Taking Pictures of Pets for Pleasure and Profit

Commercial pet photography

Many people like taking pictures of pets for either personal or professional reasons. However, photographing pets is not always a rewarding profession. Despite appearances, this is not a simple task. To succeed, you must make photographs significantly superior to anything that anyone can produce on their own. There is one thing you have going for you. While many people have access to cameras, few have adequate lighting, and an even smaller percentage can effectively employ their gear in various settings. To stand out from the crowd, you need to do something that others are unwilling or unable to achieve.

Because pets provide such a significant barrier, like photographing an infant or toddler, many professional portrait photographers avoid taking pictures of pets. Because of the enormous variation in pet behavior from animal to animal, pet photography requires much work to master. Offer free pet sittings to your pals so you can practice on their pets. You may receive additional print orders after the complete picture sessions if you have a high-quality printer.

You’ll need top-notch tools, methods, an understanding of animal behavior, and plenty of patience to get stunning wildlife images. A skilled helper is also recommended, especially when dealing with large animals like horses and dogs. Invest in sturdy equipment of high quality.

Wealthy dog lovers, breeders, exhibitors, etc., comprise the bulk of the pet photography market. Big cities and their surrounding suburbs are prime real estate for business. It’s preferable to have a small number of high-paying clients rather than many cheapskates who want everything for free and whine when they don’t receive it. A significant amount of money can be made from a single event if you can undertake a large-scale shoot and produce many high-quality photographs. In addition, satisfied clients will likely recommend your business to their friends. Don’t try to do too many per month, as there will be a lot of work to do afterward going through images and printing orders. Maintaining satisfied clients is optimal. Schools, clubs, and religious groups can all benefit from holding pet photo shoots.

Do you want to make money off of your photography without printing anything? Make use of a website such as You’re free to charge whatever you see fit. Shutterfly charges a fee, but they handle everything and use top-notch machinery. In addition to calendars and notecards, they sell mugs and various other items. cameras

Working quickly while photographing pets is essential, as even the most well-trained animals tend to grow fidgety and jump around in a studio setting. Therefore, a quick camera is required. Pressing the shutter button on many digital cameras has a sluggish response time. Invest in a single-lens reflex (SLR) digital camera, such as the Canon Digital Rebel or Nikon D70. You’ll also need a quick memory chip; some take several seconds to store the image. For pet photographers, even a few seconds might be an eternity. You can use any standard single-lens reflex camera, although the film will be expensive, especially at first. My camera is the Canon XT digital, a compact yet powerful digital single-lens reflex camera.

Get comfortable with your camera. If you don’t know how to use your camera, it doesn’t matter how costly it is. Read the handbook and some books on photography basics to learn about lighting and exposure techniques that are outside the scope of this article.

Tips on how to choose the right camera. You’ll need a camera with a quick autofocus and shutter response to get good shots quickly. Many cameras’ autofocus reactions are too slow for some pets, so I usually switch to manual and stay inside the focus range as I shoot. You, too, need to get a digital camera. Digital photography has the potential to reduce future film costs significantly. It’s a great approach to double-check your work and impress clients with instant feedback. Invest in the most outstanding lens you can afford and equip it with a lens hood. If you don’t, your photos will likely show unwanted light flares. Invest in a brand-new, fully-guaranteed camera if at all possible.

Good quality digital pictures. The quality of a digital image is determined by the amount of microscopic picture elements it contains, which is determined by the quality of the camera’s sensor. The resolution of a camera is expressed in terms of the number of “megapixels” it can capture, with a 12-megapixel camera producing images of publishable quality and a 3-megapixel camera still capable of printing an acceptable eight by 10 with minimal cropping. You need a camera with at least 5 megapixels to enlarge your photos. The greater the resolution, the better because you’ll likely need to crop the image down to a smaller size before using it. Customers rarely request sizes larger than eight by 10; most magazine photos are only a few inches wide. You can never go wrong by using the camera’s highest-quality setting. Moderation is key. The larger the image, the fewer photographs will fit on the chip, the longer it will take to process, etc.

Digital reminiscences Invest in the most outstanding storage chips you can afford for your camera. They cost very little on eBay and can serve you well for many years with proper maintenance. Get a few of these, too. The ancient adage about not putting all one’s eggs in one basket applies here. Losing a single chip containing an entire photo shoot’s worth of images can be disastrous. On a shoot, I always have at least five chips accessible. TAKE PHOTOCOPIES of your memories. You might never get another chance to get that priceless photo of Rover in his straw hat. Because hard drives fail, it’s a good idea to back up your images on CDs or DVDs.

