"We love using natural light as much as possible. When inside, use a room with big windows and light walls. When outside, wait for 'golden hour' — this is the hour right after sunrise or hour right before sunset. Your photos will be magic!" — The human behind @remixthedog
Consider the Light
You'll want to avoid using a flash (which can spook your pet) and shooting in direct sunlight (which makes for squinty eyes and harsh shadows). If you're working indoors, find an area that gets soft, indirect natural light, like sun shining through a sheer curtain. Outdoors, many photographers actually hope for clouds: "An overcast day is one of the best times to shoot," says Amanda Jones, a pet photographer in North Adams, Massachusetts. If it's sunny, look for shady spots, or time your session for the golden light of early morning or about two hours before sunset, known to shutterbugs as the "magic" or "golden" hour.
"A simple way to improve the quality of photos is to pay attention to the background. Simple backgrounds make your dog stand out." — The human behind @piggyandpolly
Go for a Simple Setting
Think uncluttered. "Indoors, put your pet on a sofa, chair, or decorative blanket — some kind of fuzzy thing," says Jones. "Even a dog bed can be beautiful." Use a backdrop that contrasts well with your pet's coloring — lightcolored fur pops nicely against a dark wall. When outside, stick to open spaces with visually spare scenery, like a grass field or lake.
"Keep treats in your hand and near your camera while you start to photograph. Reward your dog for doing such a good job!" — The human behind @ps.ny
Have a Few Tricks to Grab His or Her Attention
Next comes the fun part: Getting your pal to cooperate. Your strategy depends in part on your goals. If you’re after action shots, for instance, don’t load Rover down with a big meal before shooting. And if you want a nice, calm portrait, take him out for a long walk first to work his friskies out.
"Toss a goodie where you want your pet to pose,” says Boston-based pet photographer Li Ward. "Eventually he'll look up because he wants more — that's when you shoot."
For the inquisitive dog, toys and noisemakers are key. Throw a plaything in the direction you want him to move, wait for him to check it out, and then make a noise so he looks back toward you. Jones swears by extracting the squeaker from a toy and hiding it in her hand. "If they can hear it but not see it, that stops them for a second," she says, giving you time to capture that quizzical head tilt. Free apps available for both iOS and Android can help engage your pet, too. BarkCam mimics all kinds of noises, from doorbells to dinosaur roars, while the Human-to-Cat Translator turns your voice into meows. Animals do get inured to funny sounds, though, so use them sparingly and be ready to snap as soon as you, er, squeak.
"For me, the best dog pictures happen when I'm documenting the every day moments of Dagger's life. It’s easy to take a posed image of him with a treat or two, but capturing him simply doing his thing & being a happy dog allows me to capture those truly joyful photos."— The human behind @dagger
Move Like a Pro
Once you're rolling, try getting on your knees or belly so you're at your pet's level, says Ward. "It's much more intimate and interesting when she can look right at you," she says. Or, to capture action, stand up but hold the camera at hip or knee level, and shoot without looking into the viewfinder.
The most important thing is to "shoot and shoot and shoot," says Jones, who sets her phone to burst mode when she's firing off action shots. Keep your camera at the ready when you're trying for a specific pic (e.g., if you want to capture your dog yawning, be prepared when she wakes up from a nap). "It helps to outline a space to contain your pet — say six by ten feet — and then move around with him, trying different angles," says Jones.
If your puppy decides to run for cover or be a diva, stay calm. "Pets pick up on nervous energy,” says Ward. "Often you have to just sit and wait for them to come around — especially cats." And even an obliging pet will max out at about 30 minutes, so plan for a few snap sessions.