How to Photograph your Pet for Artwork

Animals and Wildlife

I am constantly being asked what are my best techniques for how to photograph your pet in preparation to do a painting or drawing.  I’ve put together my best tips for you!

pet photography

As an added bonus, you’ll get to enjoy reading tips from nature photographer Erika Swafford and she also has 4 photography projects that you can try now.

Camera Setting

  • Photos should be taken at the highest quality setting.
  • The camera should also be set for the appropriate lighting.
  • Many automatic cameras do this for you, but you should check your camera documentation for the camera settings just in case.


  • If your pet is very light or very dark in colour, that can be a challenge. Use natural outdoor light to create beautiful background contrasts.
  • A light coloured pet photographed against a nice dark wood fence, wall or tree adds nice contrast.


  • You will never go wrong when taking pictures of your pet in natural light either in the morning or late afternoon whether it’s sunny or cloudy.
  • Avoid taking pictures outside around noon, because the sun is directly overhead and tends to flatten out colours in your pet.
  • If you have to take pictures indoors, you’ll may need to adjust your camera to an “indoor setting”.
  • You can also purchase Daylight light bulbs at big box stores for a very reasonable price.  Just look for the daylight rating of 6500k.
  • If you have a light at 45 degree angles to the left and right of your pet, you should get nice, even lighting.
  • It’s best to have the pet facing the sun or light source to bring out the highlights in the fur.
  • Avoid using a flash when taking pictures of your pet. This will eliminate what I call “devil eyes” which is the result of the flash going through to the back of the eye and bouncing back to the camera.

Getting Your Pet to Pose

  • If your pet is full of energy, it may be challenging to get him or her to sit still.  For a pet portrait still pose, an ideal time to take a picture is when they have settled down after playtime and they may be tired and more apt to sit still.
  • The best pet photographs are taken at the pets’ eye level rather from above or the floor level, unless that is the angle that you desire.
  • It may be easier for you to “go to the pet” instead of calling the pet to you and having them sit or lay down.
  • If your pet won’t sit still, you may want to have someone gently hold your pet while you take pictures.
  • Pet Portrait PhotographyIf your pet is stressed during the photo session, take a break for a couple of days.  If the session is pleasant for the pet, you will be able to take many wonderful photos.
  • If you want a full body portrait of your pet in action, take pictures of your pet playing.  Check your camera for a “burst setting” as this will allow you to press and hold the shutter button and the camera will take many pictures at a time.  Install fresh batteries in your camera when using the “burst” setting.
  • If you are a little shaky, you may find it easier to use a tripod to take pictures.
  • If your pet likes treats, that’s a bonus!  Have someone hold a treat in their hand, signal your pet to sit and look at the hand as it’s extended.
  • Making funny noises or using a squeaky toy are also good distractions for your pet and by moving the distraction, this will change the direction that your pet faces.  You can take pictures at interesting angles and levels.

Detail Photos

  • If at all possible, get up close to your pet to get additional pictures of their eyes, nose and any other special features in their face.

4 Pet Photo Projects You Have to Try

If you want to get creative with photographing your pet, Erika at Erika Swafford has a great blog post with 4 Pet Photo Projects you can try now.  I’m particularly fond of the Silhouettes project.    Erika has another blog post “How to Finally Get a Good Photograph of your Pet” and it has some really great ideas for photographing your fur baby.

Do you have any tips about photographing your pet that haven’t been covered? and please share this blog with your pet loving friends and family because we can never have too many pictures of our fur babies in our homes!

Until next time, Stay Inspired!