Pet images is each difficult and intensely rewarding. It’s possible you’ll actually take pleasure in taking footage of your personal pets however should you apply a number of the basic guidelines that apply to all pet images with studio lighting, you possibly can actually assist you up your recreation.

The important thing to all pet images is to get what seems to be an emotional reference to the animal being photographed. In case you don’t try this, all the pictures will look extra like snapshots and fewer like portraits.

Upping your recreation.

The Setup

You don’t want to be enormous area however you do want some room to work. Ideally, a studio setup consists of:

  • Lighting
  • A backdrop
  • Flooring
  • Elevated furnishings or a platform
  • Distant triggers

You will want sufficient area to get in entrance of the canine or cat such that the backdrop fills the background. You additionally want to think about that animals transfer and won’t keep nonetheless in a really small confined space. Ideally, you want no less than about 10 toes extensive by about 25 toes depth. Additionally, you will want some area between your topic and the backdrop.

This association will accommodate most pets besides bigger canines. Giant canines want much more area. The bigger they’re, the more room you want. You additionally want to consider what they are going to be stepping on and if their paws are clear. Seamless paper is a superb backdrop however is it not a terrific materials for animals to step on as they depart footprints.

Tips for Great Lighting for Pet Photography

Setups for pet images might be simply this straightforward.

Be Ready for Accidents

With any pet images, you need to anticipate accidents. Applicable cleansing provides are a should. Be ready for each #1 (urine) and #2 (feces) accidents. Canines are a lot worse than cats. Older canines are inclined to have fewer accidents than youthful canines, whereas puppies continuously have accidents.

In case you are coping with a number of animals (at totally different occasions), you must additionally contemplate cross-contamination management measures. Good antiseptic cleaners with some bleach will work nicely. You will want cleaners with enzymes to interrupt down pet urine for the occasional territory markers. More durable surfaces are simpler to scrub than gentle surfaces.


Backdrops are helpful and you may get inventive with what you utilize. Seamless paper is a superb possibility however you’ll undergo it comparatively quick and animals that stroll on seamless paper will usually scare themselves with the noise from the paper shifting.

You additionally want to think about what the animals will stand or sit on. Melamine surfaces are nice for flooring choices however some animals don’t like being on melamine and the seams could should be edited out in post-production if they’re too seen.

Toys and treats for cats and canines.

Equip your area with numerous animal-specific toys and treats out there and able to attain. Cats and canines will not be eager about the identical sorts of toys or treats. All the time ask if an animal has allergy symptoms earlier than giving them any treats or higher but, ask the proprietor to convey some treats that their pet likes.

Digicam Gear

Most fashionable digital digital camera tools will work for pet images however you must take into consideration a couple of issues.

Ideally, your digital camera must focus quick, ideally with a dependable steady autofocus capacity. In case you are utilizing strobes, you may be focusing underneath decrease lighting situations than the eventual shot. Sluggish focusing or lack of ability to shoot rapidly will imply you miss the shot or have numerous photos out of focus.

You may have restricted time, so you must be cognizant of your animal. Normally, you will have a wider lens (you need to most likely begin with a quick zoom lens), notably if you’re utilizing a smaller area however wider lenses can imply your picture is wider than your backdrop. Lengthy lenses will compress options however except you might have an assistant to assist wrangle the animal, you’ll seemingly should be shut sufficient to succeed in the animal to do it your self.

gear for pet photography - Tips for Great Lighting for Pet Photography

Primary digital camera gear for pet images – digital camera, flash, and triggers.

Lighting is essential and except you’re looking at utilizing steady (LED) lighting, additionally, you will want a dependable strategy to set off your lights. In your area, you need to be capable of management your lighting to get the specified impact. In case you are utilizing strobes or speedlights, you want a strategy to set off the flashes.

Radio controls (costliest possibility) are considerably simpler to make use of than both optical slaves (speedlights) or cables (tripping hazard). Be sure to are conversant in your tools earlier than the animal to be photographed exhibits up.

Primary Guidelines for All Pet Images

There are a couple of fundamental guidelines for pet images that apply to every type not simply within the studio, however develop into extra necessary when you might have pets in your area. You usually have extra management over your surroundings within the studio. Since you are in your personal area, you possibly can plan to handle every merchandise for the animal earlier than they arrive and adapt your surroundings for the actual necessities of every animal.

