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5 Incredibly easy tips to sharpen your pet photography skills

I wanted to start a series of simple posts to help people with their Pet Photography. Because, I know you have a lot of problems with pets.

  • What do I do when a pet won’t look at me?
  • How the hell do I take photographs of pets with black fur?
  • Where do I even do this?
  • What settings do I use to get (insert effect here)?

I am in the process of creating a full on course in pet photography, with thousands of dollars of tips, strategies, and other goodies to help you not just learn pet photography, but take it to a level where you can be a successful pet photographer with clients and more.

So, why give away tips? Why not horde everything for a paid course that I am releasing in the future? Simple, I want to help as many people as I can, and a lot of people can’t pay for the help… yet.

So, even if, by the time I release my course I have 100 posts with a thousand tips, you will be more than happy to jump on the paid course because it will be diving DEEP into pet photography.

But that isn’t why you are here right now, right now, you want some help! You want some free help. So, here we go.

My 5 incredibly easy tips to sharpen your pet photography skills.

1. How to get your subject to look at the camera
Just Matilda being Matilda

The first one is one of my favorites and it didn’t seem that difficult, but it will change your entire game when you go to a shoot. Now, some pets can turn it on when they see a camera and will respond with voice commands, and if you have a pet (like I do) or client’s pet that can do that, your job is super easy. However, not every pet will be like this, actually, 9 out of 10 of your clients will not have a pet like this. So, go into your photoshoot prepared.

In my camera bag I will have the following 3 tools.

  1. A squeaker… yes, just the squeaker from a dog toy. If you have an old toy your pets aren’t playing with, take it out of there! Or you can buy them by the bagful online. Most dogs and even cats love and react to squeaky toys. Using it will grab their attention for a few shots (which also works when you are just using your phone to take photos too!)
  2. A tiny ziplock bag of that pet’s favorite or favorite adjacent snacks. It seems like cheating, of course snacks work, but please ask your client about pet allergies!
  3. A black 6 foot lead that is about 1/2 inch thick. Nylon works the best because it can be folded down tiny for your bag. Why even have a lead? Because a lot of crazy pets know that if they are on a leash, it’s time to behave. You can attach it to their collar or harness if they are wearing one or even make a simple loop in the leash to hold on to them. The reason why it’s black and so thin, it makes it easier to edit out, even if you don’t have editing skills, AI can edit out the leash without an issue. Plus it can be good if you are going to a place where you might need to make sure the dog is leashed for the entire shoot, and you don’t want it to distract from the star of the shoot.

Here are some affiliated links to products I use:
The Leash

The Squeakies

Philomena’s favorite snacks

2. Aim for the eyes
Aiming for the eyes makes it all tell the story

I have pugs, and pugs become a little easier to shoot sometimes because if auto-focus snaps in on them, it’s not going to be noticeable since there is no “tip of the snout” so to speak.

This is what happens when you accidentally focus on the snout of a dog that actually has a snout

When you get focused on the eyes, no matter how shallow or wide your depth of field is, you will be on the right path to a great shot.

3. Angles are everything
Sometimes you have to have your pets on a little stand. Because Phil stands 10 inches tall and it’s hard to get under her sightline for the best shots. So you have to improvise!

When you see most pet photos that are taken by someone who is not a photographer or doesn’t have the approach of a photographer, it becomes very apparent. It’s generally the same shots with the same problems. It’s far away, from partially above (because you’re a giant compared to fluffy!), and under exposed because they didn’t think of lighting at all.

If you’re going to take stunning shots of your pet, even from far away, you can’t be standing tall. You’re going to want to either get down on the ground which… can be problematic if the dog loves you, because they will see this as a time to come play haha, but it’s all part of the fun of pet photography. Or, you can have the pet be above you, maybe on a hill, on steps, on a stone wall, etc. Some of the best shots you will see are taken from well below the sightline of the subject!

4. Don’t be afraid to zoom in
Zooming in makes for the dramatic

If you see most of my work, you can see that I don’t leave much in terms of negative space in a lot of my pet photos. Especially in my Pug Headshot Project, where I am taking photos of these wonderful pugs in my signature headshot. They are filling up almost 50% of the frame most of the time.

It’s really a good measuring stick. I’m not saying you shouldn’t have a full body shot of your pets done, I’m just saying, there is more than just, “here is a dog in a field” photos when it comes to pet photography.

5. Patience and willingness to go over your time

I get it, our time is worth a lot of money. However, this is pet photography! You’re in it because you love pets. So, consider taking a little extra time to play, pet, and have fun with your client’s pets as a bonus to a great session. I will generally charge for the shoot and all that entails in a package price for roughly 30 minutes. So, for $200 I will get it all done plus whatever is in the package.

But, I’ve had a shoot go for 50 minutes. Because my subject was SUPER playful for the first 10, and last 10. And that is OK! They are animals, they want to have fun and play. LET THEM! Sometimes you might even get a few behind the scenes fun shots or bloopers for social media to enjoy.

Don’t stress that you’re over on time, because the dog loved you and wants to hang out with you for a few minutes playing tug when it’s all over!

I really love pet photography, and I hope that you subscribe to my newsletter for future updates to the pet photography class I am putting together. Also, be sure to stay tuned for more information about doing pet photography yourself!

I also have an ongoing project for my pug headshots to bring joy to every coffee table and home. While also bringing money to pug rescues! Learn more about it on my Mailing List Sign Up Page!

Stefan Glazer
Stefan Glazer

Author, Photographer, Artist, Pug Dad, Podcast Host, Teacher, Friend

Articles: 210

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