I love shooting pets (with my camera). Some photographers absolutely hate it (because they move fast and rarely sit still) but I love it. I find it surprisingly low stress and love the way the photos turn out. Here are some of my tips on how to get better results from your images of your furry friends.
A few years ago I took a pet photography course on a lark. I was getting pretty good at shooting portraits and landscapes but had never really considered shooting pets. I have had dogs most of my life (I'm actually allergic to cats) and have always liked being around animals (even cats). I now shoot dogs and cats but I thought I would share a few simple tips to help people get better pictures of their own pets.
Equipment.... well nowadays, every modern cellphone has a camera. Most of them are pretty good (not flip phones), there are limitations, but almost all can produce great photographs of your pets. The biggest limitation, will be fast movement, but if you plan it you can overcome even this.
Tip 1 - Get to their level
Too many people try to take photos from 1 level... the level of their eyes. The catch is that is not the level of your pet's eyes. If you want better photos of your furever friends, you need to get to their level
Tip 2 - Tips and Tails
When you take their photo decide if you are taking a portrait or a whole body shot. You want the tips of their ears and nose as well as all of their tail. Having the tips makes a big different to the photos
Tip 3 - The Eyes are the Windows to the Soul
Humans look for connections when they look a photos. Whether people or pets, they want to see the eyes of the subject of the photo. Ideally you want a pet to be looking at you (or very close). We imprint an emotion on the look from them (rightly or wrongly) based upon their eyes
Tip 4 - Catchlights
When you photograph someone's eyes, they can look alive or they can look dead. The secret is the reflection of a light in their eyes. This light is called a catchlight and is a secret that all photographers know. Everyone else can't put their finger on why the photos without catchlights look wrong... now you know. What this means is that you need a light source at your back when you take the photo.
Tip 5 - Watch the Background
Backgrounds make pictures sing. Try to find uncluttered background with colours (nothing red) with simple objects that don't compete with your animal. The rule is, you don't want to notice the background. This also apply to making sure there are not lines, trees or objects that appear to be coming out of their heads.
Final Tip - Get their attention
Generally you don't have a lot of time to get a picture of them in any session so planning is key. To get their attention, treats and toys are the secret. Different animals respond to different things, so find whatever works for them. With dogs, use squeekers or balls. With cats, use small lasers or string toys. Treats are the last resort. If a dog sees a treat and they are treat motivated by treats, then don't expect them to look at the toys after.
Your pets spend lots of time with you, its always a good idea to have images to fondly recall them as younger and you both age together.