One of my favorite sayings is “the best camera is the one you have with you.” Even though I am a professional photographer, usually that camera is the one on my cell phone.
Photographing your pet with a cell phone can definitely be challenging. Here are 5 tips to help make your images amazing!
1. Work within the limitations of your camera
While phone cameras have become very powerful, they still have constraints. For example, they aren’t very good at capturing action shots. If you want to capture action, I recommend you use the video function. You will have the most success with your cell phone camera taking portraits where your pets are sitting still. For the best portraits, make sure to focus on your pet’s eyes or face.
2. Composition is key
Paying attention to how you compose your photo can make the difference between a good and great image. Try and fill the frame with the full face or body of your pet and watch your images for unwanted clutter, especially in the background. Is there a pole growing out of their head? Or a brightly colored object drawing your eye away from your pet’s face? Sometimes all you have to do is reposition yourself in order to get a prettier background.
3. Watch the light
Pets look best in natural sunlight. The trick is finding light that is even or all the same. In a perfect world, I’d shoot all my photos with light cloud cover, which produces soft even light. If you are taking photos indoors, try and make sure your pet is by a window or that there is a lot of natural light in the room. Flashes are no-no’s when it comes to pets as it will cause eye shine.
4. Expose your image properly
If you are having trouble getting the correct exposure (i.e. parts of the photo are too dark or too light), you can almost always fix it by manually choosing your exposure or using your camera’s built in HDR (High Dynamic Range) feature.To make sure the camera exposes properly for your pet, even if the background is really dark or light, touch where your pet is on your screen and watch the brightness of the image change like magic. This technique is especially helpful when your pet is backlit and you don’t want them to be in silhouette.HDR is really cool – the phone will automatically take multiple exposures and layer them so that you can get a properly exposed foreground and background. I love this feature and often leave it as the default setting on my camera phone.
5. Get down on your pet’s level
When taking your photo, don’t be afraid to kneel down, sit on the ground, or even lay on the grass so that you can be eye level with your pet. If you want your pet to look right into the lens, you can wait patiently until they do it naturally. Or, use a squeak toy to get your dog’s attention. Make sure that it is lens height so they are looking right into the lens. For cats, crinkle a bag or wave a feather to get their attention.
Once you’ve got the perfect photo of your pet, you can use an app to make your picture look even better.
I love Snapseed and the creative control it gives me to auto adjust the light and colors or fine-tune the details. Here are some iPhone photos that I took of my dogs that I edited with Snapseed.
Instagram is a great app to add filters, minor edits, and share your photos with your friends. You can check out fun pictures I have shared on my Instagram @redleashphotos.
Some other great apps include Camera+, VSCO Cam, and Adobe Photoshop Express.
Now that you have beautiful images, make sure you back them up. Set up your phone to automatically back up to a cloud, or create a reminder for yourself to backup your images weekly. You don’t want to lose these precious memories!
Have fun photographing your pet!
I’d love to see some of your favorite phone photos of your pets. Post them on Instagram and be sure to tag @redleashphotos and add the hashtags #novadogphonephoto and #novadog.
Lori Gross is the owner of Red Leash Pet Photography based in Annapolis, Maryland. Lori specializes in creating modern, fun and meaningful images of pets and their owners. When she is not photographing pets, she can be found in Antarctica, where she also works as an expedition guide and photographer. Follow Red Leash and Lori’s adventures here: