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How To Get the Best Photos With Your Pet (That Are NOT Selfies)

A professional photographer's guide to Pet Photography

Plus how to overcome the task of getting your pet comfortable with and to look at the camera.



How many photos do you have of your pets? I am sure the answer is infinite because we all take pictures of our loved ones, especially our dogs, cats, etc. all of the time. Your phone's photo app is full of pet photos from them sleeping an adorable way, doing something silly, playing, and more.


But how often do you get photographs WITH your pet, not just of them? And are they almost all selfies? If you have another family member take the photo, how often does your sweet pet look at the camera? I am willing to bet maybe once, but most likely they are looking at you beside them, not the other person.


As an example, let's picture a scenario — you are sitting on your sofa with you pup, cuddling and loving each other. Your partner/roommate/child/friend/parent/guardian/other-fabulous-person walks into the room and sees this cute cuddle time and wants to get a photograph of you and pup. The best photographs of living subjects feature their eyes, so your person calls the pup's name to try to get the pup to look at the camera. Pup may look once then back at you. Pup may move from the cute position or leave to go greet the other person. Pup may not be interested at all. Your person may have gotten one or two quick snaps, if they were lucky. So what do you do?


The easiest solution is to hire a professional pet photographer to get those perfect photographs of you with your pet, but until then, here are a few tips on how to get the best photos with your phone of you and your pet. Plus you can use these tips when you do hire a professional too.


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Professional Pet Photographer's Tip #1 — Patience


Do not pick up your pet and hold them or place them on your lap if this is not normal for you.

Do not run after your pet to try to get them back after they leave the photo session.

Do not drag your pet or move them unwillingly into place.


The key to getting the best photographs is patience.


Patience to allow your pet to come to you naturally.

Patience to let your pet have a break from photos and get a snack, water, or a nap.

Patience (and flexibility) to photograph wherever the pet is safe and happy rather than going to a dedicated space.


Patience is also key in getting a pet to look at the camera.


Pets tend to face towards their owners, not away (which is where the camera is). Some pets, like super smart pups, are easier to get their attention to the person holding the camera rather than the person holding them. However I have cats and can tell you, it is NOT easy to get a cat to look anywhere specific at all. Most people tend to ask pets to look somewhere by calling their name or forcing their face towards the camera, but patience is key in letting them look at their own pace and desires.


I suggest wait for you pet to be ready and happy to look at the camera (with some additional tips up your sleeve).


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Professional Pet Photographer's Tip #2 — Go To Your Pet


All pets have their favorite places to play, to nap, and to feel safe. Note these before you grab your camera.


Instead of letting your pet come to you, go to them where you already know they are happy. Do they have a favorite chair or bench to sleep on? Do they not like to be held but love when you are on the floor with them? Do they like to be in a basket, on the counter, or in a pet bed?


Setup your space around where they are happy. If you can clean up the area behind their favorite space for it to have minimal distractions, your photo will focus more on your pet than the home items behind them.


Once your pet finds their favorite safe space, pose by them and rejoice in the perfect, happy setup of your pet and you.


Need them to look at the camera or know how to pose with them? I have got you covered below.


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Professional Pet Photographer's Tip #3 — Eyes on the Prize


Gather your pet's absolute favorite toys to bring to the photo session. Have your camera person hold up your pet's favorite toy and your pet's eyes will immediately find it (located by the camera). I suggest toys that make noises or lights, something flashy or their favorite to play with (but does NOT make them move like something they play fetch with).


Also have treats on hand to reward good behavior. If you have the camera person hold the bag of treats and shake by the camera, this starts the connection of treats to camera. Have your camera person carefully approach, offer a treat where the pet is located, and retreat for a photo.


Catch eyes, reward, photo, repeat.


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Professional Pet Photographer's Tip #4 — Poses with Your Pet


You have a few options here depending on your pet, however key to all photos with your pet is to interact with them.


Pet them calmly, give them head scritches, nuzzle into them with your face, kiss their head, your face on their belly, anything that you usually do and is not out of the norm. Do NOT upset them by doing something new, you want to keep them as calm and happy as possible.


Pose One: If you followed Tip #2, you are with your pet in their favorite place. The best poses are when your face is close to your pet's face. If your pet is on the ground, you go to the ground. If they are on a chair, you kneel beside them. Your head should be within one foot of their head.


Pose 2: If you have a super smart or calm pet and did not need to follow Tip #2 and are able to hold your pet wherever you want to, then you have more pose options. Remember to always keep their face within one foot of your's—the closer and more touching, the more the connection and love is shown between you both.


Pose 3: A calm pet or one that you are silly with all the time will be able to be silly in photographs. Can you hold the pet in a unique position like a baby, like the lion king presentation, on your shoulder, or something else that you feel is quirky to you both? Highlight your relationship with these fun poses.


As always, listen to your pet's needs and do not push if they are uncomfortable. Breaks are great. And always treats as thank them for being a model.


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Professional Pet Photographer's Tip #5 — Hire a Professional


Awesome, you have practiced all of the tips above and have gotten some fantastic photos (hopefully) with your pet. Were they exactly what you wanted or do you want more? Were they all solo shots and you want photographs with all of the humans or multiple pets in your home? Tried a tripod and realize the pet doesn't look at the camera or gets bored easily? These all may require a professional to come in.


If you have already been utilizing the above four tips, your pet will be ready for a professional to come in and get new photographs with you.


When you hire someone outside of your family and friends, you should add in time for the pet to meet and TRUST the photographer, the professional camera, and any other photo gear your photographer may utilize like reflectors, lights, and more. Plan for a pre-session meeting in which your pet meets the photographer and understands they are trustworthy and the person that gives a lot of treats. Then when your photographer returns a few days later, your pet is ready to look to your photographer for treats.


Your professional pet photographer can also create custom artwork of your pets like macro photos of your pet's nose, eyes, paws, and more. They can also help you with printing high-quality artwork of you and your pets on canvas, metal, or wood, as well as framed prints, albums, holiday cards, and more.


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Looking to hire a professional pet photographer in NYC or NWArkansas? Check out Hannah Golden Photographs at www.hannahgoldenphotographs.com for custom photographs in your home with your pet.


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Share below in the comments your favorite tips or how these helped you get great photographs with your pet.

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