Animal Chronicles: Picture it — capturing your pet’s best photo

Woman takes photo of dog while lying in grass

Liz Greer has photographed more than 1,000 animals for nonprofit shelters. (photo provided)


The Animal Protective Foundation (APF) is launching its second Pet Calendar Photo Contest today — and your pet could be on the cover or be Pet of the Month!

But competition is going to be fierce, so here are some ways to ensure that your pet is putting its best paw (or hoof, or wing … ) forward in your photo. You don’t need a fancy camera to take a great animal photograph — just grab your phone or point-and-shoot camera, and keep these tips in mind:

Pay attention to light. Photograph your pet near a window if indoors, or outdoors in the shade if it’s a bright sunny day (to avoid harsh glare and squinting). Especially with dark-furred animals, make sure there’s enough light to really see their eyes.

Show your pet’s personality. This could be a typical expression on their face, showing them having a good time playing with other animals or people, or different moods. Try to show the “truth” of your pet: For example, does your very high-energy dog also take rest breaks? If so, try to capture both. It’s fun to see your animals playing well with each other and with kids in your household. If your pet’s personality is more playful or reserved, try to show that. You might also choose to show which environments they enjoy best, such as napping in a sunny spot or out running in a field or at the beach. With dogs, try to make some unusual noises to get a cute head tilt. Make sure your pet looks relaxed — the ears should be alert (not pinned back in a fearful posture) — and their body language should be loose and casual.

Try to get a low angle. See if you can get your eyes to be on the same plane as your pet’s eyes. You might even need to get on the floor. A direct gaze into the camera, rather than looking up at it, can create a really nice connection with the viewer.

Remove distractions. Notice what else is in the photo that you’re taking. Keep in mind that the camera “flattens” everything and doesn’t show depth as well as our natural vision does. If there’s a lot of stuff in the background that isn’t adding to the picture, remove it (or photograph from a different spot) so viewers can better see your pet. Try shooting with a plain wall in the background or against a pretty curtain.
Along those lines, try to contrast your pet with the background. Show a dark-furred animal against a light-colored wall and vice versa. A black-furred puppy being held by a person in a black T-shirt just disappears.

Consider your options to edit in your phone camera. Do you want the viewer to focus on your pet’s soulful eyes or the way that their whole body bounces while running? You can play with different crops to zoom in or include more. If there are a lot of colors in your photo you might want to see what it looks like in black and white, as that can be less distracting. If your photo includes a landscape and the horizon is crooked, consider straightening it using the tools in your phone. Feel free to “play” until it’s just right — but don’t go too crazy with filters, as they can sometimes take away from the impact of your image. Less is often more when it comes to editing.

That’s it — grab your pet and your phone/camera, and have some fun!

To learn more about APF’s Pet Calendar Photo Contest, visit or email [email protected]

Photographing dogs and people is Liz Greer’s obsession, and she has donated her time and talents photographing more than 1,000 animals for nonprofit shelters.

APF contributes Animal Chronicles articles and welcomes animal-related questions and stories about the people and animals in our community. Visit, follow us on social media @AnimalProtectiveFoundation or email [email protected]

Categories: Life and Arts

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