One of my favorite things to do with the animals I care for is take their photos and my ever-growing collection of cute animal photos is a big part of why I started this project. The animals are incredibly adorable and I love having something tangible to share with their owners. And in a few situations, these photos help to memorialize a beloved pet that has crossed over the rainbow bridge. But over the years, I’ve definitely learned a few things about taking a photo of an animal!
Tips for taking photos of your own pet
I’ve always found that the best way to get a dog to look into the camera has been with treats or a toy but each dog will be different and will be motivated by different things. Rooster, for example, isn’t particularly interested in most treats but does love raw apples! Milo is motivated by any kind of food, both human and dog related, and any one of his toys. And it’s not just dogs, as food/treats can be used when taking photos of other animals as well! Some of my favorite photos of Shasta the llama involved me holding apples by my phone.
- Pro tips for taking perfect pics of your pup – Jen Reeder, Zuke’s
For many posed shots, it really does help that the dogs I take photos of are very food motivated (with the most notable exception being Rooster). But having treats in my hand make it easy to get these animals (especially the dogs) to pose for the camera. With other animals, many of my favorite photos have just happened because I’ve been in the right place at the right time.
I also usually try and take several photos at once. If you were to look at my camera roll at any given moment, you’d see so many photos that are very similar but each one is slightly different (i.e. I moved, the animals moved slightly, I changed angles, etc).
The fact that all the animals I care for trust me has been a huge factor though; I doubt the sheep would have been okay with all the times I’ve sat on the ground to take their photo if they didn’t trust me a little. Plus, all the animals that I do take many photos of are used to my phone. If your pet is camera shy, it could be helpful to just have your phone or camera out and around for them to get used to.
I’ve also learned not to take a photo with a window behind the animal, as the lighting can then be a little rough. Having the flash off has also been a great idea; on top of the flash changing how the pet might look in the photo, the flash could potentially spook them! Instead of a flash or having the pets in front of a window, I usually rely on natural lighting that hit the pet’s face.
The breed/coloring of a pet will influence how the lighting will influence a photo. It’s possible for me to get a great shot of Milo in without too much lighting on him but that’s not the same for Rooster. And while Milo looks great against a red or brown background (think woods or fallen leaves), Rooster looks a lot better with colors like blue or green or things like hay or bricks in the background.
- 10 tips for getting great photos of your cat from Catster HQ
One of the biggest things I’ve learned about taking photos of animals, especially dogs, has been to get at their level. Taking a photo of smaller animals like cats, dogs, and sheep while standing is always an option but being at their level can allow for a better perspective.
Photos of Shelter Animals
There are so many people who are professional or just amateur photographers that have worked with nearby shelters to help dogs and cats get adopted. Having a great photo of the animal can make such a difference in their perception and can share their personalities. The organization Hearts Speak is a nonprofit collective that works around the country to help shelter pets find their forever homes. They have resources on how to best take a photo of a pet, how to plan things for social media, and more. Plus, they have a list of artists that rescue organizations could contact!
- Tips for Taking Dog Pictures from Big Fluffy Dog Rescue
If you’re looking for even more tips and resources, the podcast ‘This Is Pawprint’ also has several interviews with pet photographers and many speak on how to best photograph shelter animals. Rebekah Nemethy is one such interviewee who offers some general tips on the best way to photograph shelter animals.
Taking photos of animals, at least for me, has always been a lesson in patience. Animals will always have their own agendas and may not want to sit through having a camera stuffed in their face. If it seems like your pet is getting tired/annoyed/bored of you putting a camera in their face, it might be best to just take a break and try again at a different time. It can be easy to get caught up in getting the next great photo to share on social media but more often than not, the really important thing is to make sure that you and your pets are having a good time together!
I hope these tips and resources help you to take great photos of your pets or rescue animals looking for their forever homes. Many of the tips I offered focus on dogs but it’s still possible to use them in a slightly different way to get great photos of other animals!