Photographing Your Pets

Photography Tips

Photographing your pets can be daunting but I hope some of these tips help. You may also find my faq’s has extra information that could be useful.

The best photographs are taken with a digital camera if possible, not a phone or ipad.  Phone cameras are great for capturing photos quickly and easily, but the quality isn’t usually good enough for this purpose. You just can’t capture the detail needed for pet portraits.  The clearer and more detailed the photo, the better the final portrait will be.  A good close-up photograph that is sharp is ideal.

Close up of Alex the Springer Spaniel
Alex the Springer Spaniel

A good pose with reasonable detail showing.  His collar has been taken off, which you can do if you prefer but this is personal choice.  The photo is slightly out of focus but is workable.  I may not be able to achieve one of my fullest detailed portraits, but it would be very close.

With collar or without?

Please provide a selection of photographs of your pet, if possible four or five but as many as possible really.  Try to choose at least one that you think shows the character or typical expression.  Also, make sure you get the exact pose you want as this will be the pose for the painting.  Dogs and cats look good when sitting rather than lying down.  If you’d like the collar in the portrait, make sure it can be seen.  However, if you don’t want it, then remove it; a collar can distort the way the fur lays.  If you’re photographing a horse and the bridle can’t be removed completely, try slipping a lead rope around the neck.  This way the face isn’t obscured.

This was taken on a bright sunny day.  The mouth and body are OK.  Unfortunately the top of the head and left side of the nose has been bleached out too much by the sun.

Molly - Blue Roan Cocker Spaniel
Poppy in the bluebell field

                 A lovely full body photo with a detailed surrounding. 

Close ups
If you want a drawing of the whole body, please take some close-up photos of the head as well.  I work from one main image but the others are useful for eye colour, coat colour etc.  The more information I have the better.  Try taking several close up photographs filling the frame with the face.  If possible, take extra photographs of the eyes, nose and ears so that I have good, sharp, detailed photos to work from.  Please email photographs at their original size so that the detail isn’t lost by reducing the size.
Poppy the Cavapoo

This photograph has good lighting & contrast. You can see all the details in the fur.  The face is in focus and the eyes are open and bright, with the light reflecting in them. 

This is my little dog.  She’s a real princess and is unimpressed by most things. 

She follows me absolutely everywhere and is always with me.  I am extremely lucky to work from home and to have her for company while I work.


When photographing your pets make sure there is good light.  If indoors put them near a window or doorway, this is much better than using a flash, the more natural light the better.  Outside is the best option if possible, diffused shade will eliminate distracting shadows  A bright but cloudy day is ideal.  The light source should be behind you but be careful not to cast a shadow onto your pet.


Just like photographing children, the best photos of pets are obtained when you are on the same level as them.  If they are at ground level you need to get down with your camera.  The other option would be to bring them up to you so that that camera is just above their eye level.  Put them on a chair, table or foot stool and bring them up closer to you. 




Try to be far enough away so that the camera doesn’t blur the nose as in this photo.  If this does happen and you love everything else about it, then just take a close up of the nose.  I can use the close up to paint the details more easily, although it isn’t absolutely essential to do this.

Daisy the cavapoo

A good position for your pet is either facing you straight on, a side/profile view, or something in-between the two.  You could, of course, go for a completely different angle and get down low looking up at your pet from below.  This works well if it’s a large dog or a horse.  However, it works equally well for a small dog or cat that’s positioned up high on a table with you on the floor.  Choose a viewpoint to suit your pet and their personality.

For maximum impact fill the frame with your pet.  Alternatively, you can step back slightly to have more of the background or landscape, if you would like this included in the portrait.

Smiley happy Springer Spaniel
A smiley, happy young boy!