How to Photograph Pets

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how to photograph pets image

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Anybody who knows me knows that I adore my dog. I got her before my son was born and it has been an absolute pleasure watching them grow up alongside one another. 

However, as a relatively new pet owner, I had to learn some hard lessons. For starters, I didn’t realize that puppies could or would chew through drywall. Had to learn that lesson the hard way. 

But, I’ve also learned that pet photography is honestly pretty difficult. I understand why there are entire businesses dedicated to this super specific photography niche. 

In order to help you learn to take some photos of your pup, I found this video from B&H Photo Video that is all about teaching you how to photograph pets. I’ve summarized their tips below for easy reference, and while I discuss photographing dogs specifically, these tips can work for just about any pet.

Grab the Right Gear

grab the right gear for pet photography image

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One of the most important pet photography tips is that you cannot capture all of the images you’re going to want to capture with the camera on your phone. You’ll actually need some “specialized gear.”

For starters, you’ll need a telephoto lens. Telephoto lenses help you capture action that you’re far away from. So, if you want to capture an image of your dog who is halfway across the park, a telephoto lens will help you to do so.

You’ll also want a portrait lens for those more up close and personal shots. If you’ve been following pet photography trends over the last couple of years, then you’ll have noticed that portraits of dogs are all the rage right now. If you want to get one of those shots, the kind that looks like you got a real professional to take it, you’ll need a portrait lens for it.

Dave also recommends that you have a wide-angle lens for different shots of your pup, although I think this is more of a “nice to have” option. 

Keep Your Dog Looking Spiffy

keep your dog looking spiffy for pet photography image

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My dog is the kind of dog that loves to get absolutely, disgustingly filthy. If there is a mud puddle anywhere near her, the first thing she is going to do is lay down in it, do at least three barrel rolls, and then come plunging at me to give me some of her love (and dirt).

While this could be cute for a very specific type of photoshoot, you’ll have a far easier time learning how to photograph pets if the pets you are photographing are clean.

For this reason, make sure that your dog just got a bath before your session. You may also want to keep some doggie wet wipes and a brush on hand to be able to clean them up as you go.

If you aren’t photographing your own dog, then make sure that the owner approves of any grooming supplies you are using on the pet since some dogs have really bad allergies to some ingredients in run-of-the-mill wipes or dry shampoo.

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Make Sure the Dog Is Comfortable

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When you’re learning how to photograph pets, you’re going to be tempted to not pay enough attention to each individual pet. You’ll want to be really focused on getting your angles right and using your gear, but this is a huge mistake.

If you aren’t paying enough attention to your dog, then they could be getting anxious without you realizing it. Not only is this dangerous if you have a dog that is reactive, but it will also ensure you don’t get any good photos of your pooch. 

Bring all of your dog’s favorite toys to the shoot. Bring stuffed Kongs and other chews as well. Licking helps to calm a dog’s nerves and you’ll want them to be as comfortable as possible.

As always, ensure your dog has access to fresh, clean water at all times. If you’re shooting at a park or anywhere else outdoors your dog is going to get much hotter than you are much quicker than you do. Some nice cool water will help keep them calm.

Get Your Lighting and Composition Right

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Photo by Hakase_ via iStock

The lighting you want to use will depend on the type of dog you’re photographing. Some dogs may be comfortable with strobe lights, while others won’t be. 

If you’ve got a reactive dog who likely won’t do well being the total center of attention, then you can opt to use a reflector instead to bounce the sun’s rays back on your dog’s face. Reflectors work especially well with dogs who have darker fur, like black or brown fur. 

You also need to ensure that your composition is correct. You’ll be tempted to take photos of your dog while you’re standing, but you should always get on your dog’s level in order to take portrait shots. 

That’s all for our simple pet photography tips. Make sure to watch the entire video about how to photograph pets to get the most out of your experience. 

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