5 tips for taking great photos of your pet

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By Jennie Huettel, Professional Photographer and PetSafe Photo Coordinator

I’m sure you love your pet(s) as much as I do mine. Mine are my world. They go hiking with us. They go camping with us. They go to work with me. My 8 month old son giggles when he sees them. You love everything about them…..except when they run away from the camera when you try to take a picture of them. Or when they are sleeping so sweetly and you tip toe to get your camera not to wake them and as soon as you get ready to take the picture, they wake up and turn their back to you. Or when you think you took the cutest picture and you look at it and their eyes are glaring red! How frustrating is this?!?! Since I have been right where you are, I want to share some tips to get great pictures of your pet.

1.Turn off the flash

The flash is why those oh-so-adorable photos turn out not-so-adorable with those red eyes glaring at you, making your pet look quite scary. Instead of a flash, use other lighting sources. Turn on the lamps in your house. Keep the lights on when your pet falls asleep so you can be ready to capture that cute photo of your pet (and keep your camera near you!).

My favorite type of lighting is natural light. If you are indoors, utilize an open window and let the sun shine in. Most pets love to bask in the warmth of the sun, a great time to capture them snoozing. If you are outdoors, the possibilities are endless, just try not to shoot directly into the sun. This can cause lens flare, which are those mysterious spots that show up on the photo that you can’t really see when you are taking it. Unless, of course, you are the creative type and like a little lens flare in the image, like the photo of Rowdee.

2. Get down on your pet’s level

I’m sure you have plenty of photos of you standing above your pet and them looking up at you. Cute? Yes. But you can get even better shots by getting down on their level. This means laying down on the ground with your dog and possibly getting dirty, a sacrifice you have to make to get the good shots. As a professional photographer, my clients laugh when they see me laying upside down on the ground with my camera in one hand and treats in the other hand making crazy noises, but once they see the shot I get, they stop laughing and are eternally grateful. I n the photo below, I was laying in the mud, shooting through the weeds, up hill, to capture Hope enjoying rolling in the mud and chewing on sticks.

3. Exercise and a full belly

I’m sure you have tried tirelessly to get a cute photo of your pet posing in front of a beautiful background. It usually sounds a little like this…..”Sit. Stay. Good girl. No. Sit. Good-wait, wait. Okay, now look here…..Ellie, Ellie…No, no, go back and sit. Face me. This way…argh!!!!” Sound familiar? I’ve been there. When I have a photo shoot with a dog, I spend at least the first 30 minutes playing with the dog to get to know them and to tire them out. Little do the dogs know that you are playing with them to get them exhausted and more relaxed. They think-“Wow! This chick is pretty cool! She likes to throw the ball for me five-hundred times!” Pretty soon, you will have a dog that runs after the ball and all of a sudden lays down. Then guess what?  Time to snap that shot! Keep your camera on you so the dog gets used to seeing the big black thing you are pointing in their face and they won’t think twice when you go to capture that image. (I also ask the owners to feed their dog before the shoot. It helps for dogs that are treat motivated to not attack you when you show them a treat because they are starving!) This shot of Ellie Mae was captured after a long hike.

4. Treats, Toys and Noisemakers

Like I mentioned above, you have to do silly things to get the right shot. One of those is crazy noises your pet has never heard before. So there I am, dog posing in the perfect spot, all I need is the dog to look at me, so I call her name, and oops! Here she comes running towards the camera. Most dogs know to come when you call their name, so you need to trick them into looking at you and not running at you. There are plenty of toys out there that make different noises, go get a variety of them that you know your pet has never heard before. Treat bags make a sound that most dogs love too. But my favorite noisemaker is my mouth! I will whine, squeak, bark, meow and one of them will get the dog to look at you! The dog (and the owners when you are on a photo shoot) may be thinking “that is the craziest thing I’ve ever heard”, but it works! And if you are lucky, you can get the cute head-tilt like this.

5. Go where the action is

Dogs don’t normally sit still. They are normally running around, chasing the ball, chasing each other, chasing their own tail….so capture your pet being themselves! Get outside with your dog and shoot away! Go to the dog park and take photos of your dog playing with other dogs. Your dog will thank you for the fun and you will be happy with the photos! Just remember, patience is the key. With digital cameras, you can shoot as many photos as your memory card will hold. So keep shooting, and don’t just wait for the perfect shot. You will capture something amazing that you never expected. Like this shot from a dog beach.

I could have never planned this shot, but by taking lots of photos, this one came out perfect! And although it looks like the Doberman is going to eat the Great Dane, they are actually best friends and were having a blast!

So, get outside and take your dog to the dog park and try some of the above. At the very least, you will get some fun photos and some great exercise for you and your dog!

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2 Responses to 5 tips for taking great photos of your pet

  1. Jenni says:

    Look at you, Jenn! You rock!

  2. UncleDan says:

    I really appreciate the reinforcement for making funny noises at the dogs instead of calling their name–glad to know I’m not the only one. And you’re right, sometimes you get that precious head-tilt. Digital cameras are SOOOO superior to when I used to have to shoot with film. This way, you can snap snap snap and are so much more likely to catch a lucky “perfect” shot. All you have to sacrifice is the time it takes to electronically delete the “not-so-great” shots when you get home. Kudos to you and nice photos!!

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