7 Tips For Photographing Animals

7 Tips For Photographing Animals


I’m an animal lover – always have been, always will be. I simply adore dogs and have a houseful of my own. Getting picture-perfect shots of your pets can be tricky. Thank goodness there are hacks to assure you and your clients are happy with their images. Follow these 7 tips for photographing animals.

5 Tips For Photographing Animals

Follow these tips to get awesome pictures of your own pets or those you’re photographing professionally:

1. Use A Fast Shutter Speed


As photographers, we all want our images to be crisp, with amazing focus. Don’t think for a minute, if your subject is an animal, that they’re going to hold still. It’s not going to happen! This is where fast shutter speeds shine…

Your main limitation, when using a fast shutter speed, is available light. If you’re shooting in less-than-optimal lighting conditions, and you use a fast shutter speed, your images may be too dark. You can troubleshoot this by using a wide aperature or bumping up your ISO, which measures the camera’s sensitivity to light.

The shot below could never have been captured without a fast shutter speed. It literally froze the dog mid air.

dog frozen in mid air

You can also use a flash. Flashes are great for, not only lighting the scene, but freezing movement. This comes in mighty handy when photographing animals. Aim for a shutter speed of at least 1/60, and ideally 1/100. Your settings will be determined by your subject, and the amount of available light.

brown and white spotted dog with dog on nose

2. Play Around With Different Angles


Angles keep things interesting, and are a great way to change the look and feel of a photograph. Most of your shots will likely be taken at eye level with the animal, but shooting up or down at them can change the perspective, and bring life to an otherwise ordinary picture.

white and black dog looking up

Also play around with focal lengths. Zoom in for incredible close-ups, and shoot wide so the animal’s entire body is in the image. You can either use a zoom lens or physically move in closer or further away from the pet.

I like mixing up portrait and landscape orientations, as well. The idea is to take a bunch of different photos. That way you’re sure to come up with a few winners!

close up of cat with green eyes and tongue out

3. Make Your Life Easier By Using Props And Treats


Dogs are like babies. They all love treats and some may cooperate when it comes to props. This will depend on what props you use. For instance, some dogs won’t tolerate hats or other accessories. The personality of the dog will dictate what you can and can’t use.

In my experience, there isn’t a dog that doesn’t love toys and treats. Treats can be used as a reward for good behavior, and toys can be used strategically to enable you to capture your shot. Bring a variety of toys because each pet has their own preference.

I always bring a squeaky toy when photographing animals. It will at least get their attention for a couple of seconds, which is usually enough time to snap a couple of shots. This is when a fast shutter speed is indispensable.

Would your dog tolerate glasses? Puppies certainly wouldn’t go for it. Older dogs, who have lost their vivacious spunk, may be your best bet when it comes to this type of shot.

furry dog with white sunglasses

I love these dogs with reindeer ears. How fun for a Christmas card!

dogs with reindeer ears

Watch this video for more tips and tricks:

4. Wide Aperatures Will Highlight Your Pet


I love fast lenses, which make capturing bokeh flawless. Bokeh, means “blur” in Japanese, and that’s exactly what bokeh is.

Although, the background is deliberately blurred, the subject is in focus. This technique produces images that showcase the main attraction, without highlighting a distracting background that doesn’t add to the image.

Lenses with aperatures of 1.4 to 3.2 are great for capturing bokeh, which is a great technique to use when photographing pets. See how the background is blurred in the photo below? This puts the viewer’s full attention on the dogs, rather than the background.

two reddish colored dogs looking in the distance

Here’s another example of bokeh. See how the background just disappears?

portrait of yellow-orange cat

Here are two fantastic lens for creating bokeh:

Canon EF 50mm R/1.4 Fixed Lens

Canon EF 85mm F/1.8 Fixed Medium Telephoto Lens

5. Use A Wide Angle Len


A wide-angle lens is a must for any photography shoot because you’ll definitely want to include the entire background in some of your shots. This type of lens is also remarkable for distorting an image when appropriate.

As a reminder, don’t use wide angle lenses for family portraiture. The people who are on the ends won’t appreciate how they look due to the distortion. I learned this the hard way. Don’t repeat my mistake!

In the portrait below, the background adds to the picture, and the bokeh is absolutely perfect.

cat on table with kitchen in background

In some cases, the background will accentuate the image, adding to the mood of the picture, rather than distracting from it.

big black dog on beach

6. Photo Color Effects


Use color strategically to enhance your photos, and complement your subject. Using a color wheel can help you determine which colors go well together. In the image below,  the turquoise chair is the perfect prop in which to place the dog.  Try to visualize the same dog on a white or brown chair. The effect wouldn’t be as dramatic.

brown dog on turquoise chair

I love the color in this image:

two cats on a red blanket

7. Create Connection


Nothing is more endearing than a photograph that captures the connection between people and their pets.

woman kissing red furry dog

Imagine the value this picture will have after this woman’s dog is no longer here. The power of connection can’t be underestimated.

woman with dog looking at lake

Key Points


Photographing pets is both fun and challenging. Use a fast shutter speed to make sure your images are sharp, experiment with different angles for interest and appeal, a wide aperature creates a lovely bokeh to highlight your subject, and you’ll get extra credit for creating connection.

Animals are some of the best “people” on the planet. Go photograph your favorite pets today!

Have you had luck photography your pets? If so, please share your tips and tricks below!

8 thoughts on “7 Tips For Photographing Animals

  1. Nice article and very good tips. I also am an animal lover and many times I try to capture interesting photos with my pets.  Some of your tips I knew, but you really gave me a few nice ones that I never thought about.

    I will definitely put them to the test to see what I can come up with. My wife has a good quality DSLR so I can experiment a lot with photography. Thank you for your suggestions.

    1. Thank you. Pet photography is a lot of fun, but can also be quite challenging.

      Grab your wife’s camera and see what you come up with. As long as you take a lot of pictures, you’ll a few you’re happy with!

  2. Hi Holly, I have read your whole informative article and I believe that you are a professional photographer. I have found that all those images in this article are exceptional. I think the tips you are providing in this article will be very helpful for all new photographers who are interested in being successful in their carrier. Do you have any suggestion for using a perfect camera for photographing within minimum budget? 

  3. Photographing animals is not a concept I am familiar with, but I enjoyed the layout of this article. However I have a question about the fast shutter speed (FSS). 

    The FSS is useful for pets that are constantly moving, however sometimes the image is blurry, and the pictures don´t come out the way we want them to. How can prevent the animals from moving so much and getting a clear picture. 

    1. Thanks for reading. Fast shutter speeds are good at freezing motion, but sometimes you can’t get a fast enough one due to lighting conditions or the lens you’re using. 

      That’s why it’s important to take a lot of pictures, then you’re sure to get a few you love. Just keep snapping away!

      Treats are great for getting dogs to hold still, at least for a couple seconds. 

  4. I love all animals but dogs are my favorite! I love all these pictures of these cute dogs. Are they yours?

    I found it interesting that dogs sometimes do what you do-  like imitating your behavior when playing around with them. This helps to get some pretty wacky dog pictures!

    Good point about lighting and wide angle shots. It does capture the whole mood and personality of our animals. Natural habitat, outside pictures are always fun. I will take all these tips to heart with my babies. 

    1. Hi Kira,

      I really love dogs. No, the dogs in the pictures aren’t mine. 

      Outside pictures are really fun. The lighting is great and there are so many locations to choose from. Have fun photographing your pets, and thanks for commenting!

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