How to Photograph Pets


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1. Start with Your Pet’s Personality

Before you start photographing your pet ask yourself ‘what sets it apart from other animals?’ Think about what type of personality it has and then attempt to capture some of that in your shots. For example if everyone knows your pet as a sleepy, lazy or placid little thing set up your photo shoot around it’s bed or where it goes after a meal to lie in the sun and you’ll have every chance of capturing a shot that sums your pet right up. Alternatively if your pet is hyperactive, inquisitive and always on the move it might be better to do your shoot at a local park where it’s racing around, jumping for balls or playing with other animals.

2. Think about Context

In choosing the location to photograph your pet you might want to consider a variety of other factors also. For starters choose a place where your pet will be comfortable and at ease. Also consider the familiarity of the location and the emotions that it will evoke in you as the pets owner. For example you might have a place that you and your pet have had some special moments together that will mean a lot in the future as you look back over your shots. Lastly consider the background of your shots. Ultimately you don’t want your backgrounds to be distracting from your photo – sometimes the best locations are the plainest ones – a large patch of green grass, a well lit room with white walls and plain carpet etc can be ideal. Of course this can also be tool plain and sterile – my motto is that if the different elements in the background of the shot don’t add to it avoid them.

Professional pet photography: 40 wonderful and cute pictures of photogenic cats - Blog of Francesco Mugnai:

3. Get in Close

Pets come in all shapes and sizes but in most cases they are smaller than a human and as a result they tend to end up getting a little lost in photos unless you make an effort to get up close to them. Of course getting close is not always easy, especially if you have a pet that likes to move around, but it’s worth making the effort as the detail that can be gained and the personality that can be captured by an up close and personal photo shoot with a pet can really lift a photo to a new level. If you can’t physically get close to your pet get your camera equipped with a zoom lens. The added benefit of a long focal length is that it will help with isolating your pet in terms of depth of field (ie give you a nice blurry background so that your pet is center of attention with no distractions).

4. Get On Their Level

Get down on your pets level where you can look upon them eye to eye. Images taken by a photographer standing up and looking down on their level not only leave you too far away from your subject but they also mean the shots end up having a very ‘human perspective’. Getting down on your pets level means you enter their world and get a glimpse of what life looks like from their angle – you’ll be impressed by the results as they are more personal and have a real element of intimacy.

5. Mix Up Your Framing

Pets, like human subjects’ look different from different angles and framing them in a variety of ways can bring out different perspectives to your shots. In your photo shoot take some tightly cropped facial shots (even focussing right in on single features like eyes, noses, ears, whiskers etc) but also make sure you take three quarter body shots as well as full body shots. In this way you end up with a series of shots that give viewers of your photos a full perspective on who your pet is.

6. Lighting

Light makes any photograph what it is and when it comes to pets it’s especially important. In general I wouldn’t recommend using a flash as they tend to distract pets and in some cases will even frighten them. The other issue with flashes is that they can create spooky red-eye problems with some animals (in the same way they do with humans). Natural light is a much better option than using a flash and so where possible outside photo shoots tend to work best (or at least in a well lit window inside). The only exception I would give for using a flash is when your pet has very dark (or black) fur as it tends to absorb light and a flash can add detail. With dark fury pets you might want to slightly over expose your images for this same reason. Alternatively with white pets you run the risk of over exposing shots so try to find a location out of direct sunlight and definitely avoid a flash.


7. Include People

One of the best things you can do to add context to a shot is to include the special people in the life of your pet in the image. Shots with the owner or other family members interacting with your pet can make the images incredibly special for years to come. You might like to try posed shots but sometimes it’s the candid shots of owner and pet at play (or snoozing together in front of a fire) that really capture the character of the pet and evoke emotion.

8. Freeze the Action

Many pets present a challenge to photographers because they are active and always on the move. The key with any subject that’s on the move is to freeze their action by using a fast shutter speed. Most digital cameras these days will allow you to shoot in full manual mode if you feel confident to get the mix between shutter and aperture right – alternatively you can work in shutter priority mode where you set the shutter speed and the camera automatically does the rest by picking a good aperture to work with your shutter speed. The last alternative is to use ‘sports’ mode which will mean the camera will select the fastest shutter speed possible for your situation. Once you’ve got your shutter speed nice and fast make sure your camera is always at the ready so you can anticipate the actions of your pet. If they are a fast mover you might also want to consider shooting in continuous mode (burst mode) to take a quick series of shots in a row. This can also lead to a wonderful sequence of shots that work well together.

