Pet Photography Tips & Fun Pet Photoshoot Ideas

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21 Minute Read
Updated December 11, 2023

If you are anything like us, the camera roll on your phone is about 80% (or more) photos of your adorable pet. Getting that perfect picture can make all the difference when it comes to these invaluable keepsakes.

Cell phones make amateur photographers of us all, but capturing that perfect Instagram-worthy photo of your pet is often harder than it looks. How do you get that perfect pose when your pooch just won’t sit still?

If all your dog’s action shots are blurry, if your pet just refuses to look at the camera, or if you just can’t get the right lighting, then these pet photography tips are just what you need to give your pet photos the glow-up they need.

 

Pet Photography Tips from an Expert

To help you capture those special memories with your pet, we reached out to a friend who is a pro at getting the perfect pet photo. @domcarson is an adventure photographer and content creator in Alberta with plenty of experience getting the perfect pet photos with her furry friends, Pip and Stoke.

We asked Dom to answer a few questions about pet photography to help you seize the moment or at least get a good picture of it!

How do you get your dogs to sit still or pose? 

Taking the time to train a solid sit command with your dog will come in super handy for taking those nice, posed photos. Even a few minutes of training each day will be so beneficial.

Grab some dog treats and a clicker and start by teaching sit (a great app to use for dog training is the Puppr app). You can slowly increase the duration your dog sits and the distance you can back up away from them.

Also, take the time to do this in different environments so that if you venture out into the world for photos, they are comfortable with the environment and distractions.

You can also train a “look” command, which is one of my favourites, to get them to look directly at me with the camera.

Remember to reward your dogs a lot and be patient with them.

Another favourite command is “place”. I love to place my dogs up on rocks, trees, or other interesting things in the environment and take photos of them there. You’ll want to get them used to different surfaces and allow them to gain confidence in themselves!

As you get further advanced, you can train more tricks that work great for photos, such as wave, hold, stick 'em up, or down. The possibilities are endless!

CTAs_Soft & Chewy Dog Treats

How do I get the right lighting? Is outdoor easier than indoor? 

Outdoor lighting is definitely the easiest to “get right,” and good lighting is key to great pet photos. When you’re outside, look for that soft light in the morning or the evening or in patches of shade. Overcast days are the best for photos because of the nice even light.

Photos in bright sunlight can be tricky because you get really bright highlights (light areas) and really dark shadows, creating a lot of contrast, and it can be challenging to place your dog properly.

My advice is to look for the shade to start with, and then when you’re more comfortable, you can start experimenting in the sunlight. I like to shoot backlit (with the sun behind my dog pointing at me) but with the sun slightly out of frame or being blocked by the dog so it doesn’t look too hazy in my camera. Just experiment, though and see what works best for you and your style!

For indoor lighting, it can be pretty dark so a large window is your best friend. I like to turn off all the lights in the house because some lightbulbs have a really yellow cast and can make the lighting look off in photos.

So try to position your dog by a large window and take advantage of that nice natural light coming in. Depending on your home (or wherever you’re shooting indoors), it can be fun to embrace the moody darkness, and you can create some really beautiful photos inside.

What are the best angles for still shots vs action shots?

pet-photography-angles

I am a big fan of getting down to the dog's level and photographing them from there. That way, you get them and the landscape behind them in the photo, which adds a storytelling element to your photography.

For action shots, I lovveee getting even lower to the ground (you’ll often find me lying on it) and shooting them running at me. Experiment with having the dog run across the screen, too, so you get a stunning side profile of them in action. Experiment with all the angles, though!

Some of my favourite photos of me and my dogs have been looking directly down at them, sitting beside me with a little bit of my legs and feet in the shot. Those photographs will forever remind me of what it looked and felt like to have them by my side.

Another thing to be aware of when positioning yourself is that having a foreground element in the photo can really add to the story. This could be that you’re photographing through a tree, and you can see some branches along the bottom of the frame, and then your dog is up on a rock looking out into the distance.

Having the branches in the foreground adds depth to the photo and really allows someone looking at the photo to feel like they’re there. I also like to do this with rocks or some of the ground when I’m photographing a dog from a lower angle.

Can you get great photos with a phone camera?

