Dogs are more than just man's best friend—they're part of the family. And many owners want to snap memorable photos of their pooch, but it's easier said than done—finicky animals, bad lighting and blurry shots can often ruin a photo session. We spoke with Grace Chon, a professional pet photographer who snapped the picture of these pugs, to get her advice for capturing the perfect shot.
- Get acquainted. Pets can be leery of unfamiliar photography equipment, especially large lenses. Start by showing your pup the camera, taking a few test shots and even letting him smell it. "The goal is to help your dog relax," Chon says. "You want him to be—and look—as comfortable as possible so your shot doesn't look staged."
- Brighten up. Using flash indoors often creates a harsh paparazzi glare. For a more flattering photo, pick a well-lit room and have your dog sit near the window. Natural light will play up your pet's features, particularly his eyes.
- Bring bait. If you're having trouble getting your pooch to pose, convince him it isn't so bad with snacks. "Any shoot with animals has food on set," Chon says. "Dogs need to be motivated and encouraged." Reward calm behavior and direct your pet's line of vision by holding the treat where you want him to look.
- Move to his level. You usually see your dog from above, which may make it seem like the ideal angle to take a photo from. But the most personal interactions happen face to face, so get down on the ground. "The best shots are taken from interesting, unexpected perspectives," Chon says.
- Act silly. Don't be afraid to initiate games, roll around in the grass and encourage your kids to get involved—your dog will instantly perk up when he realizes it's playtime. To capture those "awww"-inducing moments, use toys or your voice to create funny noises. "Make the right sound at the right time and he'll cock his head sideways or perk up his ears for a unique shot," Chon says.
- Capture the moment. Some of the best pictures happen in meaningful places or with favorite toys. If you and your pup go hiking in a special park, snap a photo. You'll value these shots much more than generic ones taken at home.
- Know your camera. Whether you have a compact point-and-shoot or an SLR with interchangeable lenses, there are plenty of functions to experiment with when taking photos. The macro setting (usually a button marked with a flower) allows you to zoom in on whiskers, fur and claws. Prevent blurry shots by using the focus function: On most models, just hold down the shutter button halfway until the in-frame image is sharp. Only then should you press it down completely.
- Don't give up. Keep snapping pictures, even if your pup isn't completely cooperative. Not every photo will be a keeper, but you'll end up with an assortment of candid shots. "Wait for that perfect moment," Chon says. "Have plenty of patience and just go with it."
Cats are finicky subjects, especially compared with eager-to-please canines. Chon suggests taking a "hands-off" approach and following your feline around before snapping a shot. "Most cats don't really care what you're up to," she says. "Let them take the lead and capture a moment when the time is right."
Fun Stat: 30% of Americans dress up their pets for the holidays, and 67% include them in a holiday photo.
Source: North American Pet Health Insurance Association
Originally published in the November 1, 2011, issue of Family Circle magazine.