I’ve always been passionate about photography. Growing up I attended every single event with a disposable camera in tow. I just loved being able to capture funny or special moments and enjoy them just as much later on. My friends fell victim to the candid photo far too many times. And then I got my first digital camera – the first kid in my class (thanks Dad!) – and my budding interest for technology and photography just exploded. The camera ran on 4 AA batteries. The resolution wasn’t great and it definitely was NOT quick, but I suddenly fell into a completely new world – photo editing. Hello Microsoft Paint!

My photos (and their final edits) were not always great, but I loved it and now I have many blurry memories to help me hold onto special parts of my childhood. As cell phone cameras increased in quality and speed, I stopped carrying around a separate camera until I graduate college and received my first DSLR as my “you survived an Ivy League” graduation present.

That camera took the first few pictures of Luna. That camera gave me the courage to start my first blog. That camera has traveled to numerous states and even countries. That camera has recorded SO many memories and been an extension of my creative arm for 6 years.

And yes, you can definitely bet that as soon as I got my first dog my main focus was taking as many photos of her as possible.

How to Improve Your Photography of Your Pets - 16 Actionable Tips! #sponsored by BlogPaws

This is a sponsored post and is part of the Wordless Wednesday Blog Hop for BlogPaws and Chewy.com. All opinions and ideas are my own.

So what does that all matter? You may not share my ridiculous passion and interest for photography, but I bet as a pet parent you LOVE seeing and taking pictures of your pets. So, I also bet that you wouldn’t mind being able to take slightly better photos to seal those already unforgettable moments in color.

The other thing about photographing pets is that their free will can be a bit more challenging to capture than that of a mountain or flower. Some days they might ham it up with a bit of model behavior, but other days they would rather be anywhere else. Learning how to work with your pets is just as important as your equipment and backdrop.

I’m far from being a professional photographer, but over the years I’ve learn tricks that work well with my photography style and even help me when I’m running short on time. I’m still learning as I go, especially since technology is changing constantly, but I’m thrilled to share with you what I’ve picked up along the way.

Training, Training, Training!

To get great photos of your pets, it is going to be so helpful if they are well trained and can follow basic commands. If they can’t yet sit or stay without a camera, then they probably won’t be able to do it in front of one. Keep working at it before you throw in another obstacle. Also, keep in mind that cameras might seem bizarre and even alien to your pets. You may need to climatize them to the technology especially if it’s big, blocks your face, or makes weird noises.

Feed Them Well

This is Luna’s most important tip! Pets shouldn’t work for free. Sitting and waiting isn’t fun for anyone, so if your pet does a great job be sure to let them know through praise and a tasty treat. My go to treats are small, smelly, and low calorie because Ralph & Luna get a ton during every photo shoot. Bonus if you find small treats that you can tear into even smaller pieces!

How to Improve Your Photography of Your Pets | Keep it Positive

Keep it Positive

Think of a photo shoot with your pet as a subset of their regular training. Keep everything positive and work through any difficulties you face together. After numerous tries, if something still isn’t clicking then don’t push it. Maybe today just isn’t the day. No matter what end your session on a positive note even if it’s just a simple photo of them sitting.

Set Your Expectations

You aren’t going to become a professional photographer overnight. Hey, I’m still working on it and it’s been years! Your pet is also not going to become a professional model. Make sure you’re both on the same page. Don’t expect perfection out the door. Pick one aspect of your photos and photo shoot experience and work on that. Do it often. Before you know it, you’ll have made those bigger strides and look back at your old stuff saying “Oh jeez!”

How to Improve Your Photography of Your Pets | Take Advantage of Natural Light

Take Advantage of Natural Light

This is probably the biggest rule in photography. Natural light makes the best photos. When you can take photos outside or in a room with big, sunny windows, take full advantage! For important photos or big projects, I tend to schedule my photo shoots to ensure I get as much natural light as I can. You can play around with different light levels and focal points, but I’d recommend starting with your light source behind you.

Even when I do plan to shoot during natural light, I can forget to take into account cloudy or rainy weather. Not having tons of natural light doesn’t mean that you can’t get a great photo. You can use artificial light and flashes, but it is a skill to master. I like to use daylight bulbs in my lamps when I can’t take photos outside or by a bright window. Here are the ones I regularly use (affiliate link). The whiter light of a daylight bulb general looks better than yellow light and closer to the real thing.

How to Improve Your Photography of Your Pets | Bounce Light

Bounce Light

Did you know you can bounce light? If you have access to some natural light, but it’s not necessarily where you want to photograph, you can refocus it in a variety of different ways. It can be as simple as taking photos in a room with white walls. Another good trick is using a white bed sheet or white poster or foam board. I also love the big white LINNMON table tops from IKEA. The white color helps reflect light rather than absorbing it making the room and your photo overall brighter.

