How to take a good photo

Great photos get pets homes - it really is that simple.

There is a lot you can do to make a pet shine, even if your photography skills and equipment are limited. Just follow these basic rules.

1. Get two people on the job

Two pairs of hands and eyes are better at getting pets to really ‘work it’ for the camera. Get an assistant to handle and coax the pet to pose while you snap away.

For cats, have your assistant sitting draped in fabric, holding the cat still in their lap. For dogs, get your assistant to hold the lead, feed the dog treats, make smooch noises or, if it’s a fenced area, throw a ball.

2. Get out of the kennels

Get your dogs out of the kennels and into the sunlight where they can truly shine. A dog behind bars or in a cage seems less adoptable, obscuring happy smiles and making even the sleekest coats seem dull.

Using lawns and greenery as a background is great for balancing light in all conditions. If you don’t have access to these, use a plain wall, blanket or bed outside. Avoid cluttered, messy or dirty backgrounds that will distract the eye.

3. Avoid the ‘zombie eyes’

In flash photography, pets’ eyes turn out red or green for the same reason humans get red-eye – the light is simply reflecting off of the back of eye when the pupils are dilated. Shooting your photos outside in natural light will avoid the dreaded ‘zombie eye’ effect and allows the soul shine through.

4. Beware of the black hole

When photographing black or dark coloured pets, choose a well-lit area with a contrasting background colour. Grass is particularly good at balancing light, and sand or light foregrounds create highlights in their eyes and smile.

5. Grab their attention with props

There is something very special about pets making eye contact with humans – it makes us feel connected. So, when taking your photos, make sure the pet is facing the camera and focusing their attention on you. This is easier to achieve with dogs than other animals, but food treats, toys and objects that make an interesting noise will tempt pretty much any animal. For a simple homemade prop, fill a paper bag with a handful of rice or dried beans and give it a shake to get their attention.

By holding these objects next to the camera lens, just out of range, you’ll get the pet looking straight at you with their best ‘begging eyes’.

Placing colourful props in photos is also a good way to catch the eye. A bright collar or bandana can work a treat (rumour has it, red or pink is the best). Or perhaps include a favourite a toy or comfy bed in the picture. But don’t over-clutter the shot. Keep it simple.

6. Get on their level

Crouching or lying down on your front to get on eye-level with the pet creates a much more engaging photo than one that’s taken looking down or from a distance. You can even experiment with some creative angles – looking up at the pet as you snap away.

7. Put on a happy face

Dogs in particular have very expressive faces, and by capturing their ‘happy face’ you’ll instantly give them adoption appeal. An open mouth and smiling eyes makes them look friendly and can easily be achieved by engaging them in a little play and run-around before you snap their portrait.

8. Give yourself plenty of time

The quickest way to ruin a pet photo is to rush it and force the pet into doing something it doesn’t want to do. Give them time to feel comfortable with the situation and relax in your company. That way you’ll get them looking their best - natural and happy!

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