Taking the Purrfect Pet Photo

brown and white tabby cat with yellow bandana meowing at the camera

As pet sitters we have approximately a thousand pet photos on our phones at any given time  (and will show them all to you at the drop of a hat). Some of them are of our own pets, but many are of the wonderful creatures we spend our days caring for. We love our four-legged clients as much as our own fur babies and our camera roll is proof.

We’ve all tried to take that once in a lifetime photo of our pet or our pet friends to showcase their energy, beauty, personality, or just plain silliness. Some of us may be able to snap the perfect photo at the drop of a hat, but for many of us it’s hard enough to get a good photo without having to try to focus on a wiggly, bouncy four-legged friend. For those of us who may need a little extra advice, here are some tips and tricks for how to take that purrfect photo of your pet.

1. Be patient

Lori Fusaro, a photographer who specializes in animals, says, give your pet time to get used to your camera (or smart phone), especially if it makes any type of sound. Let them sniff it and then dismiss it so that they go about doing their own thing. Sometimes you just have to follow them around until they do something cute or funny!

2. Time it well

If you want an action shot, have your camera ready before tossing the frisbee or pointing the laser. If you want to show how poised or relaxed your pet is, maybe wait until after the play session when your pet is tired and more willing to settle in one place.

3. Get down on their level

To get a more interesting photo, and one that really captures your pet’s expression, try kneeling or crouching to place yourself at their level. Consider getting close enough with your camera that your fur friend is taking up the majority of the frame, or go a step further and focus on their beautiful snout or adorable toe beans to get a unique photo!

4. Use natural light

Natural light works best to showcase your pet. Artist Mailin Plagge says “good lighting, either outside or in a bright room inside, helps keep the photo clear and in focus. It also helps keep the colors in your photo from being washed out.” So see if you can put your fur baby near a window or even outside for that purrfect shot!

5. Distractions are key

Unless you’re going for that candid shot of your dog mid yawn or your cat mid leap, using items like squeaky toys, treats, or whatever catches your pet’s attention can motivate your pet to look at the camera. Snacks or toys will also help keep these photo shoots fun for your pet!

Want a funny photo? Give your pup a spoonful of peanut butter and take some photos of their face as they eat it. Your pup also won’t try to wander away when they have a mouthful. Just be sure your peanut butter is all natural and xylitol free!

6. Focus on their personality

Maybe you have an active pup who loves to chase butterflies. Maybe your cat sits in their tower like royalty. Whatever your pet’s personality, try to catch that in their photo to make it really showcase your pet.

You also want to pay attention to the background in your photo. Plagge says to “place your pet in a somewhat neutral background. You want your pet to be the main subject matter, not the room they’re sitting in! ”

7. Practice, practice, practice

Take lots of photos of your pet, in all kinds of lighting and from all different angles. Try the action shots and the still photos. Try adding treats or tossing them to your pet to get a funny mid catch photo. Try whatever you can think of until you and your pet are pros at these photo sessions!

Take it a step further

Australian shepherd with purple bandanaSo what do you do with all of those great photos you just took? Why not turn one of them into a beautiful portrait! Artist Mailin Plagge loves capturing the beauty and uniqueness of peoples’ pets in her paintings. She says “when a client commissions a portrait of their beloved fur baby, it’s my job and my joy to capture each pet’s personality and character in a unique painting or drawing. I love to work with clients to create a piece that expresses their vision.” Plagge states that if you’d like to have a portrait of your pet, sometimes it helps to give your artist a few different reference photos of different angles of your pet, especially for those with all black pets, which tend to be difficult to take clear photos of. And make sure that the photos you send show how much fun your pet is, photos of cats and dogs having a good time always turn out the best!

painting of red merle australian shepherd with purple bandanaCheck out Mailin Plagge’s artwork on her website or instagram if you’re interested in a commission.