Point & Shoot: Great Pet Photos

Whether you're photographing your pet just being itself, or attempting to do a more formal portrait, animals are wonderful photo subjects. Many of the best pet portraits are those that fill the frame with the animal's face (check out some of the examples here). If you step back to include the background, make sure that it's clutter-free.

Photo by Chris Hansen

Photo by Jessica Dewey

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Photo by Pamela Reynolds
Great Pet Photos With Your Compact Camera

As with children, it's best to shoot pictures of pets at their level. This means lying on the floor or on the ground in most cases. It's the best way to capture the animal's expression, and reveals something about what the world is like from their vantage point.

When shooting, move in close or use a moderate telephoto setting on your compact camera's lens. Some of the best pet portraits—like those of people—fill the frame with the animal's face. Shoot close-ups, and then step back to take pictures of your pet in its environment (this is effective when you want to show how small—or large—the animal is, relative to its surroundings). For this, you'll want to adjust your zoom lens to a wide-to-normal range.

Many of the best pet photos are spontaneous pictures of the pet just being itself. Unless your dog or cat is very well-trained, you can't pose your pet or direct it to sit in good light. It's best to have your camera handy, then watch through the lens for a cute, candid moment. Try using simple props, like a dog's favorite toy or a dog biscuit to distract it. You'll need a lot of patience, film and the ability to keep your subject occupied until you get the images you want.

But if your pet is trained and obeys you well, you may want to attempt a more formal portrait. Position the animal somewhere where it is comfortable and try to get it to sit or stand. Choose a spot with a clean, uncluttered background. If you're shooting indoors, use your camera's built-in fill-flash, and keep your subject as far from the background as possible to avoid a distracting shadow from the flash on the wall or furniture. If someone is available to help you out, have them stand alongside you to get the pet's attention (holding up a treat or making funny noises works well).

If the pet is yours, you're probably very familiar with its personality and habits. Does your dog sit up when anticipating treats? Does your cat like to curl up in a favorite spot? Most pets are creatures of habit, and some behavior is fairly predictable. Your favorite photos will probably be of spontaneous moments of your pet's particular behavior.

Photographing pets with kids can result in some endearing pictures, especially if you can capture the affection between them. Petting zoos, where children can interact with small, tame animals, are also sources for good photos. Let the child get involved with an animal before taking pictures, and have your shutter finger ready to capture a cute photo op. Don't waste time trying to set up poses—you'll just ruin the spontaneity of the moment.

If you want an action shot, such as a horse galloping across a field or a dog catching a Frisbee in midair, use fast film in the ISO 400-1000 range. Set your camera on its sports mode (this is usually indicated by a running icon), and you'll freeze the action in most cases. Don't expect to get the timing down perfectly every time—you'll probably have to shoot lots of pictures to get a few you love.

Make the photo session fun for all involved. After a successful shoot, reward your model with a new toy or special snack. You'll probably want to take lots of pictures of your pet—he or she is an important member of your family too.

ElaineSchen's picture

I totally agree of this idea on photography. Pets are absolutely one of the best themes for picture taking. - Aldo Disorbo