Be Calm

white dog - Tips for Great Lighting for Pet Photography

Calm individual = calm canine.

Chill out, pets really feel your vitality. In case you are nervous or speak an excessive amount of, they are going to really feel it and develop into nervous as nicely. In case you are calm, they are going to be calmer (NOTE: I didn’t say they’d be calm).

By no means assume a canine or cat will probably be calm, however you don’t need to make it tougher for you for the pet. They’ll usually be scared or anxious about new environment or that machine you retain placing as much as your face between you and the animal.

No matter you do, don’t yell or strike on the animals. They don’t converse languages you simply perceive. Be sure to perceive the warning indicators from animals when they’re nervous. With canines, yawning is usually an indication of tension and generally is a warning simply as it’s with low growling. With cats, ears again is normally an indication of a cat feeling fairly threatened.

dog with red bandana - Tips for Great Lighting for Pet Photography

Older animals are typically calmer.

Get to Their Stage

It’s actually necessary for all pets, it doesn’t matter what measurement and form, that you just get all the way down to their degree. You’ll be able to take a couple of totally different approaches to this however ultimately, you must discover a strategy to be on the eye degree (not under) of the pet you might be photographing.

Many starting photographers take footage of their pets from a standing place and after their outcomes, they will’t determine why they’re unhappy with their photos. Attending to eye degree is a comparatively common requirement for all animal images, not only for pets.

grey cat - Tips for Great Lighting for Pet Photography

Get all the way down to their degree.

Attending to their degree can both imply you go all the way down to their eye top or they stand up greater, nearer to your top. The perfect factor to do is to get down and soiled at their degree, notably with bigger animals.

However with smaller animals, you may also convey them as much as a better degree with ottomans, tables, and chairs. With greater surfaces, you then want to fret about wrangling the animal in order that they don’t fall or bounce off the desk or chair. Puppies and kittens will usually fall off tables.

Get Their Consideration and Their Eyes

To be able to join with an animal, you want to have the ability to see their eyes and specifically the catchlights of their eyes. No eye contact means no connection, however you don’t solely want the animal watching you.

Animal eyes are formed in another way than human eyes so the catchlights could have a barely totally different look than these in folks’s eyes. There are two faculties of thought concerning pet eye catchlights (i.e. one versus two catchlights). In human portraiture, sometimes it’s taboo to have two catchlights within the eyes, however some pet images works nicely with two catchlights due to the totally different eyeball form.

Tips for Great Lighting for Pet Photography - black and white kitten

Having two catchlights in some pets eyes, like this little kitty, is okay.

Some pets could watch you while you {photograph} them however most don’t. Eye contact might be aggressive to them. As well as, as quickly as you place the machine (digital camera) as much as your face, you’ll now not be seen to them. As quickly as your face disappears, normally so does the animal’s consideration. Getting an animal’s consideration is normally a operate of the kind of animal.

For cats, laser pointers, toys, and strings can assist focus their consideration, treats much less so. Some cats additionally will probably be targeted on treats however this normally shouldn’t be your first selection. For canines, squeakers, toys, and treats are at all times a very good strategy, so is making unusual noises. However don’t give them the toy except you need it in each shot. Once more use treats because the final resort however they work nicely with many, however not all, canines.

Totally different animals are motivated by totally different attention-getting units. Treats will get them to maneuver and infrequently makes for fascinating motion photographs, though I discover treats work higher for canines than for cats. Bear in mind to test for allergy symptoms earlier than giving treats. All the time use very small sized treats in any other case the animal will replenish in your treats and you’ll lose their consideration.

Editor’s observe: An excellent higher thought is to get the proprietor to convey some treats that their pet likes, and which they approve of giving to their animal.

Tips for Great Lighting for Pet Photography

Transfer Rapidly

All pets have a restricted consideration span, sometimes 15 minutes is the utmost time you’ll get from begin to end. It’s best to maneuver rapidly and attempt to get your finest images early within the shoot as a result of as time passes, the attention-getting-object, toy, or deal with will put on skinny and they’re going to develop into disinterested.

Planning is one of the best ways to arrange and get the shot the way in which you need. So plan your shoots and take into consideration learn how to finest spotlight the animal. Props typically work, like baskets for cats (above) or feather boas for canines (under).

Tips for Great Lighting for Pet Photography

Maintain the Velocity Up

You should set your shutter pace to one thing comparatively fast. In case you are utilizing strobes or speedlights, you will have to make use of the perfect pace that works together with your tools.

