Pet Portrait Tips

To create the best portrait I can of your pet or favourite animal, the photo, or photos I work from is the key. Here are a few tips for general photography that will be useful when capturing photos to be used for your pet portrait. If you need to ask any questions, please email us.

Old Photos, Mobile Phone, or Digital Camera

Most people have a mobile phone or tablet with them all the time. They are so handy when taking photos of things happening in our everyday life. We capture photos of our dog Nala all the time and they are so easy to share instantly with family and friends. Some mobiles nowadays have amazing resolution and capabilities.

Unfortunately not all cameras on mobiles and tablets can produce a photo of the quality that is good enough for me to work from to produce the best portrait I can of your pet. There are always exceptions to this, but it depends greatly on where the photo is taken, the lighting and how close your are to your pet. All of these things can make a big difference when capturing a great photo to work from. Even if you are outside in great light and close to your pet, sometimes the image on your mobile device still does not give the best clarity that a digital camera can.

If you have a digital camera (or can borrow one), then this is going to to give the clearest image for reference for your portrait. Using the digital camera, take a wide range of photos that you can send to me to produce the best possible portrait.

Many of us have old paper photos around of precious pets that have sadly passed away. Generally I would not recommend these kinds of photos as they usually aren’t clear enough, but there are exceptions and we may still be able to use them. I would need the original photos sent by mail. If the photos can be used I can scan to a high resolution image to use as a reference and your photos will be returned with the completed portrait. If your pet is still alive though, please consider taking new photos with a digital camera.

If you don’t have a digital camera and are unable to borrow one, try to get the best photos you can on your mobile device by going outside in natural light and filling your frame with your pet.

The Best Lighting

Good light is everything in art and photography, especially in pet photography, where it’s critical to be able to see the catchlights in the pet’s eyes (the white reflective parts). Natural lighting provides the best lighting source for your photos. Avoid photographing inside using artificial lights or flash. Turning lights on to give more light can cast different colours and will change the true colour of your pets fur. Also avoid shooting outside on days that are heavily overcast. Bright yet diffused light is the easiest to create flattering pet photos. A sunny day or slightly overcast day outside is the best.

If you can’t get outside to shoot your photos, place your pet near a window or patio doors, the more natural the light is the better.

Ger Down to Their Level

When taking portrait shots (this is the same for people also) most people tend to look down (or up) on their subject. When photographing our pets this seems only natural as its how we see our pets most of the time. When we hang the finished portrait on the wall, it is usually at eye level, so taking the photo from this perspective is ideal.

When taking the photo, get down on the ground with your pet, or raise them up on a table or other similar surface. If you are photographing your cat sleeping in a tree then you may need to grab a footstool to get up to their level. Same if you are photographing a horse, you may need a step stool to get to the perfect height. Ensure if you are doing this that the surface you use is safe and stable. Think about the poses you adore from your pet and try and get at their level to capture them.

Get Up Close

Getting up close to your pet is important. Fill the frame with your pet and just a little of the background. If you are too far back and the image of your pet is small in the photo, we lose all the detail in the face. This is the important part in any portrait so make sure there is lots of the face to see. The eyes are the most expressive part of an animal, so try and focus on the eyes and facial features.

Think about the type of portrait you would like, full body or head and chest. If you only have full body photos and would like a head and chest only portrait, it will be difficult to see the details from the photo.

For a head and chest portrait make sure you haven’t cropped any important features like ears or part of the neck, and ensure you have two eyes! Photographing your pets face slightly from the side, so when they are looking slightly to the left or right, rather than straight on gives a more flattering perspective. Straight on shots tend to make the animal’s face look flat. (Remember to make sure you haven’t cropped an eye and try to keep the nose from extending past the face).

If you would like to see your pet without their collar (or head collars and tack for horses), the photos need to be taken without these in them. The same goes for winter rugs and coats for all animals. It is extremely difficult to make up what is underneath these. For horses, it may be best to photograph your horse in the spring or summer when their coat is at its best.

Providing your Photos

When you email your photos, please make sure you are sending them at the original size they came out of the camera. Sometimes email programmes reduce the size of the image to email. This also reduces the quality of the image and loses a lot of the detail we require.

I can accept high resolution images by email. If you are having trouble sending your pictures at their original size or need any help, please contact me.

Don't Rush

If you don’t get the perfect shot the first time you try, please don’t give up. Be patient and enjoy the time photographing your pet. It may be helpful to have a family member or friend on hand to help. Having an extra pair of hands to offer treats and get your pets attention can be really helpful. Play with them, do things you would normally do and then those special moments – your dogs personality, character and expressions will shine through. Don’t rush your pet.

Also try and find somewhere your pet is comfortable. They will probably not perform at their best if they are interested in or worried about a new environment. Use toys and treats they are comfortable with and have your camera in hand and ready. Find those special moments in your day with your dog that make you go awwww.

It is best to provide a few shots of your pets that we can look at. Detailed shots are very handy as well. Using the zoom function on your camera is handy here so that your image isn’t distorted. We may not use them as the reference pose, but having extra shots detailing fur, eyes and ear details can help with the final portrait.

All of these tips work for any pet; dog, cat, horse, rabbit, bird or any other pet you have. The basic tips are the same:

  • use a digital camera if at all possible
  • find the best light
  • crouch down to be on their level, or raise yourself up to their level
  • try to fill the viewfinder with your pets head and chest
  • email photos in their original size
  • have fun
Remember if you loved pet has passed away, I would still love to see your photos even if you are unsure of their quality. I’m sure we will be able to work out some options for you.

    It is important to remember that the photos you provide help determine the size and medium of the portrait. We will advise on what we think will be best with the photos you have provided. If you are unsure about your photos or need any more tips on how to best capture your pet please email me.