Pet Photography Pointers: Tips for Capturing Your Four-Legged Friends

Playful, inquisitive, loyal, and — as most pet owners would agree — pawsitively purrfect . But there’s no denying it: even the most well-trained cat or dog can quickly become uncooperative and finicky in front of a camera.

Snapping fast-moving subjects, such as kids, can be tough. Add a four-legged friend into the mix, and things get a bit more complicated. Maybe that backyard squirrel has a firm hold on Fido’s attention. Or perhaps your favorite feline is a little skittish at the sight of your lens.

Whether you’re taking photos for your family scrapbook or venturing into pet photography as a hobby (or profession), there are a number of ways to successfully take photos of your furry companions. Have some fun, bring lots of treats, and capture their unique personality with these tips:

Make It All About Them

Make It All About Them

Does your pet love to play fetch? Sunbathe along their favorite window sill? Snuggle up with their beloved toy? When it comes to showcasing your pet’s most lovable — and quirky — characteristics, treat each session as you would portrait photography. Consider the toys, locations, and activities that make your pet feel most at ease. Is the dog park their favorite place to run and jump around? You’ll achieve the best results if you focus less on posed shots and more on what makes their personality shine.

Avoid Harsh Lighting

Avoid Harsh Lighting

Your camera’s built-in or wireless flash can be distracting to your four-legged friend — and not to mention, downright frightening to the camera-shy pet! A good rule of thumb? Always look for areas of natural light. When indoors, position your pet near a large window or in well-lit rooms and entryways for soft, natural lighting. If exploring the great outdoors, aim for overcast days or locations that have plenty of shade, as too much direct sunlight could overexpose your image.

Switch Up the Perspective

Switch Up the Perspective

While it’s tempting to grab your camera and snap a photo looking down at your furry companion, try experimenting with different angles and compositions instead. Wouldn’t it be more personal to take a photo from their point-of-view? Catch a glimpse of your surroundings — in a new light — by getting down at their eye-level. If you have a rambunctious canine or feline, this may mean rolling up your sleeves and getting a bit dirty, especially if they love playing in the grass or along sandy shorelines. Remember: by making a conscious effort to capture your pets in their natural environment, the experience will be far less intimidating for them (and way more fun for you).

Pack a Few Extra Lenses

Pack a Few Extra Lenses

If you own a mirrorless or interchangeable-lens camera, pack a few extra lenses in your bag for added flexibility and inspiration. Lenses with fixed focal lengths, such as 35mm, 50mm, and 85mm, allow for razor-sharp images and beautiful background blur (or “bokeh”), thanks to their large maximum apertures. Want to showcase your pet’s unique features? Specialty lenses, such as macro lenses, help focus on super-close details, including eyes, noses, whiskers, paws, and yes, even that adorable patch of fur. But what happens if your furry companion is a bit camera-shy? A telephoto lens might do the trick. These lenses have a far reach — with some telephoto lenses extending up to 800mm — allowing you to zoom in close, even from afar.

Capture Animals in Motion

Capture Animals in Motion

Just like kids, pets are always on the go. Keep up with their adventures by setting your camera’s Drive Mode to High-Speed Continuous Shooting and your Autofocus (AF) Mode to AI Servo. Perfect for fast-moving breeds, such as Border Collies and Jack Russell Terriers, High-Speed Continuous Shooting lets you capture rapid bursts of images, while AI Servo continuously tracks movement — helping you stay in the moment without missing your pet’s high-speed action. Interested in making manual adjustments? You can freeze motion by switching your camera’s dial from Automatic Mode to Shutter Priority (Tv) Mode. With Tv Mode, you’ll have the opportunity to select the shutter speed, while your camera chooses the correct aperture to expose the image. Our advice? Aim for shutter speeds of 1/500th of a second (or faster) to capture your pet’s rough-and-tumble play.

Above all else, don’t forget to have fun and bring plenty of treats!

For more in-depth tips and tricks on pet photography, visit the Canon Digital Learning Center.

Looking to preserve purrfect memories of your four-legged companions? Create a pet photography-inspired photo book with hdAlbum EZ. Learn More >