9. Be Playful

Pets can be playful little critters and rather than attempting to contain this to get them posed for that special shot it’s often very effective to go with their playfulness and make it a central feature of your image. Include their toys, stimulate them to look longingly into your camera by holding a special treat above your head or take a picture with them sitting on top of you mid wrestle etc. Make your photo shoot a fun experience for both you and your pet and your shots are likely to reflect it.

10. Catch them Unawares

Posed shots can be fun and effective but one thing I love to do (whether it be with animals or people) is to photograph them candidly paparazzi style. I have very fond memories of stalking a friend’s dog as he played in a back yard one day. I took shots while he dug up flowers, as he buried a bone, as he fell chased a bee around and ask he sat contentedly with his head sticking out of his dog house. The whole time I photographed him he was barely aware of my presence so the shots were very natural without me distracting the dog from his ‘business’.

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Friday Fun!

Cats and OwlOwls under cover . . .






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From Ashes to Diamonds . . .

LifeGem is a company that offers the ability to turn the cremated remains of your loved one into diamonds.  And for many of us, a loved one includes a beloved pet!

The Chicago based company uses a four-step process: cremated remains are heated to 5,000 degrees Celsius, which reduces them to purified carbon. The carbon then goes into a diamond press, where heat and pressure are applied at the same time to create the gem. The entire process can take up to nine months.

Turning your dog to a diamond can range in price from $2,500 to $25,000.

LifeGem has also made a name for itself by turning a lock of hair from Ludwig van Beethoven into a diamond. It was auctioned for charity on eBay. The winning bid went to an international buyer who paid more than $200,000.

In our effort to memorialize our loved ones we need to make sure we’re making the most of the time we have with them while we’re alive.  Create and capture those special memories so when they are gone we have the ability to reflect on their part in our lives while we deal with the loss.  The ability to carry them with us in our hearts as well as a tangible mementos is so important.

Selected from Mother Nature Network.


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Friday Fun Stuff

May your Friday be filled with laughter and good friends!

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K9 Comfort Dogs

K9 Comfort Dogs Luther and Isaiah wait at the airport for their trip to Boston.

Lutheran Church Charities has been a tremendous resource during disasters, bringing a wide variety of volunteer resources for recovery and rebuilding.  But the volunteers who have been getting attention recently are the K9 Comfort Dogs.

A number of these furry, friendly volunteers have been working to bring comfort to those affected by the Boston Marathon bombings and survivors of the Sandy Hook elementary shootings.

On their Facebook page their mission statement reads:  A dog is a friend who brings a calming influence, allowing people to open up their hearts and receive help for what is affecting them.  You can follow them and their activities on Facebook or Twitter.

Animals bring a special and soothing kind of comfort, they don’t judge and they are easy to talk to.   K9 Comfort Dogs are used in churches, health care, schools, home visits and disaster response and all of the K9 Comfort Dogs are Golden Retrievers.

It is becoming more widely recognized how important our interactions with animals can help us with physical and emotional recovery.  A scientific study found that pet therapy can reduce the need for pain medication by 50% in patients recovering from joint replacement surgery.  AAT (Animal Assisted Therapy) is becoming more widely used and some hospitals are even allowing pets to visit their humans while they are patients.

Our furry companions enrich our daily lives in many ways and we have come a long way in recognizing how important they are to our well being.  We need to continue to advocate for their inclusion in all aspects of our life and help support organizations who train and make service animals available.


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World’s Oldest Cat?

World’s Oldest Cat?

Wadsworth, the golden-eyed tuxedo cat, began life as a sickly runt who was abandoned at an English pub called Horse and Jockey. The pub owner Ann Munday found the wobbly pathetic-looking kitten and brought him home. ”He was a tiny and very poor little thing, so it’s a miracle he has survived,” reminisced Ann on Wadsworth’s most recent birthday.

Wadsworth turned 27!


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Friday Fun Stuff

This gallery contains 2 photos.

I have been receiving some very cute and funny suggestions for posts.  Fridays seem a great day to share these so we can end our very busy weeks with a smile. Make sure you spend some extra time this weekend … Continue reading

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How Will I Know it’s Time?

In my February post I shared that we had lost Duncan, our cat and a long time companion.  Because we had to make the decision to put him to sleep within a few hours of taking him to the vet I did a lot of research afterward.  I wanted to reassure myself that we had made the right decision and I wanted to add to my understanding for the future.

