Three little kittens, in black & white

Life with pets is the best kind there is. I should know– I live with almost twenty of them! And if, like me, you share your home with a furry companion, then you already know that there is never a dull moment with them. One minute they’re acting all prim and proper, and the next, they’re off waging war on your living room furniture. And as a pet parent– because ‘pet owner’ is so 1990’s– you want to preserve every funny, or adorable, or even sad, memory you have with your fur babies. If only there was a way to do that!

Oh, but there actually is. Thanks to smartphones and cameras, it’s so easy now to capture precious moments in photos, and just as effortless to share those on social media, for all the world to see.

But again, if, like me, you want to go the extra mile in photographing your beloved cat or iguana, then you need to learn some serious skills in photography, whether you’re using a phone or professional camera. Read on as we dish out some basics in making your pets look good in photos. (Who knows, if you become so good at it, you can even become a pet photographer, and wouldn’t that be just awesome?)

1. Level with your pets

In life, it’s good at times to take the high ground– whether it’s maintaining relationships, winning an argument, or raising your pets. But when it comes to pet photography, lower is better. Don’t be afraid to get down on your knees, or even your stomach, if the situation calls for it, just to get the perfect shot. Photos taken from a lower angle give the impression that you’re at par with them. You’ll also be able to capture more of the action if you level with them. Aside from taking the best photos from this point of view, you’ll also discover more about your pets along the way.

2. Have an eye for beauty

Intended pun aside, pet photos become more alive when you literally and prominently feature your lovely pet’s (or pets’) eyes. As the saying goes ‘the eyes are the window to the soul,’ photographing their eyes can show off their feelings, whether that be wide-eyed wonder, aggression, or something more mysterious.

Up the beauty factor of your photos by taking close up eye shots using a macro lens! Pets’ eyes are like small galaxies, and using a macro lens can help you add more detail to these photos.

Macro photography goodness!

3. Learn and use the “Rule of Thirds”

Making your pets look good in photographs is not simply a result of magic tricks or really good technology. It also requires learning some rules and techniques. One of the most common, but also important, rules for beginners to learn (and hopefully, eventually master) is the “Rule of Thirds.” Simply put, it is breaking up an image into three parts, horizontally and vertically. This can be easily visualized by showing a grid on your gadget’s screen (simply enable the ‘Grid’ function in the settings).

The “Rule of Thirds” is applied by positioning your pet in one-third of your frame, on one of the lines in the grid, or wherever the horizontal and vertical lines intersect. Doing so creates a visually appealing effect on your photograph, and is a good use too of negative and positive space.

4. Take portraits

Remember that fad where families would have their formal photos taken in a photo studio? Well, that isn’t exclusive to people anymore. More and more pet parents are opting to have portraits of themselves with their pets taken, and not just in studios too. You can have your portrait taken in the comfort of your own home!

But admittedly, with the kind of economy that we have right now, not everyone can afford to pay a good photographer to take beautiful photos of their furry families.

The good news is, if you can’t afford to hire a professional, you can always try it on your own. Just find a good spot where you want to take your photos, set it up to however manner you want it to be, and voila! You have made your own makeshift studio. This task would be easy as pie if you have knowledge in lighting and styling techniques. But if you don’t, never fear- YouTube is a good place to learn.

Once your studio is all set, all you need are your subjects. Round up your furry companions and just place them where you want them to be. Set up the camera, and click! Your pet portrait is done.

One way to improve pet portraits is selecting a good lens for your smartphone or DSLR. For DSLR’s, a prime lens is always a good choice, since these lenses are great for photos with shallow depth-of-field, a common quality of portraits. Good choices for starters would be a 35mm or a 50mm. (For my photos, like the one below, I use an ’80s Nikon 50mm lens.) Just a reminder though, prime lenses have fixed focal length, which means you can’t zoom them in. This may take some getting used to, a good reason for you to keep shooting!

Lovely Zzz’s care of Simba

5. Take action shots

For sports photography, it’s best to take action shots, because these shots freeze the subject (or subjects) in the heat of the moment. And as the name suggests, these kinds of shots evoke action and energy.

But you know what’s a cuter application of action shots? Taking photos of your pets! Catch them doing their thing, whether it’s jumping high to catch a butterfly, running after each other around the house, or simply yawning! Action shots in pet photography can help show your pet’s true personality, because they are free to do whatever they feel like doing at the moment.

A good trick to taking action shots is using a quick shutter speed, to avoid motion blur. Nothing ruins the moment of capturing your dog in mid-air as he or she catches a frisbee like a blurred image.

Of course, quick shutter speeds mean nothing if you don’t know how to wait for the right moment. Patience is key in taking a good action shot.

Cat fight in progress!

6. Shoot like there’s no tomorrow

Summing up the tips for basic pet photography, you should never stop taking photos, and never stop looking for a perfect moment to freeze on frame. It’s okay if the first couple of shots don’t come out the way we had wanted them to, because no one became an expert overnight. That’s the beauty of photography– you never run out of new things to learn and experiment with. And with pets, you’re always sure to see something they do that’s worth taking photos of.

Like I said in the beginning, life with pets is the best kind there is. It’s a good way to spend time with, and discover more about them and their life. (Who knew that your pet cat hid her kittens in the garage? Oh, you did, because you took a photo of them.)

Pet photography is also a good way to de-stress and detach yourself from the wear and tear of life. And what better way is there to relax than be in the company of your most beloved companions, right?