5 Tips for Taking a Pet Portrait

Taken with as simple point and shoot camera at the cat's level.

Taken with as simple point and shoot camera at the cat's level.

I am the photographer for Ooligan Press. I think I’ve gotten a pretty good handle on photographing portraits of humans. Animals are a completely different deal. They’re so wiggly! The happier they are, the more wiggly they get. Kittens and puppies are the cutest, but also the worst to photograph. They only want to play. You can tell a person to stand there, tilt their head this way, look that way. You might be able to tell a dog to sit and stay, but there’s no way to order them to stop watching that squirrel and look at the camera. Here are a few hints I've learned. None of them require having a fancy camera.

1.     Have their human stand just behind you or right next to you. Pets usually want to look at their human, instead of a stranger with a camera. Having their human as close as possible to you makes it more likely that they will be looking in the direction of the camera.

2.     Get on the ground. While I have taken many lovely shots of pets while standing, I am often more successful if I sit or kneel down and get face to face.

3.     Get them tired. If you are having difficulty getting a shot that isn't blurry from motion, play with them until they aren't so energetic anymore. Or sneak up on them during a nap.

Sleepy baby goats with shed and hay in the background.

Sleepy baby goats with shed and hay in the background.

4.     Be aware of the background. That kitty may be adorable, but the litter box? Not so much. Is the puppy in the laundry room? Get him outside! While humans are more aware of their surroundings and can tell you if they don’t want to be pictured in front their dirty dishes, the pet isn't going to speak up. Also, get close. Too much background is a bad thing.

5.     Try not to use the flash. It can hurt the sensitive eyes of some pets, or scare them. Everyone has seen the terrifying laser eyes of a cat caught in a camera flash. Natural light is the best way to go, so take your furry friend for a walk. Or, if you have an indoor pet, photograph them near a window. The sunlight should be behind you and shining on the pet.