The Blog

6 Tips for Adorable Pet Portraits | Washington, DC Family + Pet Photographer

I’m a dog lover. Always have been, always will be. Whenever my clients ask if they can bring their dog to a session, I always answer with a resounding YES!! PLEASE!! While I don’t currently have a dog, I consider my parents’ dog to be my dog. She is the sweetest little Maltese Pomeranian and I have never loved a little creature more. The photos we take of her are so precious to me and I will be forever grateful for them. 

Knowing that most of you probably feel the same way about YOUR pet, I decided to put together this guide on how to take better photos of your fur babies! If you need additional help or have any questions, please feel free to email me at

Focus on the eyes.

Family pug poses in a pink bowtie

This is my single most important piece of advice. ALWAYS focus on the eyes. Doing this creates an emotive portrait and adds depth to your shot. If you have to take a bajillion photos – and you very likely will – make sure you get an image where the eyes are crisp and clear.

Get down on their level.

Getting down to eye level with your pet always adds an interest and intrigue because you’ll see the world as they see it. This will give you the opportunity to capture them from a very unique perspective. We all know what your dog or cat looks like from above – this is how we always see them! So have some fun and switch it up. 

Entice with treats, toys and magic words.

This tip is KEY. You’re absolutely going to need to have treats or a favorite toy on hand in order to have your pet cooperate. I typically hold a treat just below my lens, ask my dog to sit, snap the photo, and then give her the treat. You HAVE TO be willing to give your dog more treats than they probably deserve or should have 😉 

I also find that “magic words” work wonders. My dog gets SO excited when I say the word “lizard” because she loves hunting them! So if I say “lizard”, she immediately looks at me like OMG WHERE MC, TELL ME WHERE! And boom, I snap a photo. 

Using treats, toys and magic words are very important, but try not to get your pet TOO wound up as that will make taking their photo MUCH more difficult. It’s a tricky balance, but you can do it! 

Take photos when you know they aren’t looking. Then surprise them! 

This approach will do two things for you: allow you to get some candid shots of your pet in their natural environment and also provide you with the opportunity to surprise them (likely with their name or a magic word) and get that sweet look of “omg what?!” that I know we all love. 

Forget about the perfect portrait. Take some candids!

Maybe your pet is WILD. Maybe you have a puppy and getting that puppy to sit and look at you, even with a treat, is an impossible task. That’s okay. This is the time to get them wound up. Let them play and have fun and move. And then RAPID FIRE those photos. If you have a DSLR, this would be the time to use burst mode and a fast shutter speed. Get ready – you’re going to get some HILARIOUS shots of your pet!

Be patient.

This may be a given, but be patient. Take your time. Don’t rush it or force it. Your pets can read your energy. So if you get stressed or frustrated, they will too. If it’s not working, put your camera down and let things happen naturally. You might just get a sweet shot like the one below OR you may need to try again another day.

Bonus Tip:

Once you take all of these photos, PRINT THEM. Hang them on your wall or fridge OR make a photo album. Put together a book of your favorite images of your dog from 2019, like a yearbook! Or maybe you recently had your pet pass away (lots of love to you, my friend) and you want to remember them by creating a special book of images from your life together. 

I believe it’s SO important to have tangible memories. Something you can look at daily with an eye’s glance or an arm’s reach. Print your photos, folks! 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *