We've covered the basics of pet photography in a previous lesson. Now, it's time to move your pet photos from good to fabulous with these three photography rules on how to photograph your pet.
Work on the Pet's Time
The basic pet photography lesson touched on this idea but it bears repeating. When working with pets (whatever size, shape, or temperament), you are working on their time. The fastest way to ruin a pet photo is to try to force the pet to do something it does not want to do. When photographing pets, plan ahead and allow plenty of time. Unless you are capturing a spur of the moment event, you'll almost always need at least 30 minutes with each subject. If the pet is unfamiliar with your studio (or other shooting location) you'll likely need at least an hour. This is because the pet will have to get used to the location before they calm down enough for reasonable photographs.
Get on the Pet's Level
Get on eye level with the pet. Unless I am working with a posing table and several assistants, the vast majority of my pet photography is shot while lying on my stomach. Shooting closer to even with the eye line of the pet helps to connect the subject with the viewer in a much more powerful way than shooting looking down at the pet from a distance. You can also try shooting while looking up at the pet for a very different viewpoint.
Give the Pet Space to Move
Some pets are very well trained and sit still easily. Most however, move around a lot. Shoot in a relatively large area with a large background to allow yourself maximum shooting opportunities as the pet moves. There is little worse than getting the perfect expression with part of the background, part of the wall, and a jumble of lighting wires behind the subject. If you can set up barriers (pet gates or even a few empty cardboard boxes) at the edge of your background to encourage the pet to stay within the desired shooting area. Assistants are very helpful at keeping pets in the right area as well.