It goes with the territory, if you take on the responsibility of a pet you will be making many decisions about their welfare and possibly about ending their suffering.  Accepting a pet into your life requires some thought on how you will make that decision.

One of the first considerations is the comfort of your pet.  This is often hard to discern.  For example two dogs can both have the same type of health issue, one could obviously be injured but wagging their tail and the other may be yelping and crying in extreme pain.  The more stoic pet can make it difficult to determine their true comfort.  In our case, Duncan was just as affectionate if not more so as he progressed through the kidney disease.  This made us hesitant to make the decision until we were very clear that his body was shutting down and surgical intervention was not a viable option.

The second consideration is how is your pet managing their body functions.  I took Duncan to the vet that morning because he was very agitated getting in and out of the litter box.  It was clear he was in discomfort and that he was not able to defecate.  If your pet is unable to urinate or defecate on its own, or if they are unable to stand up or walk on their own you could determine their quality of life is fairly poor.

Is your pet eating?  If you are dealing with old age or an illness, once a cat or dog stops eating that’s often a clear sign that they are nearing the end.

If your pet has been diagnosed with a terminal illness, you need to discuss the stages of the disease and potential treatments.  You need to ask yourself if you can afford treatment and if you’re willing to deal with the care that may be associated with any treatments.

One of the fundamental question you have to ask yourself, if it is in the best interest of your pet to extend their life or are you extending their life for your own personal needs?  That was really the fundamental question we were dealing with in Duncan’s case.  If we asked the vet to do surgery, it was not a good prognosis that he would even survive the surgery.  Then if we were willing to see Duncan only in the vet office for the next three days because he would have to be on intravenous fluids.  Then he would have to be taken back, possibly daily, to have more intravenous fluids.  We both knew that wasn’t the quality of life Duncan would want and that made the decision clearer.

Other considerations:

  • You may find that everyone feels free to tell you what to do, but the responsibility for this choice is yours. This can be more difficult when a couple disagrees, but it can still weigh heavily on a single person.
  • Your vet can delay but not prevent the inevitable. No veterinarian should make you feel guilty for choosing not to pursue treatment, even if you can afford it.
  • If your veterinarian is advising euthanasia and you’re reluctant, take a close look at your own motives and see if they’re for your benefit or your pet’s.
  • Choosing euthanasia allows you to be with your pet when they pass, so they are not alone.  But if you feel you cannot handle this it’s better not to be there.
  • Most people agree that it’s better to euthanize a day too early rather than a day too late.  People often say, “You’ll know when it’s time.” In many cases that’s true, but not always.  Considering how you would make the decision in advance of being faced with it can help you when that time comes.
  • Choosing euthanasia is not “playing God” any more than providing medical treatment to save a life is.

Most importantly, find reliable resources to educate yourself on health issues your pets may be facing at some time in their lives.  Your vet is one of the best resources, your local shelter or Humane Society is another.  There are many resources online that offer diverse perspectives on pet illnesses, treatment alternatives, euthanasia and behavior.

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Can You Write Your Way to Health?

Did your New Year resolution have anything to do with committing to a healthier life?  Along with the commitment to early morning runs or signing up for an exercise did you consider a writing class?

A number of studies show we can write our way to better emotional, mental and physical health.

In two randomized, controlled trials published in Human Communication Research, healthy college students who spent 20 minutes writing about their affection for loved ones (friends, relatives, and/or romantic partners) experienced significant drops in total cholesterol (the mean cholesterol levels reduced from 170 mg/dL to 159 mg/dL), while students in the control group, who wrote about random topics, did not. Try it out!

Dr. James Pennebaker, Chair of Psychology, at the University of Texas, Austin coined the term “Expressive Writing” (1). In his landmark research project, Pennebaker developed an expressive writing prompt to uncover the potential health benefits of writing about emotional turmoil. Pennebaker’s research project has been replicated hundreds of times with positive outcomes. The prompt and subsequent studies are often referred to as the Pennebaker Paradigm.

You don’t have to be a professional writer to write yourself healthy.  The following guidelines are from Dr. Pennebaker’s website.

Find a time and place where you won’t be disturbed. Ideally, pick a time at the end of your workday or before you go to bed.

Commit to yourself that you will write for a minimum of 15 minutes a day for at least 3 or 4 successive days.

