Pet Photography Tips for Portraits

Many of my clients have a favourite photo in mind when they contact me to enquire about a portrait and nowadays more often than not, that photo tends to be on a smartphone. Your camera phone is a brilliant tool for capturing instant, playful images that can work perfectly as a drawing.

I tend to use my digital SLR camera if I’m asked to take photos for clients, so I thought I would list a few of my top tips here to help you take better photos of your pets. The principles are very much the same for your smart phone camera so I hope you find them helpful.

Think about your lighting.

Flash photography can do funny things to eyes and fur. Glares can be demonic and stark flash lighting can look harsh.

Soft natural daylight is best. Make sure it’s not directly behind you or your subject, to the side is good. Try photographing outside, or next to a window or glass panelled door indoors.

Props and distractions

Does your dog obey your commands, or would a treat (or three) seal the deal? Will your pet get bored and wander off? Or would they act more naturally if they had their toys around them? Some preparation at the beginning may help get better results in the long run.



Most people like me to create face-on portraits of their pets, so think about the image you want at the start. I tend to get down to the same level as the pet, or get the pet up onto a chair/sofa (if they’re allowed) so you are nearer eye level rather than looking down at them. Eyes are very important in a portrait. Can you see them in your photo?

Plain uncluttered backgrounds work well so they don’t distract from your final shot but the beauty of a commissioned drawing is that I can omit, or include, things in your final artwork.


Go Digital

I have a Nikon D3100. I set it to auto – it’s so much better at picking aperture and light speed than I am – and off I go.  But don’t be afraid to play with the camera settings and review the outcome to see if you like ‘sport’ or ‘macro’ mode.

Digital cameras and camera phones allow you to capture 100’s of shots, review them instantly and delete the ones that are no good. You can review your snaps there and then to see what poses worked: Can you recreate them to get more of what you need?


Of course some photos of your pets now passed will be the only photos you have. I will always explain how much detail I can use and the outcome of your portrait before I start so you are happy that I can capture them in the best way possible from the photos you have.

If you have any further questions please don’t hesitate to get in touch

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