You can find used cameras on eBay if you can’t afford a new one, but you should do your homework before purchasing. Learn the updated pricing and place your bids accordingly. Don’t forget to factor in shipping costs. With a lens, the earlier digital Canon Rebel can be purchased brand new for a reasonable price. Someone who has barely used their device and is willing to sell it to you for a low price may even throw in extras like lenses, memory cards, and cases. Keep an eye on the seller’s ratings, though. Just because a camera was a best seller one year doesn’t mean it isn’t any good the next.

It’s worth checking for thrift stores and garage sales, but you should use caution. Don’t buy something if you aren’t sure you want it. A high-end camera is unnecessary. Because taking pictures of pets requires a lot of movement, and movement might cause bumps and drops, a lightweight camera is preferable. A good lens is more valuable than an expensive camera. In addition, if you want to pursue this as a career, you should invest in a spare camera body, lens, and battery.


Lighting is the most critical aspect of photography. This means that you will require, at the very least, a flash that “bounces” off the ceiling to take an interior shot of your pet. This prevents the “cat’s eye” effect, in which the cat’s eyes become glowing red. This occurs because a regular camera flash reflects off the retina and back to the lens, creating a ghost image of the pet. Lights are frequently angled from above and to the side while taking professional photographs. In this method, the “bounce” is directed downward rather than upward toward the lens and final image.

Use a “speedlight” by Nikon or a similar on-camera flash device if you can’t access a professional lighting rig. Direct the flash upward to reflect off the ceiling and back down at an angle onto the subject. To get the best results, hold the flash unit at an angle above or to the side of the camera or both so that the light reflects off the pet’s eyes.

Two flashes, spaced out by a few feet on either side of the camera, should be mounted on roughly 6 feet high supports. Put at least one light behind the subject. Background lighting should be dim, out of sight, or high if you work in a studio. Then, use one of the various methods to activate the auxiliary flashes. You can use a light-sensitive switch, a “slave” flash sensor, to “trigger” the other flashes by connecting a cable between the camera and the moment, using a wireless trigger, or utilizing the on-camera flash unit. Today’s beats typically include one already.

When taking photos, “slave” flashes are frequently used. A lamp with a built-in flash-detection sensor can be used instead of a standard bulb. The slave flash goes off whenever the camera flash does. Two are recommended, positioned a few feet apart and roughly six feet high, one on each side of the camera. If you have the budget for one, place it around six or seven feet above the ground behind the camera. Slave flashes don’t cost much and last for quite some time. They usually cast a shadow behind the target after firing. That’s why you mount them high up: to cast a short, downward shadow. Having a black or dark-colored backdrop is also helpful.

“watt-seconds” are standard in the photography strobe light industry as an illumination unit. A higher value indicates a brighter shine. Time to reload the light for another attempt should also be factored in. This is referred to as the “recycle” period. You need a quick recycle time if you wish to shoot rapidly. Most lights cycle back on after a few seconds, so there’s usually no need to worry about that. However, the watt-second rating is critical. The most potent flashes typically come with dimmer options. You’ll need powerful illumination to shoot at the optimal film speed 100. The two primary lights should have at least 200-watt seconds of power. Similarly, if you want to drill through colored “gels” that reduce the intensity of the background lights, those lights need to be powerful as well—at least 300 watt seconds. A 100-watt-second slave flash is sufficient for use on a white background without gels.

The best place to find a bargain on high-quality lighting is the Internet, but you should still shop around. You may try eBay, although lights are often cumbersome and expensive to ship due to their size and weight. If you can afford it, buy brand new. If you can’t acquire a set of lights and stands to match, at least get one set to use in front of the subject. Next, get a cheap “slave” flash for ambient lighting.

Invest in a second matching set with shorter stands for ambient lighting as soon as possible. Finally, invest in a “softbox” to place above the subject if you have a studio.

Putting “umbrellas” over your primary lights is standard practice and a good idea. Two distinct types exist. One is a white, transparent umbrella that may be used to “shoot through” to diffuse the light more effectively. The other has a reflective surface that is silver on the inside and black on the outside. The strobe light can “bounce” off it and produce a powerful flash.


