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15 Ways to Take the Best Pet Paw-traits

15 Ways to Take the Best Pet Paw-traits

Full disclosure: Waldo and Salsa are used to fawning photographer entourages every single day—because we can’t get enough of Waldo’s bluey freckles or Salsa’s little mo. How about your four-legged friend? Smiling, running, cuddling, hiding, jumping, snoozing—how many of these types of images have you captured of your beloved pet? Pets are integral members of a family, and it’s no surprise that animal owners take countless pictures of their four-legged friends to share with their family, friends, and fellow animal lovers. 

Make your pet’s images stand out from the pack by following these 15 quick and easy photography tips. No matter what mood he’s in, what he’s up to, or where he’s currently at, you can capture him in his best form with a simple camera, a few adjustments, and loads of creativity. Trying these tips and tricks will produce beautiful paw-traits that will serve as lasting mementos of your pet.

1 Take pictures when he’s in the mood

The quickest way to produce the best pet photos is figuring out when your pet is most sociable. It could be just before his first meal, right after one of her relaxing cat naps, or as he eagerly greets you when you come home from work. Study your pet’s regular schedule, and in it, you’ll find pockets of opportunities for gorgeous photos.

If you’re really set on taking photos on a particular time or day, make the experience a fun one for your pet by rewarding him with toys and treats once you get your ideal shots.

A kiss on the nose is definitely one sign of cat affection

2 Make use of natural light

Use the sun’s glorious rays to add a shiny sheen to your pet’s fur, coat, or hair. The best time to shoot when you’re outdoors is a few hours after sunrise or before sunset (also called the golden hour). Shooting midday would cast harsh shadows on your pet’s face or body. When you’re indoors, you can add a healthy glow to your pet by opening your shade or window to let natural light stream in.

The sunlight gives this rabbit’s body a warm, healthy glow

3 Bring him to his favourite place

Get ready to see pure bliss on your pet’s face once you take him to his favourite spot, whether it’s by the sea or at the neighbourhood bark park. Give him a chance to run around and explore the spot, and when he’s settled down, start snapping. Be sure to include the background to give more context to the photo.

This happy pooch can’t get enough of the sun, sand, and surf

4 Sink down to his level 

Sit on the floor or go down on all fours to capture your pet at a closer and more intimate level. Do a bit of stretching beforehand, so your muscles don’t cramp up as you sustain that low or awkward position. When you’re ready, move down in a silent and unrushed manner so as not to startle him. You’ll be rewarded with a glimpse of the world through your pet’s point of view, and a stunning direct gaze to boot!

Let the staring contest begin

5 Let him experience something new

A new flavor, a new season, a new toy—all of these can elicit candid reactions from your pet depending on how much he enjoys or dislikes it. Watch his reaction as his paws step over a fresh pile of frozen snow or how he sniffs and licks a homemade treat you baked just for him. 

A smattering of snow adds character to this dog’s face

6 Catch him in his relaxed state

Some animals aren’t keen on people invading their personal space or weird objects (i.e. your mobile phone or digital SLR) thrusted at their face. Make your pet feel comfortable by acquainting him with your camera and letting him feel that you’re just there to enjoy the moment. Refrain from over-exciting him with toys or calling out his name repeatedly. This way, you can capture him at his most languorous state. Watch for slow blinking, relaxed ears, tongue lolling, purring, lying down, stretching, kneading, and/or sleeping.

A cat’s flexible body has inspired some yoga moves

7 Show off what makes him special

Zone in on what makes your pet unusual. Is it his striped fur, her two distinctly coloured eyes, or his extra paw pad? Take pictures of it in varying angles and in different backgrounds to make this trait stand out!

The striped black and brown hair of this guinea pig pops out against the green grass

8 Clean up the setting 

The background also adds to the overall composition of your paw-trait. Before shooting your pet at home, tidy up the area and remove unnecessary objects (no one wants to see a dirty sock next to your pet!). You can choose to include home elements to liven up the space, but make sure they’re pet-friendly. You wouldn’t want your pet to accidentally munch on a poisonous plant!

A white wall and potted plant are all this kitty needs

9 Let him interact with his best friend

Add another animal to the mix and see how playful or sweet your pet gets. The two may engage in playful nips and run circles around each other (until one of them eventually gets tired) or they may opt to sniff each other and sit side by side (a prime photo opportunity!). Whichever the case, make sure the animal is someone your pet is already in great terms with. If your pet and his fur friend are known to be highly active playmates, it’s best to use your camera’s action or burst mode to capture their fun moments together. 

Double Fido’s fun with game of tag with his best fur friend

10 Dress him up 

Take advantage of special seasons or celebratory events to jazz up your pet’s look. You can make use of simple outdoor elements such as freshly picked leaves or flowers to level up your pet’s style quotient, or go full-on costume designer and set decorator in time for his birthday!

A branch of leaves shows spring has sprung
Go all out for your pet’s birthday with gifts, treats, and decors

11 Capture his changing moods

Go beyond the usual happy paw-traits and try capturing your pet when he’s bashful, pensive, or even annoyed. Clue in on his current emotion by observing the way his ears, eyes, and mouth appear, where he places his paws, and his other body movements.

This puppy is feeling shy for the camera

12 Frame him in a unique way

Instead of taking your pet’s photo in front of a plain wall, make use of his favourite nooks and crannies to show different perspectives. Capture your new pup inside his doghouse or let your cat play hide-and-seek with you through her cat tree enclosure. You can also frame your pet using paper boxes, wooden gates, window sills, and more!

Peek-a-boo, he sees you

13 Let him be with his choice hooman

Bring out the big guns by placing your pet next to his all-time favourite human. Expect to generate a lot of warm, fuzzy feelings as you capture their tender moments together. After you take enough pictures, you’re more than welcome to join in on the snugglefest.

Somebunny loves your kid, and it shows

14 Make use of textures and colours

Zoom in on your furbaby when he’s wrapped in a bright-coloured blanket, casually lounging on a textured rug, or standing on a heavily patterned tile floor. The different tints, textures, prints, and designs will be a welcome contrast to his hair colour.

The pink blanket contrasts with kitty’s white fur (but matches her nose and ears!)

15 Tell a story

Join your pet for a fun self-portrait. Instead of simply taking a selfie (a cop-out, in our opinion), take it to the next level and shoot it from a different angle (try taking a picture from a higher angle) and with accompanying props. The result would be something that you would want to print, frame, and display for everyone to see.

Just another day at the park

Which pet portrait techniques work best for your pet? Let us know by sharing your comments below!

Discover more guides in our blog such as creating effective shelter fundraisers to getting your foster pets adopted.

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