Photographing Your Pets

October 05, 2015  •  Leave a Comment

GhostGhost Photographing your pets

My landscape photography has taken a bit of a back seat over the last few weeks but for a very good reason. I have been lucky enough to meet a number of the Peninsula’s finest fur population. (Actually fur is a bit limiting – there have been feathers and scales too!). I have been shooting (with a camera of course!) the Nhulunbuy PAWS Pets of the Peninsula 2016 fundraiser calendar.

At times it has been challenging but tons of fun and I thought I’d put together some tips for those of you who want to take better photographs of your pets yourself. The reality is that you are best placed to get the best shots because you know your pet and they trust you.

Some of these tips are applicable even if you’re using a smartphone and others are more applicable if you have a camera with some manual settings.

Eliminate distracting backgrounds


You want the focus of your shot to be your pet so you need to consider your backgrounds and eliminate anything that can be distracting. There are a number of ways to do this:

  • Zoom in (either with your camera or your feet!) – getting closer can often cut out of the frame some distracting elements
  • Shift your position
  • Blur the background – you can do this by selecting a wider aperture (e.g. f/2.8 or f/4). The lower the number the wider your aperture and the more blur you can achieve with only the subject you focus on remaining sharp.
  • Go black and white – sometimes colour can be a distraction and if it’s not adding anything to the image then try black and white. Black and white can be good for focusing on the texture of your pet’s fur or feathers too.

Make sure the eyes are in focus

Eyes are the windows to the soul and your pet’s eyes can be very expressive. Make sure they are pin sharp by focusing on them as the most important element in the shot. You can achieve some great effects with a wide aperture but the eyes should absolutely still be in focus. In using a wide aperture if your pet has their head slightly turned one eye may not be perfectly sharp. In this instance the focus should usually be on the eye closest to you.


Get down on their level

Some of the best shots I have taken have been flat on my belly, experiencing the world through the animal’s eyes.

Louise and DamienLouise and Damien

Capture their character


If you have a lazy cat picture them yawning, if your pet has a favourite toy or trick capture them playing that way. You know your pet intimately and this is the reason that with some basic technical camera knowledge you will always take better shots of them than anyone else can.

Natural Light

I personally prefer to use natural light rather than flash which may alarm or distress the animal. This way I can let them do their thing and just capture them as naturally and comfortably as possible. If you can’t get outside try to get close to a window with good light.


Fill the frame and go abstract

You don’t need the whole of your pet in the frame for it to be a great shot. Focus on particular parts of your pet and quite often you can get some terrific detail in the fur or their eyes or paws that make a beautiful abstract shot.


Some tips on settings

As with all photography, there are no magic or ‘best’ settings for capturing your pet. You need to give some thought to the kind of image you want before you settle on your settings.

For example to freeze your pet in action e.g. running towards you on a beach, jumping etc. you need a fast shutter speed (typically 1/200th second or faster). You will also need to use an automatic focus tracking system. See my previous blog for more on that.  


In low light situations you might need to increase your ISO to allow a faster shutter speed without underexposing (ISO refers to how fast your sensor gathers the light available to it). Most of the pets I have photographed this month I have used an ISO of 320 or higher even when shooting outdoors. This will also help you keep the shots sharp. A wider aperture (e.g. f/4 which exposes the sensor to more light) will also help with this as well as blurring distracting backgrounds.


The PAWS fundraising calendar is available for pre-order via their Facebook Page. I’d love to see some of your own shots of your pets and I hope that this has helped.




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