sunlight.

Knee Pads

It took me years to make the habit of carrying knee pads around with me, but I will be forever grateful! It is hard to count how many times I have had to bruise my knees from trying to get the perfect angle.

Take your camera with you everywhere

Continuous Focus and Burst Mode

For pet photography, I have found that continuous focus and burst mode work best. When animals are excited and want to run or play, the burst setting is essential. Unexpected behavior or actions that are worthy of a picture.
Continuous focus is called different things depending on which brand of camera you have (AI Servo in Canon and AF-C in Nikon). This allows your camera’s camera to track your subject as it moves.

Animals move at the most inopportune moments. By setting your camera to burst mode, you can make sure you get the perfect shot. You can take multiple photos at once by pressing down on your shutter.
You never know when you may capture the perfect moment in front of your camera. Success is all about being fast and ready.

Panning

You will need to learn how to pan to get those incredible running shots of your dog.
Panning is when your camera moves horizontally in conjunction with the subject’s movements. Your camera movements are synchronized with the subject’s.
It takes practice but the results are well worth it.

Continuous lighting is the best
It is open to debate. Here is my personal opinion based on my own experience. For a variety reasons, I believe continuous lighting is better than flashes or strobes when it comes to animal photography.
Bright flashes can be very distressing for animals with sensitive eyes. Continuous lights are gentler and allow the animal to adjust. You can also dim the lights.
You don’t need to spend time testing strobes in order to ensure they work properly, are angled correctly and have the right brightness. Continuous lights allow you to see the whole image from the start. Photographing pets is a matter of time.
Strobes can sound frightening to timid pets. The continuous lights are quiet and help the pet to get used to the equipment.

A rectangular or octagonal softbox is the best continuous light for pet photography. It spreads the light significantly.

Composition

Composition is subjective. You’ll find a natural sensibility to the placement of images in your photos as a photographer.
Nevertheless, there are two essential compositional elements to pet photography.

Photograph taken from the pet’s eye level

The same perspective the subject is seen from by viewers attracts them more.
This is pet photography. It means that you see life through the eyes of a horse, a cat, or dog. This is fascinating to humans, and appealing to viewers.

Make use of Negative Space to your advantage

A photograph can be frozen but the viewer can still see the subject’s next move. It will appear that your subject is bouncing off the photo by leaving enough negative space in the direction they expect it to move in.
The image will feel cramped and claustrophobic if it is cropped so that there is very little negative space.

Concentrate on the Eyes

The focus points of your camera are a great way to ensure that the eyes are properly aligned. Personally, I prefer to place them in the middle.
Next, I focus on my eyes and hold the shutter half-way down to lock the focus. Then, I move my camera towards my ideal composition.
You can focus on your eyes by setting the aperture a couple stops higher.

You should ensure that your animal is comfortable with your set-up

Photographers should ensure that your pet friend is happy and healthy. It is not worth scaring or stressing your pet.
Let your animal sniff the equipment and get to know it. This will help calm down a nervous or excited animal. Protective casings and filters are important for this reason.
Always pay attention. You should always be aware of your cat’s claws or dog’s fangs.
If your setup is not ideal, you can make yourself seem boring to ensure your pet is happy. Dogs that are easily excited, anxious, or hyperactive can make difficult subjects.
You can ignore an anxious dog or let a timid puppy sniff your hand. Use the owner’s presence to your advantage. A relaxed and casual attitude can help your pet feel calm.

Working with pets requires that they are tired. This will make it easier for them to sit still and not be boisterous.
It is a great idea to play, run, and exercise your canine, feline or parrot before you go on a photo shoot. This will make them more relaxed when it’s time to take photos.
This can be done by you or your client. You should make sure that they are able to accurately time the play session. It is important to get your dog, cat, horse, and other pets excited about the play session. To the point where they are so tired that they don’t pay much attention to what’s happening around them.
Remember that adult animals and baby animals require different stimulation. Take care when photographing pets.

A young child lying on the back of a Clydesdale mare.

Toys, treats, and noises are your best friend

How can pet photographers achieve alert expressions and straight ears? Toys, treats and sounds!
It is equally important to keep your pet’s attention and not overstimulating him. You can try using your pet’s favorite toy, or a variety of funny sounds to keep them awake.
High-value treats are the key to high-quality treats. These treats are tempting and motivating for pets to follow your lead.

Adaptability is key

Understanding animal behavior and staying one step ahead of your subjects is the key to pet photography.
A photographer can predict the next move of a pet by observing their body language.
A great photographer is able to adapt to any situation. A photographer who isn’t happy with their animal or isn’t acting the same way is another challenge.
It is a good idea to position yourself further away from a dog who is very energetic and flamboyant. If a cat decides that it doesn’t want to be around you, then hide and take photos from afar.

Be Patient

Photography is a lot about patience. It’s better to wait for the right moment than rush through the whole process.

Take a break

As I mentioned before, comfort is vital for your pet. You should take a break if you notice the pet is showing signs of anxiety or distress. Ask the owner for help, such as removing them from the situation or cuddling them.
You might also consider a change in scenery. You can move your dog to a nearby park if he is having problems in the studio. Or vice versa.
A break of half an hour is a good time frame.
Sometimes, the problem is caused by the pet owner. Pets can be sensitive to the emotions of others. The pet will react to an owner who is upset or anxious. Try to calm your client if they are upset with their pet.
Pets are not models. It is easy to see when a pet is having a bad time in photos.

Be creative

Animal photography is saturated. Being unique is key to success.
It is important to find new ways to capture the personality of a creature. It doesn’t matter if you have to use a new lens or change your perspective, but it is worth the effort.
This will help you be more flexible in your photography, which will lead to great photos.

Black and white pets

Combining light and dark fur can be a difficult combination for technical reasons.
It can be difficult to expose them. It is easy to overexpose or underexpose black. I recommend shooting in the shadows, or on a cloudy day when the lighting is even. You should then underexpose by approximately two stops.
In post-processing, it is easier to get details from black than from white. As the missing information is not present, overexposed white will have no details to show.

These tips have been added to your photography toolbox. Now go out and photograph your pet pets, bringing out their best features!
You can also see our widlife photography article and our article on photography animals moving for more animal photos.

Two eyes with white background.

Want More? Get our eBook on Pet Photography

Do you want to capture adorable and fun photos of your dog? Photos that capture their unique personality

This eBook will guide you through all aspects of photographing dogs.

This includes dog handling, peparations, camera settings, experimentation with different styles, poses and more.

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