Simple Pet Photography Tips and 10 Fun Images to Inspire You

Some of our favorite scene stealers in movies and photography are of pets and children. Beautiful pet photographs can be captured using techniques found in both people and wildlife photography. It's also quite common for new and experienced camera owners to ‘practice' using their best canine and feline family members.

Pet photographers work in an array of settings from inside the studio to the great outdoors. A fun attitude and a bit of patience are two fundamental requirements to capture the expressions of our fur-children that bring smiles and memorable moments.

Emotion motion
Photo by Jelly Dude

Whether it's 1) Action, 2) Portrait or 3) Macro pet photography, these few basic tips will help bring out the personality of Fido and Fluffy.

  • Focus on the eyes
  • Try to be at eye level (or below and looking up for different perspective)
  • Fast moving animals need fast shutter speeds
  • Work with their personalities and use what positively motivates their behavior

Photo by Alexandre Alacchi

Action Images – Dogs and Cats

They run, retrieve, meander, jump, bark and do tricks. Action images, just as in wildlife, require fast shutter speeds. Telephoto and short range zoom lenses give you and your animal room to move and play. Examples of these lenses include 70-300mm, 70-200mm, 150-500mm.

A Very Excited Puppy
A Very Excited Puppy. Photo by Eric Danley

Portrait Pet Photography

Their eyes are a reflection of their sweet souls. Portrait lenses in pet photography pull out the beautiful features of their eyes, expressions and facial details as it does our human friends. If choosing a prime lens, 85mm and 50mm prime lenses provide versatility and beauty in separating Fido from the background. Short range zooms also work well. Extreme wide Angle lenses can spark a little quirkiness too.

He's All Ears, My Qallin
He's All Ears, My Sweet Boy Qallin – ©Sheen's Nature Photography

Using Macro Lenses in Pet Photography

What features melt your heart? Is it the eyes, the whiskers, the big wet nose, the ears or maybe the ridge of fur down his back? Pet photography is not limited to just images of the face and body. Create a portfolio of their face, their bodies in motion and a macro moment of what you and/or the owner sees as a unique personality trait.

The Perfect Dog
Photo by Chris Vaughan

Photo by Chung Ho

Bringing out their Personality

Some of our pets are natural posers for the camera. They sit, stay, hold their positions for extended periods of time. Some even permit their owners (and photographers) to dress them up in costumes, sunglasses.

To pull out their personality, meet them on their common ground. It may mean laying or sitting on the ground face to face to get the eye level shot. Or, it could be sitting on a few steps below where they are standing and looking up.

When they stare straight ahead or even down into the lens, the viewer is more readily drawn into the image.

Shy cat
Photo by Olivier


When working indoors ambient light or studio lighting works the best. On-camera flashes will lead to a lot of shadows and that dreaded red-eye image. If a flash is needed, try using an off-camera flash (Nikon Speed Light as an example). Bounce techniques provide gentle lighting to enhance their character and beauty. Directionally, placing your pet in a position capture some catchlight in their eyes will show off their natural spark.

For outdoor pet photography, just as in wildlife, early morning and later in the afternoon sun works best. Direct sunlight, from later in the morning until later in the afternoon washes out their colors and has harsh shadows.

Dog of Glory
Photo by Masrur Ashraf

Come Play with Me Mr. Squirrel
Come Play with Me Mr. Squirrel – ©Sheen's Nature Photography

If you're a dog or cat owner or have a neighbor with a pet, you have a model to photograph. Grab their favorite toy, say their favorite phrase and you'll have an instant playful participant. Or, when the weather is not conducive for outdoor photography or that studio hasn't been used in a while, your best friend with a treat or two, will be a delightful poser.

About the author

Sheen Watkins

Sheen Watkins is a bird, nature, wildlife photographer and photography writer. You can follow her photography on Facebook, Instagram and her website. A long term birder and nature enthusiast she is Vice President of Saving Birds Thru Habitat, a non-profit organization dedicated to educating others about the importance of protecting our natural habitat for migrating birds. She also has a travel and photography blog.

  • Charles says:

    Very helpful article with good tips to shoot your pet.

  • Your images are wonderful and full of joy! I would like to follow you as I am a photographer as well.

  • Such a wonderful array of images!

  • If you enjoyed the article, we'd really appreciate a shout out!

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