You definitely can! I’ve seen people create stunning images with their phone cameras. Here are some tips for you:

        • Turn on your gridlines and take some time to learn about the rule of thirds and how that affects images. The gridlines will show up as lines on your screen and can help you compose your images to capture more meaningful photos. 
        • Look for natural light and interesting and natural moments.
        • Try portrait mode if you have an iPhone with dual cameras. This will help your subject stand out a bit more and blur the background, giving you a higher-end look. 
        • Edit your photos. You can do this right in the Photos app on your iPhone or download Lightroom mobile. Even just changing some simple things such as exposure and colours can do a lot to bring out the best in your photos. 
        • And always make sure you straighten your horizon when you edit your photos. When you look at a photo with a crooked horizon, your brain will tell you that something is off about the photo, even if you don’t notice it right away, so it’s best to pay attention to that when you’re editing and ensure that your horizon lines are straight. 
        • You can use burst mode to capture a lot of photos in a short period of time (this is great for action shots), and then you can go through and pick out the best ones.

 

Tips for the Perfect Pet Action Shot

You see your pooch doing something absolutely adorable, So you grab your phone and snap a pic before your dog moves. More often than not, the photos are out of focus, dimly lit, and don't really capture the feeling of the moment. 

So how can you up your pet photography game to get that shareable photo that shows off your pet's quirks and personality?

Good candid shots of your pet require a little bit of know-how, plenty of practice and a bit of luck. We can’t spare any luck, but we can share some tips to improve your chances of capturing that perfect on-the-fly moment.

  1. Keep Your Camera Close - Getting a snapshot of your dog’s cute, odd, or hilarious behaviours means keeping your camera nearby. That way, you never have to bolt out of the room to grab it and inevitably miss the opportunity.
  2. Get On Their Level - Your pets are a little lower to the ground than you, so catch their best side by getting down on the floor to get on their eye level.
  3. Be Discreet - Hopping out of your seat with excitement to grab your phone is likely going to startle or stimulate your pet. Cats, especially, will get nervous and bolt. It’s best to stay calm and casual so you don't disturb your pet's adorable activity.
  4. Take Rapid Fire Shots - Just because you have a shot lined up and think it’s going to be perfect, it may not turn out as perfect as you want. By the time you've checked the photo, the chance to take another one may have passed. Hold that button and get a full spread of burst shots to make sure you capture the moment.
  5. The Magic of Editing - No matter how hard you try, the lighting and image quality may never be as perfect as you’d like. Editing your photos before you post them can help you sharpen the image, brighten their eyes, and really make your pet’s beautiful smile pop!

 

Tips for the Perfect Pet Photoshoot

If you prefer a more staged or themed picture, then setting up a dog photoshoot might be a better option. If you are looking for a family pic with your dog for your next Christmas card or just the perfect pet portrait for your next Instagram post, you need to know how to set the stage to ensure your pet looks good.

To help set yourself up for more successful pet photoshoots, you need to plan ahead. While those candid photos are fun, there are too many variables that can make it nearly impossible to get that perfect shot. 

Here are a few factors to consider when setting up the perfect puppy photoshoot:

  1. Lighting - Lighting can make or break a good pet photo. Whether you are indoors or outdoors, you want to make sure your dog is catching the right type of light at the right angles. Too much or too bright of lights can easily ruin a good photo, so turn off lights, find some shade, or try to avoid direct light exposure.
  2. Equipment - Whether you are just doing it for the gram or if you are looking to practice your photography skills, the equipment you use will dictate the type of photo you can take. Newer cell phones have some pretty sophisticated cameras, but only some will give you a similar quality photo to a digital camera.
  3. Timing - Getting that perfect shot won’t always happen on the first try. Sometimes it takes patience and a little luck to get the perfect picture. You might need to take dozens of shots just to get one perfect one.
  4. Incentive - Your dog or cat may be a little camera shy, or maybe they are just a spaz, but the right incentive to pose, leap, roll, lick, or smile can make all the difference. Toys are a great tool to keep your pets' attention and to make sure they look at the camera the moment you take the pic. 
  5. Environment - The environment you are in will affect the tone of the final image but will also affect your dog’s attention span and patience. Start by practicing in quiet, low-traffic areas and move to more exciting locations once you and your dog have worked out the kinks.

