Photo Tip Friday: Tips for Taking Pet Portraits, Part 1

by Mary Denman

Welcome back to photo tip Friday. I'm excited to talk about how to take pet portraits. Next week will be all about action shots with your active pets! 

How do you take pet portraits?

One of the first suggestions I'll make is to get down on their level. Or take the photos when they are elevated to your level. 


You don't only see your pets from above. You cuddle with them. You hold them. 

So if you get at eye level with them for photos, it's much more intimate. 

Let's look at some other suggestions. 

Princess by Mary Denman

As you can see from the first shot, I took a picture of Princess while she was looking toward me. It's a close up of her face. 

But in this shot, I took her profile. She's very majestic looking here.

I got further down on the floor for this profile. Notice the good lighting? I snapped this one in front of the window. 

Princess is helping me illustrate pet head shots.

Take them straight on or in profile. 

This is Lady Catherine de Bourg (named from Pride and Prejudice). Again, I was on the floor with her in front of a sunny window. I moved in close so you could see her face. I cut out the clutter around her by doing this. 

Don't let her heavy eyeliner fool you. She may seem serious, but she's a purring, playful kitten! 

Because she's got so much black fur, I shot this pic at ISO 800. 

Emperor Cuzco
Which brings me to our other kitten. This is Emperor Cuzco. 

He's a mess. I didn't mean to end up with a cat similar to Duke, but Cuzco reached out of his cage at the rescue and grabbed me. Literally. It was love at first snuggle. 

The shadows from the window add mystery to this one.

Here's a sideways shot of him. Sort of looks like a miniature Sphinx. Isn't he a cute kitten?

He's definitely a kitten.

And a mess!

Here's what he kept doing. He had to check out the camera. So I had to shoot quite a few pictures. But it's okay. I like the action and personality that comes through, even if he's totally out of focus!

Tip: HAVE PATIENCE! They may move around a lot, but you'll get some good shots eventually. 

Moving on to dog photography, this is a picture of a Curly Coated Retriever. It's a breed that originated in England. They're fairly rare here in the US. This dog's owner let me snap some shots while we were on vacation at the beach. 

He loved to retrieve that frisbee. But, oddly enough, he would put his paw on it if you moved toward him. That's part of his personality coming through.

He loved my son even though they had just met and would let him get the frisbee. I have some great action shots you can see next week. 

Again, I got down on his level to catch his gaze. Aren't his eyes stunning? They're almost red.

You may not think much about this, but having good shots of your pets can bring you a lot of joy. 

My dear Duke, taken with my iPhone...
For me, it brought some comfort. I did a photo shoot with my cat Duke for this blog. Little did I realize I only had a couple more weeks with him. My sister used the pictures I took to paint me a wonderful watercolor of him.

So, while I certainly hope you don't go through what I went through, I do want to encourage you to take pictures of your pets! Enjoy them! 

1) Have patience.
2) Get on your pet's level.
3) Get head shots that are straight on and in profile. 

Because pets tend to move around, you may also need to move your ISO up to 400 to stop the action. Next week, I'll show you how to use the ISO on you camera to capture your pets in motion.

FOR BLOGGERS: Just as each of my cats has a very different personality, each of us has a very different voice in our blogging. You have a unique set of circumstances that have shaped your life. Don't try to be "just like"....(fill in the blank). Definitely, learn from other's blogs. Especially successful ones. But be the best you there is. YOU have something special to say. Learn to embrace that. Let your voice stand out. 

FOR CELL PHONE USERS: The last picture of the blog was taken with my cell phone. I made sure it was focused on Duke. Notice how the foreground is blurred?  The camera did that. Because of the distance between him and the foreground, focusing on him made the carpet blurred. Try taking pictures of your pets on their level and see how they turn out. 

Join me next week for part 2...taking action shots of your pets!

Hope these tips help.

Keep on clicking!


TWEETABLE: Tips for taking great pet portraits. (click to tweet)

 Blogs I join on the Fridays: 

Say G'Day SaturdayAmanda’s Books and MoreMy Turn For UsThat Friday Blog HopNancherrow Weekends Are Fun Linky Partythe happy gal blog


  1. Thanks for sharing your photos and article at Friendship Friday, Mary - Catherine de Bourg is SO striking and I love how Emperor Cuzco picked you!

    Did you know that Tsunami picked my husband by curling up in his flip flop? Melted his heart away!

    Great tips - I tweeted your article for you!

    1. Thanks so much Ramona! You have some good shots of your cats. They are so elegant.

      Our pets seem to know how to reach into our hearts, don't they?

      Have a wonderful weekend!

  2. Ah yes, just like kids, you have to get down to their level to take a good shot. Love that one of your Duke. Great capture!

    1. Thanks Grace. You're absolutely right, taking pictures of kids and pets is very similar. Hence, I'm doing next week's post on getting the action shots!

      Thanks for dropping by!

  3. I take pictures of my cats, one has so much black hes hard to capture in the right place. I only use my phone so sometimes its hard. I love all your photos and captions, cats are like kids thats for sure, each with their own personalities.

    Thanks for adding my banner to your post and for stopping by this weekend.
    Have a good one, Karren

    1. Karren, make sure your black cat is in lots of light when you try to take the picture. Too, if you can't change your ISO, use your flash. Taking pictures of black objects can be tricky, but keep trying!

      Thanks for hosting your party!

  4. I always learn so much from you, Mary.

    I have a greyhound named Ruby. She's a 40 mph couch potato. Greyhounds are the most content animals on the planet. She lounges around with a serene look on her face. I've taken pictures of her but never could catch her personality. I didn't think of getting down on her level. I'll give it a try.

    1. Let me know how that works Sherry. I bet you'll be happy with the results. It makes a huge difference to be on their level. The more natural lighting you have, the better. :)

      Thanks for dropping by!