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How to Snap the Perfect Pet Photo

A beautiful photograph of your pet is priceless, but it's no secret that animals can make difficult subjects. That's why I've called in a professional, Charlotte-based pet photographer Sarah McGraw, of McGraw Photography, to share tips for capturing an image of your furry friend.

Pets Contributor
Photography by: Sarah McGraw

1. Find Good Light

Without the correct lighting, your pet can show up in pictures with freaky, glowing eyes. Nobody wants that! To avoid this, turn off your flash and seek soft, natural light.


If you're inside, look for even lighting -- with no bright spots -- near a window. If you want to head outside, the best time to shoot is during the “golden hours” -- the one to two hours around sunrise and sunset. Find some even shade, place your pet in it, and shoot away! The even lighting will show off all of your pet’s best features.

Photography by: Sarah McGraw

2. Be Aware of the Background

To achieve a lovely, artistic shot of your pet, be aware of what surrounds your furbaby. This sounds like a no-brainer, but a bad background can ruin an otherwise great shot. Are there distracting colors or elements? Is there anything that takes your eye away from your furry friend? Is there a pole or tree coming out of his or her head? Pro Tip: It's easier to change your shooting angle than to move your pet.

Photography by: Sarah McGraw

3. Focus on the Eyes

As they say, the eyes are the windows to the soul. To get a shot that really connects with the viewer, make sure your pet's eyes are in focus. If your camera has the option, use the eye-detection feature or manually select the focus point over Fluffy’s eyes.

Photography by: Sarah McGraw

4. Get Down on Their Level

Although photographing from above is easy and natural, for a more interesting shot, mix it up a little and get down on your pet’s level. This gives you a new and fun perspective of their world. Plus, you’ll probably get a nice little workout yourself.

Photography by: Sarah McGraw

5. Know What Motivates Your Furry Friend

Can’t seem to get Rover’s attention? Find out what motivates himbefore you start shooting. Use treats, toys, or even funny noises to get his attention. Hold treats and toys just above the camera, and it will look like he’s staring right at you. And don’t forget to reward him when he’s good.

Photography by: Sarah McGraw

6. Mix Up Your Framing

Try close-ups, mid-range, and wide-angle shots. Start by shooting a headshot and slowly move backward until more and more of the background is visible and your pet becomes smaller and smaller in the frame. These pulled-out shots are often my favorite and are great for large pieces of artwork.

Photography by: Sarah McGraw

7. Experiment with Camera Settings

Don’t be afraid to pull out your camera’s manual and play around with those scary settings surrounding the “Auto” button. Yes, a real camera. Learn about aperture, which controls depth of field, and shutter speed, which controls action. Controlling even one of these factors can make a huge difference in what the final product looks like. Remember: Photography is all about experimenting and having fun!

Photography by: Sarah McGraw

8. Be Patient

One of the most important things to have when photographing your pet is patience. Be patient with your camera, be patient with your pet, and be patient with your skill level. All new hobbies take time to learn. If you're frustrated, your furbaby will pick up on that energy and will inevitably feel less comfortable in front of the camera. 

Photography by: Sarah McGraw

9. Be Safe

Last, but certanly not least: Be safe! Don’t let your photo shoot turn into a nightmare. If you’re outside, be sure your pet is protected from traffic, aggressive dogs, and anything else that could pose a threat. If possible, bring a friend along to help. At the very least, keep your dog leashed and out of harm's way!


To view more of Sarah's work, visit her website