Basic Pet Photography

Think your shelter doesn’t have enough time, space or money for the perfect photo set up?  Find out how these basic tips can drastically improve the quality of your pet photos while spending little or no money!

Basic Photography tips

1.     Find a good location – Find a quiet room or area that is easily accessible, out of the flow of traffic and if possible, has a door with no window (or one that can be covered).  Ideally, the location will have light colored or white walls and an electrical outlet . If you are unable to move the pet to a different location to photograph him or her, try opening the kennel door to avoid shooting through bars.

 2.     Background – The background is an often overlooked component of pet photos but can make all of the difference! Be sure to choose or create a clean (uncluttered) one. Use a solid colored wall if possible and remove anything on or in front of it that is distracting, such as electrical cords, posters, chairs, etc. If you do not have a clean wall, then create one!  Simply drop a solid color sheet or blanket from the ceiling or wall using tape or clamps. Clean backgrounds enhance the image whereas busy backgrounds compete with the pet for the viewer’s attention and make for unimpressive thumbnails that do little to catch a surfing viewer’s eye.

3.     Lighting – Having the proper lighting is a crucial component of creating a great portrait and can showcase a pet’s best features. For almost all pet photos, you will want to leave the flash off and position the pet farther from the backdrop and closer towards you. To create proper lighting, find a professional, adjustable photo reflector that fit the space, and the budget. Find more information on lighting in our Advanced Photography section.

 4.     Position the Camera – Always try to shoot by getting down on the pet’s level and focus on the eyes.  Doing so can help facilitate capturing the pet’s attention and will help you make a connection with those viewing your pet photos. For smaler pets or, if you have trouble getting down on the ground,  try putting them on a short, STURDY table or platform. The important thing is to get the eyes in focus because they are what sparks connections. Elbow, knee pads and/or a soft cushion may help you capture that great eye-level shot!

 5.     Fill the Frame/Viewfinder  Fill the frame with as much pet and as little background as possible! To help you do this, hold the camera vertically if the pet is taller than she is wide (e.g., standing facing you with tail toward backdrop or sitting up tall) so you can fill the frame. Likewise, if the pet is wider than she is tall (e.g., standing with her side toward you or lying down) then hold the camera horizontally. Also, don’t be afraid to move or zoom in close for the head-shot, it’s okay to crop off an ear or two.

 6.     Make a Connection This can be the most important step of all!  Whenever possible, give the pet a bit of time to relax before photographing. If you’re photographing dogs, try walking them beforehand. Connections are made when eyes meet eyes, so make sure to find a way to get the pet to look into your camera’s lens. Try using treats, noises, gestures, or squeaking a toy to accomplish this as dogs and cats tend to look in the direction of the sound, movement or food.

7. Shooting Outdoors – Dogs photograph best outdoors with natural light. If you have the option to shoot your dogs’ photos outside, find a safe, enclosed location in open shade (i.e., a building’s shadow, under an overhang, a covered walk, etc.) away from facility traffic with a bright source of reflected light nearby, such as a concrete parking lot, body of water, white/light colored building or vehicle in direct sunlight. Position yourself in the sun, facing the shaded area. If the sunlight is hitting your lens, either shade it or move just inside the shaded area