How many of you are happier sharing photos of your pets rather than yourself? You know we fall into this category! I bet you’re the same kind of person who also pastes a silly and sweet photo of your pup (cat, bird, lizard, insert-your-BFF-here) onto your annual holiday card, too, right? I can’t tell you how many adorable cards we receive from friends and family that prominently feature photos of anything but themselves – pets and children immediately come to mind! – and we shamelessly fall into that same category.
Jack and CC are no strangers to the camera (proof), but despite the endless social sharing of our duo, it does take a fair amount of trickery behind the scenes to capture the perfect photo. So while you’re probably getting ready to design your best holiday card yet (of your faithful furry friend, no doubt), I’m here to share my top tips and tricks to help you get the shot of our sometimes uncooperative – yet extremely attractive! – models.
Prepare for the photo session before the first click of the camera.
When I was still accepting custom pet painting orders, every now and then I’d receive images from clients who would have a difficult time catching a good photo. My biggest tip to them, always, was to try again after a long walk. A relaxed pet tends to produce the best photos, as there’s less chance for excitable movement, which can result in blurry images. Before you start snapping away, take your pet around the block, have a play session with their favorite toy or take them on your morning run.
Set the scene.
This early in the season, it’s unlikely that you’ve already thrown up the holiday decor (or have you?!). But! You can still create a festive mood backdrop with colors and scenery. Think: green grass, a red front door, twinkling streetlights or a local tree farm. If you’re still stumped, simple and neutral is always a safe bet and will allow you to have more freedom to choose a colorful, festive holiday card template. Below, Miss Chunk poses in front of a firehouse! Tip: If you’re hoping for something more seasonal, try taping a roll of gift paper to an empty wall.
Have their best friend nearby – with treats.
Who is the one person in the family that will always bring a smile to your pet’s face? Whether that person is the one behind the camera or just next to the camera, you will want that person nearby. Not only will having the extra hands during your photo shoot be a sanity saver, but he or she can swoop in to soothe an anxious pet.
Ditch the flash.
When it comes to taking photos of pets, natural lighting is always a good idea to prevent red eye, squints or cause for alarm. Set up a tripod in the brightest room in your home, or better yet, bring the photo session outdoors! I especially enjoy taking out the camera during the golden hour, the magical time right before the sun goes down and the whole world feels aglow.
Make a funny noise.
It’s best to avoid calling your pet’s name to grab their attention, as it may have them lunging towards you instead! Our dogs respond best to funny noises, like a high-pitched squeal or soft whistle. They might be wondering if you’re okay, but often times, their expression in return can be the very best kind.
Get up close and personal.
Kneel down for this one! Getting down on their level will give your pets a larger than life personality in a way that shooting from above never will. For small pet owners, you can always perch your pet on a tabletop, staircase or windowsill to shoot at their level. Tip: For pets that love to be cuddled, have their special person cradle them in a hug.
Bring in a prop.
What brings your pet comfort? Our dogs love laundry day, if only because it means they may have the chance to snuggle with a freshly laundered, warm blanket. I tossed this blanket (our fave faux fur throw) in the dryer and wrapped it over CC’s shoulders… and not surprisingly, she froze in place. That smile says it all! If your pet enjoys a good dress-up session, lucky you!
When in doubt, bring out the peanut butter.
(Or any special treat!) We’ll be the first to admit that we’ve used peanut butter to our full advantage when trying to achieve a specific idea. Last year, we wrapped a box in pretty paper and added a dollop of peanut butter inside. For a blissful five minutes, we were able to take as many photos as we wanted! Tip: For bonus points, a dab of peanut butter on the cheek of one will often lead to a kiss from the other. Give it a try.
In the end, whatever you do, don’t put the camera down. Be present and ready to click that shutter – a lot – because you never know when your pet might yawn, sneeze or lick their lips, making for a unique memorable moment. Most importantly, keep sessions as short as your pet’s patience, and always reward them for a job well done. What other tricks do you recommend?