Pet portraiture isn’t that different to people portraiture, except it is unlikely that you’ll get your goldfish to stop swimming and say ‘cheese’. There are a few tricks you can try though to get a pleasing portrait of your pet, and even some clever technology if you fancy pulling out all the stops.

But first… Basic rules of Portrait Photography

  • Use natural light

  • Get the eyes in focus

  • Fill the frame

  • Be patient

Simple, but key to capturing a great portrait. Bear these simple rules in mind and our pet specific tips below will add oomph to an already decent shot!

Top Tip
A flash can not only make a portrait look harsh, it can be a distraction – and may well scare your pet. If you find that you need more detail for a pet with dark fur, adjust the exposure.

Capture the animal in it’s element
The key to a great pet portrait is context. By taking pictures of your pet doing what it likes doing best, you will capture their personality in the photo.

Choose a time of day (or night) that your pet is least likely to be overly active or agitated, unless of course you are after a frenetic shot. Ideally choose a time when your pet is resting but is instantly alert if you call them, whistle, squeak a toy or do some other trick that is guaranteed to catch their attention.

Top Tip
Choose a fast shutter speed - pets are more often than not twitching, sniffing and listening to the world around them. A fast shutter speed will help you get a crisp shot even if they do suddenly move!

Meet them on their level
To create a closer connection in the picture, get down with your pet. The closer proximity and alternative angle will add another dimension and extra interest in the shot.

Distraction works!
Use a toy or treat to tempt your pet into different poses and ask a friend to help choreograph and guide your animal while you experiment with a variety of shots. While a pet is distracted, you are more likely to be able to get a great portrait.

Holding a treat next to the camera but out of view to capture a great close up while the animal is distracted, or shake/squeak a toy behind the camera so it looks like your pet is looking directly down the lens.

Pets in cages
To avoid having bars in the picture, open up the cage door and shoot through that, or get up close and use a wide aperture so that the bars of the cage are too blurred to obstruct the shot. Alternatively, re-create the environment in a larger space such as a cardboard box, cut a hole for your lens, and wait for the shot you are after!

Pets in glass tanks or water
The main problem here is avoiding unwanted reflections. Use a polarising filter and keep adjusting until you have eliminated as many reflections as possible. Also, shooting at an angle can help reduce reflections.

And Finally… Cheat?
Cameras with motion detection and pet recognition modes are becoming increasingly more common and of course affordable. This will allow you to leave your camera out and on, ready to catch your playful pet whenever they are in focus. Perfect for pet portraits without pesky pet owners calling the shots!

Try out our guide and post a comment back about your experience and with your favourite shot included – we can’t wait to see the creative ways you capture your pets!

Images courtesy Mark Carpenter, Lani and Jesse Wallace

posted November 22nd, 2012
After play time, he is ready for a rest.

Eye contact.
posted November 22nd, 2012
This is Holly - I captured him as I was teasing him with my fingers scratching and he was ready to attack:)
posted November 22nd, 2012
My neighbours very friendly kitten...

And one of our guinea pigs...

Thanks for the tips too - we're getting a puppy tomorrow so can't wait to start taking pics of him!!
posted November 22nd, 2012
posted November 22nd, 2012
posted November 23rd, 2012
Moet doesn't mind the camera, but would like to get some more action shots

This is the only action shot I have managed to get
posted November 23rd, 2012

posted November 23rd, 2012
The distraction tips remind me of a horse I tried to take some pictures of once. The animal just wanted to take a nap in the late afternoon sun and wasn't impressed at all by what the owner was doing behind my back, unlike the horses in another paddock who were kind of spooked by it. But that big black just fell asleep.
Anyway, just took this picture of my little critter, Caitlin:

My moms cats are also regular victims:

posted November 23rd, 2012
Here's my kitty, Derringer....
posted November 24th, 2012
Here's one of my dog, Daisy
posted November 24th, 2012
This is Jada

posted November 24th, 2012

I have a terrible time getting my corgis in motion. I get on ground level but probably still don't bend well enough. Any starting tricks on settings so i can go from there?
This is the ever Magic Maggie!
posted November 24th, 2012

Charlie demands equal time. This was done with a treat in Tom's hand over my shoulder.
posted November 24th, 2012

my fish nemo, great advice Kerry.

also nemo taken before this article came out though
posted November 25th, 2012
Two of my favourite shots of my cat Henry! :)

posted November 25th, 2012
posted November 25th, 2012
posted November 25th, 2012
posted November 26th, 2012

posted November 26th, 2012
Our new puppy!!!!!!
posted November 26th, 2012
I loved this blog post, lovely to see all the pet photos taken. Here is one I took this morning.

posted November 26th, 2012
I forgot to take her with me *SIGH*
posted November 26th, 2012
My puppy taking her first bubble bath. :)
posted November 27th, 2012
My outdoor cat, Lexi

posted November 28th, 2012

posted November 29th, 2012
I have 3 cats and a dog. I just LOVE photographing them! They are always doing something funny or fitting of their personalities. I find it challenging since these moments are quite often fleeting.....Here are some of my faves.

posted November 29th, 2012
posted December 17th, 2012
This is one i took recently for a xmas present.

posted January 26th, 2013

Here's my dog Pepper.
posted February 18th, 2013
Thanks for your tips and tricks. Very helpful for the future!

posted April 6th, 2013
posted October 2nd, 2013
posted October 2nd, 2013
posted January 4th, 2014
some pictures I snapped of my kiddos :)

posted March 24th, 2014

Sometimes nap time is a good time to take a shot.
posted May 26th, 2014
I was on a walk to capture some buttercups when this puppy came bounding up to me. He will need some intelligent handling as he was quite bold.
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