8 photography tips to take better photos of your pet

cute dog photo taken with pet photography tips

As a pet parent, you know that your dog or cat is the cutest, but how do you capture that cuteness to share with the world? Follow our eight photography tips to take crisper, clearer, and more professional photos of your pets with just your smartphone. 

1. Set your smartphone camera up for success with the right features

There are four main camera options to understand:

High-Dynamic Range (HDR) mode

HDR mode can be turned on inside your phone camera’s settings. This mode helps to balance the highlights, shadows, and colors in your photos, making the details in your picture stand out.

This mode is great for taking photos of your pets in nature—all of the beautiful details of your pet and the scenery will pop.

Portrait mode

If you’ve seen a professional headshot, you’ll notice that the background is often blurry, making the subject of the photo stand out. Portrait mode helps you achieve this effect.

If you use portrait mode, a pro-tip is to make sure there’s lots of room between your background and your subject (at least 3 feet!), and you have a good light source available. This helps your camera better distinguish between your pet and the background.

Night mode

For most people, taking a photo at night means turning on the flash—but there's a better way! 

Most smartphones are now equipped with night mode, a special setting in your phone’s camera that takes a photo over a longer period of time. By holding your camera still for a few seconds, your camera gets a chance to take in more light and more details to give you a more balanced photo.

Try this: Take a photo of your pet sleeping using night mode!

Wide angles

A wide angle shot helps you capture more in your photo without sacrificing the quality of the image.

When using a typical phone camera, zooming in and out of a shot actually crops the image, leaving the photo looking grainy and blurry at times. Now, modern smartphones come equipped with multiple camera lenses, including a wide angle lens.

Try this: Switch to this mode when you want to take a cute photo of your pet snuggled against you, but you’re struggling to fit everything in one shot with your pet so close to the camera.

2. Keep your photos focused on your pet

One of the biggest struggles that pet parents have when taking pictures of their pets is how to keep the image in focus. Getting your dog or cat to sit still while you snap a cute photo is tricky, so your photos end up blurry because your pet has moved.

To help keep the focus of your shot, try moving your camera the same speed as your pet.

Start by setting the focus on your pet, typically on their eyes. Hold your phone still and click the camera screen where you want the photo to focus.

With the focus set, try snapping a photo while you move your camera to keep up with your pet. Because it’s moving at the same speed as your dog or cat, the photo is less likely to be blurry.

3. Use the "rule of thirds" when you frame your photos

When you set up your shot, keep the rule of thirds in mind. This rule is all about balancing the contents of your image, so the eye is drawn to the right place.

Using the grid in your phone’s camera, you can break your image down into horizontal and vertical thirds. By lining up your subject into different sections of this grid and using the line intersections as focal points, you can change the overall impact of a photo.

For example, if you want to draw attention to your pet, particularly to their face, you’ll want to center your pet in the middle of the grid.

rule of thirds pet photography

If you’re taking a photo of your pet and you also want to include the beautiful scenery behind them, consider lining your pet up with the left or right third of the grid.

You can also play around with wide, medium, and close-up shots.

4. Take lots of photos of your pet at once

When it comes to taking photos of your pet, remember: click it or miss it!

Take as many photos as possible during a photo session with your pet because you never know what moment you’ll capture. You can always delete photos later, but you’ll never get a moment back.

The burst mode on most smartphones is a great way to capture lots of photos at once without needing to repeatedly press the shutter button. Simply hold the shutter button down, and your phone will automatically take photos every moment until you release your finger.

Need help taking photos of a black dog or cat? 

The key to taking photos of black pets is finding a good light source and focusing that light source on your pet’s face. This helps you pick up on your pet’s features and the variation in their fur.

Choosing the right background color also helps. White backgrounds contrast too strongly with your pet’s black fur, making it difficult for your camera to focus on your pet’s feature. Choose a softer contrast, like a gray background.

5. Use the right lighting

The lighting you use can make or break a photo. Natural lighting works best, but the most important thing to keep in mind is to never backlight your pet.

The goal is to have the light catch your pet’s eyes, so always keep the light source in front of your pet. Inside, you can use a window or lamp to create light. Ring lights are also great for indoor lighting and are easy and affordable to find now.

If you’re outside, avoid sunny days, especially at noon when the sun is highest. It may seem counterintuitive, but direct sunlight creates harsh shadows and also affects how your pet can look at the camera.

Try overcast days or during dusk or dawn to get the most consistent outdoor lighting.

6. Use toys, treats, or sounds to get your pet's attention

Attention-getters will be your best friend as you try to get that perfect shot of your pet. You can use treats, a favorite toy, or a device that makes noise to get your pet’s attention. Even the sound of the treat bag works as a great attention-getter!

Line up the shot and get your pet into place before you’re ready to take the photo. Once everything is in place, use the treat or toy to get your pet’s attention. Always hold the treat or toy next to the lens, so you keep your pet's attention on the camera.

Attention-getters become less effective the more they're used, so come prepared with lots of options to use!

cat looking at camera

7. Take energetic pets for a walk or playtime before a photo session

If your pet is bursting with energy, it’s difficult for them to sit still or pose for a photo. If your pet is too excited, they likely won’t be as receptive to commands, or the attention-getters you choose may work too well, creating a bigger distraction for your pet.

Before starting a photo session, take your pet for a walk or designate 15-30 minutes for playtime to burn off the extra energy and help your pet focus.

8. Declutter the area around your pet

When you photograph your pet, you want the focus to be on showing off how cute they look and not the distractions in the background. Before you take your pet’s photo, try to declutter the space by removing any distracting objects that could draw attention away from your pet.

In your home, this may look like removing extra pillows from behind your dog or cleaning off your desk if your cat is laying on it.

Outside, you’ll want to look for potential clutter in the background like a stop sign appearing behind your pup’s head.

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