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Ten Tips for Capturing Awesome Pet Photos

These tips will help you get fantastic shots of your pets!Vacations aren’t complete without oodles of photos, so it’s time to dust off your camera and prepare to capture the memories! The #1 secret to getting a great shot is to be sure your pet’s in it – and, though no one here claims to be a professional photographer, we have learned a few tricks while posing Ty and Buster for photos all around the country. These tips will help you hone your pet photography skills, so you’ll be framing up the perfect shots on your next vacation.

1.  Camera Comfort – This tip applies to you and your pet! Choose a camera that’s comfortable for you and meets your needs. I love my Sony NEX-6 because it’s compact and fits nicely in my hand. I wanted a light-weight camera that’s easy to tote around on all of our adventures, and the Sonys have a flip-up LCD screen on the back that allows me to hold the camera down low and line up a shot of the dogs without having to get down on the ground to look though the viewfinder. Most cameras have LCD screens on the back now, but some only allow you to review your shots on the screen – you still have to peer though the camera to compose the shot, and that doesn’t appeal to me.

Now, from your pet’s perspective, imagine having a big, black, one-eyed monster staring at you and you’ll quickly understand why some pets are camera shy. You’ll never get a good photo if your pet thinks the camera is scary, so set the camera down and let your pet sniff it while feeding them a few treats. **I recommend leaving your lens cover on for this activity!** When they’re done exploring, pick up the camera and take a few pictures of things around the room so they can get used to the sounds the camera makes and give them a few more treats. It shouldn’t take long until you’re getting a curious reaction whenever you pull the camera out.

2.  Be Patient – The most important variable in capturing a great picture of your pet is not the camera you’re using nor the number of years of experience you have … it’s patience. Trying to hurry a shot only makes your pets anxious, and that shows up every time in the photos. Take a deep breath and remember that no matter how focused your pet is on everything EXCEPT having their picture taken, eventually they all settle down and give you the perfect sidelong glance.

3. Get Right In There – Put on the long lens and take close up shots of your pets – they make the best portraits.

Ty's Close-up

4. They Stay, You Move – Inevitably when I call the dogs over to take their picture, they get too close and I can’t get the shot. The solution is obvious … your pet should stay where they are and you should move to get the proper distance. Training a reliable “Sit” command helps a lot, so keep those obedience skills fresh!

5.  On The Level – Pictures of pets are much better when you get down on their level. If you don’t have a camera with a flip-up LCD screen that may mean laying on your belly in the grass, but it will be worth it. See the difference?

6.  Light It Up – There is nothing better than soft natural light for photos of your pets. Direct sunlight is too harsh, and the flash on your camera may frighten you pet. Bright overcast days, or taking photos inside near a window will produce your best color and give the right balance between light and shadow. Learning how to use your camera’s manual setting may also give you some surprising results in lower light.

7.  Don’t Look Now – Do you have one of those pets that won’t look at the camera no matter what you do? You could try using a squeaky toy or holding a treat in your mouth … or you might consider it an opportunity to get creative. We’ve taught the boys that “pay attention” means look at the camera, and they know that they’ll be reward for their cooperation … but I also take a lot of pictures of them looking away. It’s perfect for capturing a feeling, and when you look back at the hundreds of pictures you’ll take of your pet over the years, you’ll be reminded of this quirk in their personality.

Buster and Ty

8.  Shoot Now, Edit Later – With digital photography there’s really no reason not to shoot a lot of photos. In fact, if your camera has a continuous shoot or burst mode (takes several frames each time you push the button) these are great options. You’ll have a much better chance of getting just the right shot, even if your timing is off a tick.

9.  A Study In Contrast – Putting your pet on a contrasting background is a great way to show their true colors. Ty’s cute against the faded timber, but put him in the grass and he really pops!

Ty's  wondering what I'm doing Ty as a Prairie Dog2

10.  The Eyes Have It – They are the windows to the soul after all. Get a clear, crisp picture of your pet’s expressive eyes and it will be a keeper for sure!

Buster's Eyes

Remember, picture taking should be fun for you and your pet. Professional quality photos are not the goal here – it’s about preserving the memories. Don’t judge your results too harshly, because as long at there are pets in the picture, no one else will either!

Now that you’ll be heading out to practice your skills, be sure to send in your favorite pet travel photos for our weekly Photo Challenge! Each Friday we post a picture from the submissions and our audience guesses where the pets are posing. One winner is selected each week to receive an 18-month wall calendar with photos of Ty and Buster posing all around the country.

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  • Thanks, Pamela – and I bet Mike’s trick works every time!

  • Really good photography tips. My husband likes your tip from #7 to get your pup to look at you. He does it by putting treats on the brim of his hat. :)

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