Pet Photography: Great Shots Of Your Furry Friend

We all know how much joy our pets bring to our lives. However, capturing that happiness on film can be a challenge.

Taking pet photography seriously requires some effort and preparation; just like taking professional photos of people does!

This blog post will go over the basics of pet photography, give you tips for getting great shots, and tell you about my favorite equipment for pet photographers.

Be sure to have plenty of treats on hand, and try to have a few toys nearby as well.

Use the right gear

You want to use a camera that has autofocus, an optical zoom lens (if possible), and manual functions for adjusting different settings.

If you’re experimenting with pet photography without spending much money at first, try using your smartphone or tablet as it probably has all these features built-in already!

DSLR Camera Settings:

Shutter Speed

Depending on the situation, you might be able to get away with a slower shutter speed, but my recommendation (especially where your dog is moving around, either outside or inside) is to use a fast shutter speed. This will help freeze the action and give you a nice crispy shot of your dog.


If you’re outside shooting at 100 ISO is a good starting point. If it’s an overcast day you can bump this up, but remember that iso 400 is what you’d normally use indoors in darker conditions. There’s really no need to mess with this too much for action shots, since shutter is the main factor you’re solving for.


Based on the 2 other factors in the exposure triangle this will pretty much be set. If you want a blurry background obviously you’ll want to use a lower F-stop to capture your furry friend.

What Lens To Use

The lens you use will depend on the situation, but in general, a telephoto lens is going to be your best bet. This way you can still capture some distance between yourself and the dog while also getting close enough for action shots.

The other choice would be an ultra-wide-angle lens which could get really cool distortion if that’s the style of photo you’re going to shoot.

Generally, I recommend a telephoto lens for pet photography or anything where animals are involved. Some good ones are the Canon EF 100-400mm ƒ/70-200mm IS II USM or Tamron SP 150-600 mm F/52 A012E.

Either of these will allow you some distance from your subject and still capture action shots.

Lighting Setup

Use Natural Light

If your outside obviously you’ll be using natural light. Even inside, oftentimes the best option is a large window light. Interestingly a cloudy day is actually given a BETTER quality of light rather than a sunny day. Cloudy days help diffuse the light which gives softer shadows.

What about Flash?

If you wanna get fancy, you can setup a single-point light, or better yet a 3 point light setup. This setup is a classic for portrait photography and consists of a key light, a fill light, and a backlight (also known as a hair light)

3 point lighting diagram
A diagram of how to arrange the lights to achieve a classic look.

The thing to remember is that your hair light will be the brightest. The goal of the hair light (or rim light) is to give a bright outline to separate your animal friend from the background.

Next, your key light will be the main light in your pet photos.

Last, the fill light “fills in” the shadow created by your key light and just helps to generally balance out your shots.

There’s no hard and fast rule for the settings, you’ll just have to experiment for each photo session. Each dog is different and each backdrop is different.

chiwawa in studio with flash
Good example of a dog in studio captured with a 3 light setup


What makes a successful pet photograph?

There’s really no right answer, as pet photography is a very personal way of capturing memories with your furry friends. What makes a successful photograph for one person may not make it as good for another – so the best thing you can do when taking photos is to experiment and let the little guy or gal show off their personality in front of the camera!

What settings should you use when photographing pets?

You’ll almost certainly want to use a fast shutter speed, so start with a shutter speed of at least 1000, and then play around with it to find the best setting for your situation.

How do you take professional pictures of dogs?

Don’t use the flash. The photo will be too bright and your pet won’t like it. Point a flashlight at them instead.

Second of all, position them where there are few obstructions in front of them and/or behind them (avoid being blocked by walls, buildings or objects).

Thirdly, calm your pets down before taking a picture because high levels of tension often result in blurry pictures.

And finally, try to capture moments like when they’re waiting at the window for their food or when you first catch sight of something new–things that make dogs happy.

dog in studio with flash

How do I make my dog photogenic?

-Find a nice backdrop. Choose wisely as this will determine the feel of your photo and allow for more creativity with composition.

-Take natural pictures that show who your pup is by capturing them in their environment doing what they like to do best!

-Capture his personality through subtle facial expressions and body language, such as ear position or tail wag!

-Use good lighting to make sure you don’t have any shadows or dark spots on your pup’s face or on the ground beneath them. Sunlight is usually the best option but natural light from a window can work as well if you’re indoors. 

What equipment do you need for pet photography?

Good quality camera, DSLR or mirrorless point and shoot with a decent lens. Typically a camera kit will work fine, but if you want to get fancy with a prime lens you can.

How do I get my puppy to sit still for a picture?

Be patient. You’re likely not going to get him to sit still so taking rapid-fire photos with a fast shutter speed to freeze the action is probably your best bet.

How do you photograph a dog outside?

Chances are you’ll need a manual zoom lens a 70mm-200mm should work fine. This will let you quickly zoom in to frame the action as your dog runs around. Any type of point and shoot camera isn’t likely to work in the situation. I recommend using DSLR and setting the zoom mode to manual.