Get Down On Their Level

Yes, get down on the ground! Pets can range drastically in their sizes and heights, but it is so important to actually get down on their level when you take photos. You’re going to be able to capture so much more emotion and details in their faces than if you were to stand overhead. You are also more immersed in what they see, so it will be easier to predict and get the better shots.

How to Improve Your Photography of Your Pets | Get Down On Their Level

Try Different Types of Shots

Play around with how close you are to your pets, what’s in focus, and of course using the trusty “rule of thirds“. If you have some free time on your hands or a low key photo shoot, be adventurous and try out new things. You may find you like a certain types of shots better, but you’ll never know that if you don’t try!

How to Improve Your Photography of Your Pets | Try Different Types of Shots

Get Those Close Ups

There’s nothing I love more than close up photos of my dogs’ paws. They are SO cute. Another one of my favorite photos is a close up of Luna’s eye. It shows so much emotion and connects me with her so deeply. It’s nearly impossible to capture your entire pet in one photo, so take ones from different angles and focuses. Show their paws, their face, their tail, their adorable marking, or anything else that makes them special. You cherish those photos forever.

Be Quick

Pets are quick, so you need to be just as fast to capture their emotions and actions. Turn on fast shutter speed or sport mode depending on your equipment. Another good idea is to take a few practice photos to see what you’re working with before the big moment.

How to Improve Your Photography of Your Pets | Be Quick

Play with Backdrops

Backdrops are an easy way to spice up a photo just a bit. These photos are perfect for special occasions – Christmas, Birthdays, Announcements, etc. – but also just for fun. In addition to having a regular white bed sheet to help bounce light and have a clean background, I also have a few other colors. Some of my favorite affordable tricks include buying discounted fabric, patterned table clothes, and even large scarves. If you are doing an aerial photo, you can also look into vinyl and tile flooring. You can also utilize natural backdrops like grass, rocks, wood, and more.

How to Improve Your Photography of Your Pets | Play with Backdrops

Try Out a Few Props

Props are another great way to spice up a photo for a special occasion. My go to place to find new props is my local dollar store and post holiday clearance sales. You’d be surprised how many props I’ve found that were being clearance out by had other uses if you just looked at them with a little creativity. Want more prop ideas? Check out these posts from Kol’s Notes!

How to Improve Your Photography of Your Pets | Try Using Props

Remove the Clutter

While a backdrop and prop or two can actually add to a photo, excess clutter doesn’t. You want your pet to be the focus of the photo, not your old pile of socks in the back corner. If clutter is an issue for you, I’d recommend carving out a corner in your home as the “photo spot” or building/buying a back drop stand. This will allow you to position your backdrop and cover up the clutter!

Get Familiar with Your Camera (or Phone)

There are so many camera options available now and cell phones are such strong competitors that it’s hard to pick the “best” one. Everyone has different needs, so I’m not going to tell you to use what I use. What you should do is get to know what YOU have. Learn the settings. Learn what you can adjust and what you can’t. Keep practicing until you feel confident and then keep practicing again.

It’s Okay to Edit

Editing is a whole other ballgame, but it can drastically improve the quality of your photos. There are so many photo editing software options out there than can take years to fully master. My favorites right now are the web based options PicMonkey and Canva for creating graphics or basic edits. I also regularly use Adobe Lightroom for bulk editing and adding my watermark. Because of my budget, I also use Paint.NET in place of Adobe Photoshop.

Many experts scoff at using the “automatic” editors in these programs. While the auto adjustments are probably not as good as when an expert does the editing, it is a great starting point for beginners. Go ahead and click auto and then see how things change when you update the settings. Hands on experience is the best!

Bring Your Camera Along

You never know when the perfect photo opportunity of your pets will fall into your lap, so bring your camera along. Luckily, most of us have fancy cameras attached to our phones now, so it’s a lot easier to have a quality camera along for every adventure. And remember, practice makes perfect. The more you have your camera with you, the more you use it, and the better you get!

What are you top pet photography tips? Share them in the comments below!

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How to Improve Your Photography of Your Pets - 16 Actionable Tips! #sponsored by BlogPaws

Jessica Shipman

Jessica Shipman

Jessica Shipman is a bargain hunter, food lover, and software engineer figuring out how to be a pet parent for the first time. Jessica has been a long time lover of all animals (especially llamas and manatees) and is happy that she can finally combine that love with technology.
Jessica Shipman
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