Tips for Photographing Pets

When preparing for a portrait, occasionally I have the opportunity to meet and photograph your pet myself. Usually, however, the photos you send me are the only reference I have to guide me in my drawing and painting. An accurate portrait depends on clear photos showing good detail. The more photos I have to work with the clearer my understanding of your pet’s features and personality.

USE NATURAL LIGHT. The best light is outside – if you must be indoors, try to position your pet near a window or door in order to let in the most light possible. Avoid using a flash because it can cause washed-out color and red-eye. Also be aware that full sun can sometimes distort your pet’s color too. Look at your photos. Does the color, fur, and other features look accurate?

MAKE YOUR PET COMFORTABLE. Some pets don’t mind posing for the camera, while others find it uncomfortable. Allow them to do something they enjoy. Incorporating a favorite activity (like fetching) brings out the pet’s personality. Sometimes you can get terrific pictures while your pet is resting. If your pet is being grouchy, give them their space and try again later when they are in a better mood.

HAVE SOMEONE ASSIST YOU. This is a good way to get great profile photos. And an affectionate, perky expression can be obtained by making noises or by holding up a favorite toy or treat. If you want your pet looking right at the camera, remember to have your assistant directly behind you and your camera.

BE READY. Take advantage of sudden moments of curiosity and playfulness.

BE AT YOUR PET’S LEVEL. Position yourself at the same level as your pet to avoid awkward perspective.

GET CLOSE UP. Fill the frame with the pet and eliminate distracting background. You should also take some photos that show close-up detail of the face and head.


In addition, if you would like more than one pet in the same portrait, it is important to photograph the two pets together to provide me with an accurate scale.


You should include

1. Two or more photos showing the entire pet (sitting, lying down, etc). This will be useful in designing the overall composition.

2. Several close-up photos of the pet’s face, showing details and true color of the eyes, ears, nose, and fur.

3. If there will be two pets in the same portrait, include a photo with both pets side-by-side.


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