Only the photograph’s subject matter is essential, so it is possible to achieve the desired effect by manipulating the frame. The most significant time to “crop” a shot is right before you take it. This necessitates a few extra seconds of review time before the shutter is released. Don’t include details that aren’t crucial, and use geometry effectively. If you must move, take your pet, and get many vaccines. You can’t afford to miss any of the action with a digital camera. The “grab” you take could end up being the winning shot. You may always go back and fix the picture if necessary.

Get creative with your poses and stances. If making sales is your goal, providing customers with options is a great touch.

What do you find intriguing in an excellent pet photo? This idiom. Get in close and make some cute faces; people love to gaze into their pets’ eyes. One can almost smell the animal’s fur. Be careful to get some great “head shots” and close-ups. Then, tap into the pet’s sense of humor. Make an effort to portray its individuality.

The best places to “shoot” your dogs

Pictures Taken in the Open Air

Outdoor pet photography is beautiful, but there are a few considerations to make. Keeping pets on leashes or having their owners hold them may be necessary. Clouds also produce dramatic shifts in outdoor lighting. Taking pictures outside is best done before 11 a.m. and after hour two in the afternoon. If you can, position the sun so that it is at an angle of 45 degrees or less and is behind the camera. You can put it anywhere you like behind the camera; it won’t be noticed.

“Fill flash” is what you want to utilize if you want the pet to be in a dark area, such as under a tree. It could be the built-in flash or an external flash. A reflector can also be used. An aide can use this large sheet of reflective material to direct light into the dark area.

Assembly space

The studio environment provides advantages in terms of time and control, and the animal cannot escape. There is no need to overcomplicate things in a studio. A “studio” could be a basement, an extra room, or a garage. Ten by ten feet is the minimum, but twelve by twelve feet is ideal. Your crossbar and wall braces are essential. To avoid accidents, please keep any cables out of the way. One can schedule individual clients to come to the studio or hold a full-day pet photo shoot.

While organizing a large-scale pet photo shoot can be fun for everyone involved, it requires careful planning and full readiness before it begins. A classroom, church meeting room, or office conference room would all work. Publicity might be gained by holding one in a flea market. The atmosphere at a flea market will be very different from that at a studio. It’s trickier to find something at a flea market. Having a simple setup and shooting a few frames for a low budget is preferable. Then, pass out business cards and exhibit some of your studio’s work. I have a ton of wacky props at my disposal, but I usually leave some of them at home while doing a big-picture shoot. Possibly, I’ll take some.

It’s best to keep the camera and lighting settings essential when taking photos for a large group. You already have enough to deal with the issue at hand.


A photograph with a poor background is useless. Professional photographers will often stock their studios with various locations to achieve the best possible results for their clients. In addition, they might use a set of colored lights called “gels” to adjust the background’s hue to complement the shot. If you don’t have an experience, a regular sheet will do if you mount it with no creases. Pinning a sheet to a wall is a quick and easy method. Use anything you choose, even a white border. Good contrast is required to separate the topic from the backdrop. For pets with light or medium coats, a dark color like black or blue is a great choice. However, a more golden background is preferable when photographing black cats and dogs.

Backgrounds can be made quickly and cheaply. Initially, I used a few little clamps to stretch out some old sheets. Construct a short stand of around 8 feet in height using a king-sized sheet. White is classic, and bright hues are required for pets with dark fur. One in any shade of grey or black will do. Blue is another color that I frequently utilize. If you can save up, you should invest in a second flash to further illuminate the scene. It’s aimed upwards while positioned relatively low. Hide it out of sight behind your make-up vanity.

Professionals commonly use background lighting. Background lighting is usually directed at the wall behind the subject from the side, below, or above. Careful manipulation of the background light can create a bright area behind the subject. As a result, the issue is better distinguished from the background, and the contrast is increased. Using gray or white ground, you may color the light coming through the plastic “gels” by placing them over the fixture. You may use this to make the background look like any color.

Avoid casting shadows on the background by raising the primary lights to a high position or using a bright background light when utilizing a flash. In this manner, the cast shadow is minimal and quickly disappears. The subject should also be spaced out by around three feet from the background.

Accessories and garb

The portrait will be even more special and valuable if the person wears a unique costume. Think outside the box. From someone else’s perspective, any outfit might be seen as a costume. Scarves, hats, and props held in the hands can be all needed to hint at an entire ensemble. If you want to use props, ensure you can easily access them.

Photographs of pets in ridiculous situations, such as a dog in a suit and tie or a cat in a hat, are popular with stock photographers because they sell well for greeting cards. Please don’t assume your pet will enjoy wearing the ridiculous costume you’ve imagined for them; very few animals enjoy donning such garb. You should probably get help. I once took pictures of a dog dressed for a Bar Mitzvah. What a mystery!