With speedlights, you gained’t be capable of shoot in bursts due to the recharge or recycle time. Even with strobes, you must guarantee your strobes can take a number of photographs in fast succession. Usually for studio work and strobes, a shutter pace of 1/160th or barely quicker is the restrict of your digital camera (flash sync speeds differ, test your digital camera person handbook).

Even if you’re utilizing steady lighting you will have to get your shutter pace up simply to freeze the picture as a result of animals can transfer rapidly.

grey and white cat - Tips for Great Lighting for Pet Photography

A quick shutter pace will freeze motion of the animal.

Use Steady Monitoring Focus

Pets transfer rapidly, so focusing is hard, actually robust. Single shot focusing no matter how fast your digital camera focuses will seemingly imply that almost all of your photographs will miss. Usually after getting a spotlight lock, pets will transfer away out of your targeted location by the point you are taking the picture.

Many fashionable cameras are actually able to monitoring objects and specializing in shifting targets. Steady monitoring permits for changes because the pets transfer. In case your digital camera has steady monitoring focus you must use it. In any other case, most of your photos will probably be out of focus.

Shoot in Quick Fast Bursts


Spray and pray is mostly a horrible strategy to take images. It normally implies a photographer didn’t take the time to arrange a shot, however within the case of pet images, it’s normally the alternative.

dog in a basket - Tips for Great Lighting for Pet Photography

As you might be awaiting the decisive second, you are taking a brief burst of photos (supplied your lighting can sustain) as a result of you’ll seemingly have a number of photos in a sequence which are good. Nonetheless, with pet images, considered use of rapid-fire bursts can result in gorgeous photos. The key is to anticipate the second and get a very good focus lock. I personally use again button focus particularly to carry the continual focus unbiased from the picture taking.

Suggestions and Tails

With pets, if you’re taking a picture of your entire physique, you must embrace the guidelines and tails of that animal. You need your entire animal throughout the body. You’ll be able to deliberately crop for a detailed up of their face, however you lose one thing if you’re lacking the guidelines of their ears or the tip of their tail.

Lacking physique elements make for incomplete wanting photos. One of the simplest ways to strategy the pictures is to recollect the catchphrase, “Suggestions and Tails”. All the time attempt to get the guidelines of their ears and the tip of their tail throughout the body. As well as, the identical fundamental guidelines for human portraiture additionally apply to pets, particularly for tighter photographs the place you need to by no means crop a picture on the topic’s joints.

German Shepard puppy - Tips for Great Lighting for Pet Photography

Suggestions and Tails – I simply acquired the tip of this pet’s tail within the shot. Cropping off a part of it provides the tail an amputated look you need to keep away from.

Additionally, in contrast to people, most pets have longer noses, so it’s usually higher should you get their whole face in focus. Wider apertures will find yourself with the nostril out of focus which is rather more noticeable with pet images versus human portraits.

Get the entire face sharp. This picture doesn’t work due to the cropped of paw and out of focus nostril. 

Studio Lighting

Lighting in a studio means managed lighting. Earlier than you begin utilizing strobes, you will have to seek out out if the animal is delicate to flashes. Whereas strobes are the brightest lights out there, that brightness generally is a drawback if the animals are delicate and hate them or get simply startled.

The simplest strategy to see in the event that they react negatively to the strobes is to manually hearth the strobe whereas establishing earlier than the animal is in place. It is going to be actually apparent if the animal reacts to it. You’ll want a backup plan if they’re terrified of the flash.

Tips for Great Lighting for Pet Photography - grey kitty

Strobes are finest.

Taking pictures within the studio lets you management the sunshine however you must assess the perfect type of lighting in your wants. There are usually three choices, speedlights (the moveable ones that go on the new shoe in your digital camera), strobes (dedicate studio flashes that normally plug into an outlet), or steady lights.

Strobes present probably the most highly effective lighting for the bottom value however some animals are actually delicate to the flashes from strobes or speedlights. Steady lighting has been actually advancing currently however so as to have the ability to use them for pets, you want a good bit of sunshine to maintain the shutter pace up. Steady lights which are actually brilliant are very costly.

Lighting Setup

Lighting a pet within the studio is totally different than lighting folks. Usually you possibly can mild an individual and get a first rate picture with just one mild. You’ll be able to create drama with shadows utilizing lengthy and quick lighting strategies.

