How to Get Instagramable Pics of Your Pets

Updated: Mar 2

Even if you're not a pet owner, I'd be genuinely surprised if a cute animal pic pops up on your timeline and you don't crack a smile.

dog looking up at the camera for a picture
This is my pupper, Winston. He's the best boy.

There's the running joke that the internet was made for cat videos, and there's more than a grain of truth to that. Funny animal videos receive more love online that just about any category I can think of.

And if you've got a pet and think the world of them, you want the world to love them just as much as you do, and there's no better way to do that than posting a cute pic.

But I'll tell you a secret; more often than not, pets are even harder to pose than toddlers.

They don't understand what's going on, they move too much, they don't smile on cue, and before you can get your phone out, they stop doing the cute thing that you wanted to record.

So how do you get that perfect picture?

Getting Good Lighting for Pet Pictures

I volunteer with My Hope's In You by taking some of their adoption portraits; it's a very awesome small animal rescue where I adopted my very first baby.

Before they got the fixtures rewired, one of the biggest problems I had was lighting.

To get technical for just a moment here, the less light there is, the longer your shutter has to remain open to capture the same amount of light.

So in those pictures you see of the night sky all lit up with stars, the "eye" of that camera could have been open for minutes at a time.

When the eye of the camera is open longer, it's capturing more light, but it's also capturing every movement the subject makes, so when the eye is open longer, you'll get motion blur, such as the example below.

dog wearing david's bridal flower wreath collar
Picture I took in my kitchen to send to my bridal squad to show how handsome my boy is in his outfit for the wedding.

This picture of my handsome boy was taken on my phone with settings on automatic. Because the lighting in my kitchen at night isn't studio quality (shocker, right?), the eye of my camera was open longer and captured his tail wagging (because he knew just how handsome he looked and was very excited about it).

If I had better lighting, the eye wouldn't have been open as long and it would have been a clearer image.

Try to Minimize Your Pet's Movement

This brings me to my next point, which is the stiller they stay, the clearer the picture.

And what makes good boys and girls stay put better than anything else?

You got it. Treatos.

It helps if you have another person to hold the treat to give them something to fixate on, but if you're doing it yourself, put the treat right above the camera so they're focusing right on the lens.

I personally am motivated by food too, so I get it.

Another tip to minimizing movement is by limiting how much space they have to run around. If your bunny is bounding through the entire house, there's no way you can keep up to get the perfect shot.

When I'm taking pictures at My Hope's In You, I set up a pen with blankets to give them a small space to stay in so they have less room to wiggle and hop around.

That way, you can also control the background, and even include some props if you'd like.

cute bunny looking at books and film camera
This is Ollie, another one of my handsome boys.

Knowing Your Pet Gives You Better Pet Pictures

The better you know your pet, the better you can anticipate their movements and antics.

One thing we know about Winston? He gets the biggest, weirdest smile when mommy holds him.

It is the absolute strangest thing, because you would think a 45 pound dog wouldn't like to be held, but he does. He really does.

couple dressed up as supernatural characters sam and dean with dog dressed up as castiel
This is the CALMEST his face looked in all the pictures. We were going for the spooky look but it's hard to have that when your dog's facial expression is the :D emoticon

He also really likes costumes.

He's a very strange boy.

But if you know Mr. Fiddlesticks really despises you when you put a Santa hat on him, he's not going to pose for you and he's going to hate you for a solid 20 minutes, so not only did you not get a good picture, but you've got an angry cat plotting your death.

If your guinea pig really likes a specific pillow, let him hang out on the pillow.

If your snake really likes Beethoven, start rocking to some jams.

Whatever makes your pet relax and feel comfortable is going to put them in a better, calmer mood, which will translate to a happier, more carefree picture.

And the last tip on getting the perfect picture?

There's No Such Thing as a Perfect Pet Pictures

Unless you've got a studio, lights, a production crew, or way too much time on your hands (I'm looking at you, monetized Instagram pet pages), the picture will not be perfect.

And that is more than okay.

No pet is perfect. Even if they're bred from the great long lineage of pretentious puppers from the third royal bloodline of whatever breed you've got, they won't be perfect.

No one is!

I think we set the standards way too high for ourselves; we see PetSmart ads where the dog has a perfect smile and Instagram pages where 9 bunnies are all lined up in a row (I seriously don't know how they do that, I can barely get a pic of one of my buns in one place) and we think that our pictures aren't as good.

They're not; but they're way more valuable.

I think capturing special moments with your pets is one of the most important things you can do as a furparent.

Because your dog, cat, ferret, bunny, hamster, snake, lizard, and so on and so forth isn't going to be around forever.

But the picture of you guys with gigantic smiles, no matter how bad the lighting is, no matter how much motion blur there is, no matter how weirdly the picture is cropped, is something you can treasure forever.

Want to bring along your fur baby to your next photo session? There's nothing we here at Still Poetry Photography love more than families that bring pets to their photoshoots! Contact us today to book a session!

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