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Pet photography tips to get the most out of your models

Little boy with camera is shooting his dog
Jaromír Chalabala / Alamy Stock Photo

In 2015, Brits spent over 7 billion pounds on their animals, a growth of 25% since 2010. So it’s no surprise that companies from around the world have clocked onto this and are starting to use domestic pets in ad campaigns to appeal to a nation of animal lovers. One of the biggest and possibly most well-known companies in recent years to use a pet in one of their campaigns is John Lewis. Last year they told the story of Buster the Boxer for their Christmas campaign, capturing the hearts of millions. Other campaigns using pets to promote their products are Cepêra’s hot sauce and Protex Soap.

You’re probably thinking ‘why is she telling me this?’ well, along with the brands already mentioned, Alamy customers are no stranger to the power of the pet with ‘Dog’ and ‘Cat’ both making it into the top 5 search terms our customers used in 2016.

If you have read our recent blog (Meet the Alamy Content Team – a look inside their camera bags), then you will know that I love photographing pets. I thought I’d use this passion to create a list of tips you can use to get the most out of your (often) four legged models.

Black Cat
Robert Ashton / Alamy Stock Photo

Tip #1: Preparation is key

‘Confidence is preparation. Everything else is beyond your control’ – Richard Kline

This quote is true for many scenarios, including photographing animals. Once you get started, the shoot is in the hands of the animal but there are some things you can do beforehand to help you feel confident that whatever happens, you’ve got this.

Firstly, the location.  It is important to choose a shoot location the animal is comfortable in, whether it be a local park they often walk in or their own home or back garden. Unfamiliar surroundings can cause lack of concentration in inquisitive pets whilst the more timid animals could end up feeling anxious and may misbehave.

Time of day is another element which should be thought through in advance. If you know the animal is very excitable it may be good to plan the photo session for after they’ve had a big run around or play, they should have got a lot of energy out of their system allowing them to concentrate more during the shoot. I find this helpful with animals such as dogs and horses, the smaller and less energetic animals such as cats and rabbits tend to not need this.

Making sure you’ve packed all the correct equipment before setting off, as it is with any shoot, is an essential part of preparing for photographing an animal. But one piece of equipment I will never head to an animal shoot without is a lens hood. I’ve lost count of the number of shoots where fun-loving dogs have run straight into my face and lens, horses who like to head butt my camera and cats whose tails leave trails of fluff behind them. Having a lens hood will protect your lens from all the wear and tear dangers that come with photographing animals.

Finally, refreshments for the model. Lots of animals from horses down to hamsters tend to be food orientated so having treats on hand to promote their good behaviour and to help you get them to do what you need is an essential part of working with them.

Hand of the farmer offering carrot and and miniature horse in the middle of the stable.
Jaromír Chalabala / Alamy Stock Photo

Tip #2: Go with the flow and be patient

If you’re heading out to snap some shots of an animal you need to be ready to go with the flow. You’ve prepared for the shoot as much as you can, your location and timing is right, you’ve got all the necessary equipment and your pockets are filled to the brim with treats for your model, so the rest is up to them. They may be running from A to B one minute and rolling around on the floor the next so expect to be crouching, army crawling, bending, twisting, jumping, running, climbing and the rest in order to get the perfect shot. More often than not photographing animals will require a great deal of patience. If your model isn’t playing ball when it comes to set positions or shots you want to get, then take photographs of what they are doing even if its not what you had in mind. It may take longer to get ‘the shot’ but more often than not you’ll end up with some pretty great candid photographs which really show the pets’ personality.

English Bulldog - Refreshing summer ideas
Lunja / Alamy Stock Photo

Tip #3: Perspective

So your shoot is going really well, you and your model are nice and relaxed, you’ve got some lovely shots both portrait and some more unconventional ones showing off their character; so what can you do now to take some photographs that will really stand out from the crowd? Think perspectives!

Images using different perspectives are a growing trend within the stock photography world and it’s easy to see why. High overhead aerial views, wide angled shots, close ups and images from underneath are popular ways to increase the drama and create an eye catching photograph which will set your images apart from others.

A great example of a photographer bringing different perspectives into animal photography is Andrius Burba who has a love of photographing animals from underneath. So far he has photographed cats, dogs, horses and rabbits from this unusual and intriguing perspective. Why not take a look at some of his work here to get some inspiration.

Aerial photo with drone Husky puppy walking on a leash.
Aleksey Zakirov / Alamy Stock Photo

Above all the most important element of pet photography is to have fun, if you enjoy yourself so will your model and you’ll end up getting some great images whatever happens. Do you have any useful tips to share? Add them in the comments below.

  • Thanks for the great tips! I find when I photograph our pets — I have an idea in mind … and our pets have their own idea of how a photo session should go. So your tip #2 of being patient and just go with the flow is so true. And as long as I’m clicking away, I will have some winning images.

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