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Pet Photography Editing Tips

Even a good dog photo can be improved with some minor edits. Before you post, find out how you can jazz up your pet pictures with the magic of editing. Make some minor edits to correct lighting, tone, and focus so that your dog’s cuteness really shines through. 

Some key editing mistakes pet parents make that can take a photo from magnificent to meh. It’s not uncommon to get carried away in trying to tweak and perfect your photos, and before you know it, you end up with grainy, oversaturated, and awkwardly lit pictures. 

Editing can be complicated, but even beginners can learn the 3 cardinal sins of dog photo editing:

Bad Cropping

You want your dog to be the star of the photo, so it might make sense to crop the image and reduce some of the background noise, but be careful. Cropping out too much of the background, or even parts of your dog's body can make the image look clunky and change the tone.

The background setting provides context to the image and can help tell a story. Try to leave a moderate amount of background in the picture as the background will give the image more depth, convey tone, and help express movement.

dog-action-shot-good-cropping   dog-action-shot-bad-cropping

For a picture that shows movement, make sure to leave in your pet's paws and at least a little bit of the ground below them. Cropping out their feet can result in a photo that feels flat and motionless.

Temp and Tint Issues

Your eyes can deceive you, which can lead to a photo looking different after you post it than it did when you were editing. Your eyes can quickly adjust to the lighting in your home, or to your monitor settings, which can lead you to overcorrect the temperature and tint of the image, but once you post that image, you may find that it looks too dim, give the image an odd hue, or just look generally unnatural. 

It's always a good idea to calibrate your screen and try to do your photo editing during the day when you have the most amount of natural light. This will help you avoid over-tinting or giving the image an unnatural temperature or tone.

Over-Saturation

Some of the coolest pet portraits you see are complemented by a brightly coloured or beautiful background or scenery. The perfect blend of your cute pet and a contrasting and vibrant environment behind them. 

If your photos don't seem to capture the beauty of the background you can see with your eyes, you might be tempted to up the saturation to help those gorgeous colours pop. The problem with this is that saturating the background tends to wash out your dog, drawing attention away from them, and sometimes even making their natural colours look off. 

Another downside to using too much saturation is that saturation tends to make things with a lot of texture look fake. Fur, hair, and even greenery can start to look more like a painting than an image if you try to max out your saturation. 

 

Dog Photoshoot Ideas

If you really want to take your pet photoshoot to the next level, you may want to pick a fun theme for the pictures. Holiday themes, birthday parties, or seasonal concepts can all add an extra level of fun and excitement to your dog photos.

Here are 10 awesome and creative dog photography ideas:

The Family Photo

dog-family-photo

Everyone loves a good family photo, preferably with everyone wearing matching outfits or at least making funny faces. Dogs are family, too, so remember to include them in your photoshoot. 

Whether you are using this photo for your yearly Christmas card, or just want a fun keepsake, a pet-friendly family photo will show everyone that your furry friend is a welcomed and valued member of your clan. Try to keep your pet centred in the foreground to prevent them from being lost in the crowd of larger and more colourfully dressed models.

Time for Cake

dog-birthday-photoshoot

Celebrate your dog's birthday with a dog birthday party photoshoot. Grab a dog birthday hat and some streamers, and place your dog in front of a dog birthday cake to catch a shot of their eager anticipation.

If your dog doesn't have good impulse control around food, then focus on other party supplies or activities, like balloons, birthday presents, and even party games for your dog birthday photo shoot ideas.

Caught Red Pawed

dog-caught-red-pawed

Dog shaming photos are not new, but they are fun. Many pets have odd, funny, and sometimes destructive habits that make us truly wonder what happens in those goofy little noggins.

Next time you catch your pooch red-handed with their head stuck in the garbage can lid, or sitting in a pile of what used to be their dog bed, snap a photo of the incriminating evidence. Cats can be troublemakers, too, so don't be afraid to spread the shame if they were the perpetrators or even just the accomplices.

Christmas Morning

Dog-Christmas-Photography

The glow and glitter of Christmas lights and decorations provide unique and complementary lighting to your dog Christmas photo shoot. Sit your dog in front of the Christmas tree or a pile of wrapped presents for the perfect dog Christmas photos.