Once you begin writing, write continuously. Don’t worry about spelling or grammar. If you run out of things to write about, just repeat what you have already written.

You can write longhand or you can type on a computer. If you are unable to write, you can also talk into a tape recorder.

You can write about the same thing on all 3-4 days of writing or you can write about something different each day. It is entirely up to you.  You can write about something that you are thinking or worrying about too much, that you’re  dreaming about, that you feel is affecting your life in an unhealthy way or that you have been avoiding for days, weeks, or years.

Here is a sample of writing instructions:
Over the next four days, I want you to write about your deepest emotions and thoughts about the most upsetting experience in your life. Really let go and explore your feelings and thoughts about it. In your writing, you might tie this experience to your childhood, your relationship with your parents, people you have loved or love now, or even your career. How is this experience related to who you would like to become, who you have been in the past, or who you are now?

Many people have not had a single traumatic experience but all of us have had major conflicts or stressors in our lives and you can write about them as well. You can write about the same issue every day or a series of different issues. Whatever you choose to write about, however, it is critical that you really let go and explore your very deepest emotions and thoughts.

Many people report that after writing, they sometimes feel somewhat sad or depressed. Like seeing a sad movie, this typically goes away in a couple of hours. If you find that you are getting extremely upset about a writing topic, simply stop writing or change topics.

Your writing samples are for you and for you only. Their purpose is for you to be completely honest with yourself. When writing, secretly plan to throw away your writing when you are finished. Whether you keep it or save it is really up to you.

Some people keep their samples and edit them. That is, they gradually change their writing from day to day. Others simply keep them and return to them over and over again to see how they have changed.  Or you can burn, shred or flush them. Tear them into little pieces and toss them into the ocean or let the wind take them away.

Another writing method for healthy outcomes is journaling when you’re reading developmental books.  It assists in discerning patterns of behaviors, getting a clearer sense of issues you may be dealing with and assessing realistic goals when you are attempting to make healthy changes in your life.

If any of this is too daunting there are many great journals available that can walk you through the writing process with prompts that stimulate ideas for writing about yourself or loved ones in your life, including the special dog, cat or horse in your life!

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Losing a Beloved Pet

100_1868I had planned on writing on dealing with the loss of a pet in January and suddenly found myself in the midst of making the decision to put our beloved tabby cat, Duncan, to sleep.

Duncan turned 15 this past year.  He had started to drink water constantly and had slowed down considerably.  The vet confirmed after blood tests that we were dealing with kidney failure but we were hopeful it was something we could manage for as long as possible.  Last month he took a very sudden turn for the worse and within hours of taking him to the vet we had to make the decision to let him go.

Making the decision to end the suffering of a pet is always hard.  Duncan was one of many cats I’ve had the pleasure of loving and caring for throughout my life.  I grew up with pets and my husband and I have acknowledged that no matter what eventual grief you face in losing a pet, living without pets is not an alternative.  I will be writing more about how to understand more about when to make that decision in future blogs.

Dealing with the immediate loss is devastating.  So many things remind us daily of Duncan and the big hole he left in our life.  Duncan’s favorite cat bed empty, the lack of his presence in the bathroom as we got ready for work, his distinctive step coming down the basement stairs as he came to greet us when we came home.  Duncan also loved people and greeted everyone who came to our house, so we have been blessed with many friends expressing their sympathy but also reminded everywhere we go that he’s gone.

Even though we have 3 other cats that are now being lavished with additional attention, we still feel the loss.  Any pet parent can attest to the hole left in their lives when a beloved pet is gone.  And I have heard some vow to never have another pet again, that they just cannot face another loss like that.

When we bring a pet into our life, we do have to acknowledge that in most cases, we will outlive that pet.  And we have the privilege and responsibility of caring for that pet and of being prepared to make the decision to ease that pet’s suffering when it comes time.   And my husband and I are willing plan to keep ourselves open to that next cat needing a good home and lots of love and attention.

I will leave you with Cleveland Amory’s words, “Unlike some people who have experienced the loss of an animal, I did not believe, even for a moment, that I would never get another. I did know full well that there were just too many animals out there in need of homes for me to take what I have always regarded as the self-indulgent road of saying the heartbreak of the loss of an animal was too much ever to want to go through with it again.

To me, such an admission brought up the far more powerful admission that all the wonderful times you had with your animal were not worth the unhappiness at the end.”

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