How to Take Creative Pet Portraits in Studio

Written by Backdrop Express Photography Team on . Posted in Pet Photography, Photography Tips

Pet Portraits

Ahh, our pets! Where would we be without them? They bring us joy, make us laugh and comfort us when we’re under the weather. They give us unconditional love like no one else. What better way to pay homage to that special friend than with a pet photography session?

Unfortunately, the perceived difficulties of undertaking pet portraits cause many not to attempt it. However, with a little planning, preparation and patience, you can capture amazing pet portraits of your (or your client’s) best furry friend right in your studio. Consider these key tips for conveying the true personality of an animal in pet portraits:

How to Work With Pets In a Studio Environment

1. Familiar Props

Having familiar toys and things from home can help the shoot go much more smoothly. Encourage the pet owner to bring along favorite toys, their stuffed pet bed, a favorite leash, blanket, etc. to help them acclimate faster. Try and find ways to incorporate these items into the shoot as props.

2. Get to Know Them

If you’re shooting your own pet, you know them best of all; if you’re photographing someone else’s pet, learn all you can about them before shooting. What is the pet known for? What are their preferences, foibles and favorite things? Find out if any of their personality quirks could affect the shoot (such as skittishness, barking or reacting to sudden movements.) Play with the pet with the owner nearby. Have treats handy and work up to being able to pet them. Gain their trust first, and the shoot will go much smoother.

Pet Photography BackdropsFeaturing: Blue Seamless Backdrop Paper

3. Show Them Your Gear

After getting to know one another, bring out your camera and let them smell it a bit. Click the shutter and see how they respond. Back away gradually and take a shot or two. Continue with some impromptu shots until the pet is familiar with the process, then have the owner guide them to your studio setup. Let them sniff and explore the light stands or props for a bit; finally, position the pet in front of the backdrop.

4. The Bribe

If all else fails, bribe them with treats! Remember that a studio setting likely won’t be familiar or comforting to a pet. Be generous with treats, especially when they are sitting still or doing what you wish. Treats will help calm them down as they adjust to what’s going on. Be ready to just “go with the flow” for the first part of the shoot if a pet won’t cooperate. In the meantime, capture candid action shots as the pet explores the studio setting. They will eventually tire out — guide them to the background and see if they’ll lie down in front of it.

5. Get Down to Their Level

Eyes are the window to the soul, even for animals. Getting down to their level allows you to capture them from an “eye-level” perspective. For many animals, having you down at their level makes them feel more comfortable, making it easier for the pet to look at you & engage with you during the photo shoot.

Pet Photography BackdropsFeaturing: Charcoal / Blueberry Reversible Muslin | Courtesy of Debbi Daniels Photography


6. Avoid Using Flash

Bright flashes, especially for animals that are not used to being photographed, can be frightening and confusing. Flashes are also very lightly to create red-eyes which can create problems when you’re trying to show off those  big adorable puppy eyes.

Creative Studio Set Up’s for Pets

Each pet has their own unique look & personality. Great pet portraits are ones that are able to capture that unique personality. One way to help achieve this goal is to match the studio setup to the pet’s personality. Here are some fun, out-of-the-box ideas to get your creativity flowing:

7. Life of the Party

Is the pet an extrovert who loves being the center of attention? Why not add some balloons to the set, outfit them with a colorful hat and create a festive party theme. Pet portraits are a fun idea for any pet’s birthday as well.

Pet Photography BackdropsFeaturing: Cake Sprinkles & Whitewash Printed / Floordrop Kit

8. Choose a Bold Backdrop Color

Animals come in all shapes, sizes & colors, so why not choose a backdrop color that compliments your subject’s unique appearance. With 68 different colors of seamless paper, you won’t be short of options. Also see: What Color of Seamless Paper Should You Use?

Pet Photography BackdropsPhoto by: Dogpatch Studio, Featuring: Orange Seamless Paper

9. Crime Fighter

Is your pet a diligent, reliable watch dog? Why not put a cape around his neck with a Batman mask or police hat to bring out his crime fighter persona?

Pet Photography BackdropsFeaturing: 3D Cityscape Printed Backdrop 

10. A Festive Look

Is it the holiday season, and does your pet know how to rock a Santa hat or reindeer ears with holiday pajamas? Snap him in front of a Christmas tree, with a bow on or with presents all around him! Check out our holiday themed backdrops for more ideas.

Pet Photography Backdrops

11. Star Pupil

Is the pet a puppy who just graduated from puppy obedience school? Why not snap them in front of a school room backdrop in an adorable cap and gown?

Pet Photography BackdropsFeaturing: Blackboard & Handscraped Oak Printed / Floordrop Kit

12. Elegance and Class

Are they a quiet, sophisticated kind of creature? A sleek, subtle wood floordrop and classic damask background could be the perfect pairing.

Pet Photography BackdropsFeaturing: Black Damask & Brazillian Cherry Floordrop Set

-Backdrop Express Photography Team

Interested in learning more about pet photography? Check out 12 Tips for Capturing Great Holiday Photos of Your Pet!

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