Judging by the amount of pet photos on social media, you’d assume taking a good one would be pretty straightforward. But if you’ve ever attempted to take a picture of a cat, dog, rabbit, hamster or other creature, you know that it’s actually kind of tricky. In motion, your pet probably looks cute most, if not all, of the time. But when you’re scrolling through the camera roll on your phone, you may notice that not all the photos truly capture your precious pet’s essence.
It’s not that you need expensive equipment: you can absolutely take decent pet portraits using your smartphone. In an article in the New York Times, J.D. Biersdorfer breaks it down for us. Here’s what to know.
You’re going to want your pet to be calm, so pick a place they’re used to. Also, Biersdorfer notes that some pets are most relaxed right after they’ve eaten, or right before a nap, so these might be the best times for a photoshoot. If you’re going to attempt to recreate the magic of a Sears Portrait Studio, put up a sheet or some fabric, or take the photo in front of an uncluttered wall. For action shots, head to the park or your backyard. Regardless of location, prepare to spend some time snapping many different options in the hopes that one will turn out.
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Not only can the flash startle your pet, but it can also give your furry friend some creepy red or bright green eyes. Though natural light is best, if you’re indoors and need a boost, try adding some clip-on lights or lamps.
At this point, most newer smartphones have some version of a “portrait mode,” where the focus is on an object or person (or pet, in this case). If you’re going for the indoor still shot, this is a good option. Another option Biersdorfer calls out is a “burst mode,” which takes many pictures in rapid succession when you hold down the shutter button. Though it doesn’t guarantee a perfect shot, it does increase your chances of getting one.
Similar to taking pictures of babies and other small children, having someone else there to distract your pet or get them to focus with toys and/or treats can help. If there’s no one else around, use the self-timer and do the distracting yourself. Biersdorfer also suggests playing with different angles—including getting on your pet’s eye level—and using a tripod if that would make things easier.
No, you don’t have to find and then learn Photoshop—just use the editing software that comes with your phone. You’ll be able to make adjustments to the light, background and color, use a filter, or crop and straighten the image. Ideally, you’ll end up with something you’re proud to post to your main grid.