Preparing your dogs for the camera

When you try to take a picture of a pet, it can get quite anxious, bashful, or even aggressive. A pet’s natural reaction to a sudden, bright light is to run as rapidly as possible, either to its owner or away. They are unable to communicate verbally. Therefore, you must observe their actions and sounds carefully.

The most important thing is to make them comfortable. Calm them with soft touches and reassuring noises. Keep your tone positive and friendly. Although it may seem obvious, there are times when the owner’s absence is preferable. Most pets try to “save” themselves by calling out to their owner, making the photographer’s job quite challenging.

The dogs should probably go outside for a little potty break before we start shooting.


Taking pictures of dogs is a lot.

People frequently ask me, “How do you make the dog stay in one place?” However, in my experience, canines rarely remain still when instructed. Because of the quick shutter speed, it only looked like they were standing still. Sometimes you have to take a lot of photographs before you get a handful that turns out well. You need dog behavior knowledge to take good dog photos. Dogs aren’t able to comprehend what we say in words. Speaking to a dog in its own language is considerably more productive. Touch is highly effective, but any non-verbal sound will do. Both your own and the dogs’ body language are crucial.

Dogs are naturally curious and always on the move, making them complex subjects for photographers. Distract the dog with a companion or a toy. Attempt your task without drawing the dog’s attention. A long telephoto lens of at least 100mm is required to take better photos while standing further back. This will ensure that the dog is the main attraction, not its surroundings. Take lots of pictures and work swiftly. Food as an incentive for the dog could backfire. The dog will “bug” you until you give in and give it some treats. Every time I get a shot, I reward myself with a treat.

Posing formally

I find that it is much easier to work with an assistant whenever I am doing a formal photograph of a dog. Even if a dog manages to sit motionless, its expression is unlikely to be picture-perfect. The dog’s look captures my attention, and I lose all sense of time. It appears like the dog is sitting steady since the camera shutter is open. The use of props can significantly enhance the photo-taking experience. Get the dog’s attention by making noises with a whistle. Approach your subject from up close. It’s a huge deal that…

And finally:

Unfortunately, canines aren’t great listeners or communicators. They have a good grasp of body language, so you’ll have to work to keep them where you want them. With enough repetition, the dog will learn the lesson: STOP MOVING!


There are plenty of cats that refuse to pose for pictures. I’ve met a few that were downright mean. Cats, in general, are very affectionate and restless. A long lens comes in handy. I usually stand back and observe them as they chill out in their natural habitat. If you want a formal portrait of your cat, you should do so with the owner present. Also, hurry up, or the cat will escape.


First and foremost, take care. Horses are capable of swift and unexpected movement. Neither of them cares about keeping you safe.

It would be best if you remembered that horses are naturally skittish and wary and act accordingly with them. Keep your pace calm and steady, and make frequent eye contact. Try patting the horse on the neck, just behind the shoulder, if you’d like to get friendly. Make soothing noises and speak softly. Make a meal offer. That’s great, but you should be careful with your fingertips. Preserve their UNITY!

A powerful tool is a long lens. Since shooting photographs is typically done outside, adequate lighting is rarely an issue at approximately 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. It’s best to avoid the midday sun if you can. A shutter speed of 1/250 or faster is typically unnecessary. You can achieve impressive results using tripod and shutter speeds between 1/8 and 1/30. A faster shutter speed is required to prevent blurring when using a longer lens or zoom.


Even though larger pet birds tend to remain perched on their perches, I have occasionally had smaller birds fly around my studio, especially parakeets. Take several pictures to choose from a wide range of facial expressions. Extending their top feathers gives cockatoos a graceful and attractive appearance. Pictures of toy-loving birds are entertaining.

Different Animals

Pigs, porcupines, and snakes are just a few of the bizarre animals kept as pets by some individuals. Mammals may generally follow these recommendations. Due to their lack of character, reptiles are frequently best depicted in close-up. It creates an illusion of closeness with an animal that, in reality, is rather far. (Snakes, lizards, and the like are examples)


We provide a CD with the full report, plus many more illustrations, diagrams, and instructions on operating the equipment, interacting with consumers, determining prices, and completing necessary documentation. Even if you only picture a handful of pets yearly, this CD is a fantastic resource for professional photographers.

Please drop by our sites for some examples of our work and additional details. Travel and portrait photography advice are also available.

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