Dog Christmas photography can offer some of the most dynamic and eye-catching results if you know how to work with the theme. Too much light will ruin your photoshoot, so turn off the room lights and allow your bright and colourful festive backdrop to work its magic.

Treat Catch

dog-catching-treat-photoshoot

If you have a good camera, a great way to get a funny face photo of your pet is to toss a high value dog treat and snap a photo of your dog lunging to catch the tasty snack. Use burst shots to catch the whole process in action. You will surely get a hilarious photo of your pet's face in a goofy and awkward state.

For pets that can't catch, place some snacks on a glass table, and take some giggle-inducing images from below. Their weird tongues and droopy jowls will give you some unique and adorable images.

The Unboxing

Next time you order your pet's food or a new toy online, use this opportunity to set up a fun dog photoshoot. An unboxing photoshoot of your dog discovering some of their favourite toys, treats, or food is sure to get you a worthwhile and adorable pet photo.

A good way to encourage them to dig into their parcel is to hide a few loose treats in between the items. Your pet's hunt for snacks will make it look like they are excitedly exploring their package of gifts and goodies.

The Kissing Booth

dog-kissing-booth-photoshoot

If your pet loves giving kisses then setting up a makeshift kissing booth made from cardboard boxes and some non-toxic paint will be an easy and adorable photo shoot idea.

Make sure to gear the size and height of your kissing booth to your pet so that it's easy to get a head-on and centred shot of them poking their head through the booth and, if you have any willing customers, giving some sloppy but cute puppy kisses. 

Bubbles!

dog-chasing-bubble-photoshoot

Bubbles are a great way to get a really dynamic shot of your dog. Have a partner blow a bunch of bubbles and get eye-level with your dog to catch some great shots of your dog in action. Natural light can give you some colourful prism effects on the bubbles, so a bubbled-themed dog photoshoot is perfect for a sunny outdoor setting.

There are several techniques to get a unique photo, such as capturing your pet through the bubble to make it look like they are floating, or an action shot of a goofy wide-mouthed lunge for a bubble.

Doing Hooman Stuff

business-dog-photoshoot

Some dogs think they are people, so why not dress them up and get a picture of them doing their favourite hooman things? Maybe your dog likes to interrupt your work Zoom calls. Don them with some business casual attire and sit them in front of your laptop to get a comical new profile picture for your LinkedIn account.

Or pop them in the driver's seat to make it look like they are taking your whip out for a joyride. Get creative and pick scenarios where your dog has a natural inclination to participate. The more comfortable your pet is, the easier it will be to get a good picture.

Sea of Stuffies

Dog-toy-pile-photoshoot

Does your dog look like a teddy bear? Show off how cute your little furball is by surrounding your pup with as many fluffy stuffed animals as you can. Try to keep your dog in the middle and make sure your dog's full head and neck are visible in this stuffy cuddle puddle. 

You'll need enough stuffies to cover your dog's body, so try to use a confined space like a small couch or dog bed to minimize how many stuffies you'll need. A Where's Waldo-style photo is fun, but make sure your dog isn't completely washed out by similarly coloured fluffy toys.

 

Dog Photography FAQs

How to take photos of dogs catching things?

This style of photo is probably a two-person job, at least for beginners. Dividing your attention between aiming the toss and aiming the shot will likely end in an unfocused and off-center image. Have a friend toss the treat from just behind you so that you can stay in position and ready to shoot.

How do you take good pictures of dogs?

The process will take some practice, but getting a good photo of your dog requires some planning, the right environment, and choosing the right angle and lighting. 

Do dogs like their photo taken?

While dogs likely don't have an aversion to getting their picture taken, things like flash or the click of a shutter might be off-putting. Use treats and other rewards to associate the camera or your phone with a tasty or fun reward.

How do you get a dog to sit still for a pet portrait?

Depending on the type of shot you are trying to get, basic commands are an important practice for any pet photo or portrait. Verbal cues like sit, stay, come etc. should be practiced repeatedly to prepare for a photoshoot.

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Written by

Krystn Janisse

Krystn is a passionate pet nutrition enthusiast. She has worked in the pet industry for over a decade and loves to share her passion for animal welfare with others. She is currently working for one very rebellious cat, Jack, and hanging out with a goofy but loveable doggo named Roxy.

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