With pets, you might be higher off lighting them with a key and fill mild in fairly even proportions to at least one one other with a a lot smaller distinction within the depth of the 2 lights (mild ratio). Pet images advantages from the tremendous sharpness of having the ability to see all the main points in a pet’s fur. Deep shadows have a tendency to cover these particulars. Portraiture strategies reminiscent of butterfly lighting and Rembrandt lighting simply don’t actually work for pets.

Tips for Great Lighting for Pet Photography

Primary pet lighting setup.

An incredible lighting setup makes use of three medium softboxes: a key mild and important mild at 45-degrees on both facet of the pet, and a hair mild coming from above and behind the animal (see lighting diagram above).

Why? This arrange works nicely as a result of you possibly can mild the animal comparatively evenly. Bear in mind you might be lighting an animal that’s a lot shorter than you. Utilizing this setup provides you room to get between the important thing and the fill mild which are fairly low to the bottom. Typically the important thing and fill lights are centered about 4-5 toes off the bottom.

The hair mild offers some separation from the background and is mostly not set at a excessive energy. Separation is necessary, notably if the animal has a darkish coat and you’ve got a darkish background. I usually use the important thing mild at about 25% extra mild than the fill mild, however the setup works even when the lights are near the identical energy.

Utilizing Strobes Often Means Guide Mode

Whereas there are TTL strobes out there, they’re fairly dear. Manually triggered strobes are available and might usually be bought used for very cheap prices. Normally, for pet images, you possibly can shoot solely in handbook mode with manually triggered strobes and get nice outcomes.

As a result of pet images tends to make use of a less complicated lighting setup, through the use of manually triggered strobes, as soon as your lighting is ready up you possibly can merely give attention to wrangling the animal and getting the perfect photographs. The rule of flash or strobe images is that shutter pace controls the background publicity and aperture controls the flash. In handbook mode, you possibly can set the ability of the strobes and shoot.

Colour forged

If you find yourself capturing with strobes, relying upon how costly your strobes are, there generally is a good bit of vary for colour temperature out of your lights. You need to guarantee the one supply of sunshine is your strobes as a result of different lights, together with tungsten and fluorescent lights, will create a colour forged and your picture that’s troublesome to take away.

It’s best to arrange and do a grey card take a look at earlier than you begin capturing to get your white stability proper. You’ll be able to both use a custom-made white stability in your digital camera or if you’re capturing in RAW, you possibly can manually modify the pictures later in your RAW processing software program.

Usually letting your digital camera select through the use of Computerized White Steadiness, with strobes signifies that the colour will differ from picture to picture. Setting it forward of time with a customized white stability or a grey card calibration means you can give attention to the picture fairly than altering white stability in your photos. It means much less processing work to do later as nicely.

Tips for Great Lighting for Pet Photography - black dog with a red collar

Pay attention to colour casts.

Background Colour Versus Animal Colour

Whenever you take footage of animals it’s at all times good to think about the dominant colour of the animal’s coat relative to the background. It’s best to not have the identical colour for each, though it may well work out.

What this implies is don’t use seamless white paper as a background for a white canine or a black background for a black cat. You want to have the ability to adapt on the fly and typically you possibly can’t keep away from it with animals which are blended within the colour of their coat (e.g. a black and white cat).

It’s also good to make sure the colour of the fabric that the animal is sitting on through the session works with the colour of their coat and that of the background.

Tips for Great Lighting for Pet Photography

Be sure to have distinction between the colour of the animal and that of the background.


The final tip is a straightforward one however one which isn’t too apparent. When animals are wired they have a tendency to shed. Animals get burdened while you {photograph} them. Because of this there will probably be fur coming off them, typically in giant quantities.

In case you are utilizing furnishings to raise an animal, simply count on that their fur will get in every single place. Attempt to preserve the furnishings clear earlier than you begin and chances are you’ll even need to contact it up as you go as a result of eradicating the contrasting hairs from the furnishings generally is a tedious course of in post-processing.


Studio photographs of pet look superior. With a little bit of preparation, you may get high-quality photos that present nice drama and reference to the animal. The strategy is similar as with every different animal images however within the studio, you possibly can management the sunshine and the background rather more permitting for higher outcomes.

If in case you have any questions for feedback, be at liberty to drop me a remark under. Blissful capturing!


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