Why Taking pictures of your Pets will make you a better photographer

Photo credit: Elena Shumilova Photography

Why Taking pictures of your

Pets will make you a better photographer

If you have a pet, it may stand to reason that you already point your camera at it a fair amount. Why not? Pets, whether they are cats, dogs, or even chinchillas, tend to be photogenic. Beyond that, as a photographer, your pet is a subject you already share a strong emotional bond with, so it’s only natural to take a few snapshots along the way.

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As a photographic genre, pet photography can go well beyond that of the simple snapshot. If you start to dissect the various disciplines it requires, you may notice that it involves a broader spectrum of skill sets than many other kinds of photography. From lighting, to camera control, to managing a difficult subject, photographing your pets can help you learn, and reinforce a great deal of camera craft that can be transferred across many other genres.

The important factor here is that your subject, your pet, is generally far more accessible to practice with than other subjects, such as people.

Even if you think pet photography isn’t something you’re ultimately interested in, this article is intended to demonstrate the skills and disciplines you can hone on pets, and then transfer effortlessly to other genres.

Camera craft

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If you’re new to photography, this is the most important point. Things like aperture,shutter speed, and ISO all need relentless practice and reinforcement when you’re learning your way around the camera. Sure, you could just use an apple on a table, but having a moving subject will force you to act quicker, and make decisions on the fly. This kind of mastery over your camera will allow you to react faster to any changes in your subject, and will allow you to catch many images you may otherwise have missed while fiddling with the dials.

Camera on hand

One of the most given pieces of advice to photographers is to always have your camera with you. It’s good advice, but it’s not easy to implement. By dedicating yourself to photographing your pets, you’ll already be taking a step in the right direction. This is especially true if you have a dog that you walk regularly. Just make sure the camera goes with you on your walks, and you’ll be ready for any opportunity that presents itself, including ones that don’t involve your pet.

As a bonus, dog walking is an excellent excuse to be out during golden hour every day.


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Photographing pets is hard. This difficulty has nothing at all to do with any technical skills with the camera. Animals tend to be impatient, disinterested, distractible, and sometimes skittish. With the exception of reasonably well-trained dogs, you will probably have a hard time getting most other animals to do what you need. Just imagine trying to give an iguana commands.

The key here is patience. Often you will have to wait frustratingly long periods of time before a shot presents itself. By understanding this, you can focus your energy on the shot when it does appear, rather than the time leading up to it. It is also usually better to wait for something natural to happen, than to force something artificial.

This kind of patience can take a while to develop, but it is a high value skill that transfers well across the photographic disciplines. Your wildlife photography, portraits (especially child portraits), street photography, and sports photography would all benefit from this trait.


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Animals are unpredictable. This is great news if you’re trying to hone your skills. Leveraging that unpredictability as a learning tool will allow you to react to different situations much faster. This could be as simple as pumping up the ISO without thinking about it, or even swapping lenses in seconds without a thought.

The best part is that it’s this unpredictability that often leads to the most interesting photos, or at least the funniest.


Whether it’s natural or artificial, lighting is probably the most complex and multifaceted of the photographic skill sets. While not difficult, there is a lot to it, and it takes a significant amount of time to learn, and then master.

With a pet, you have constant access to a test subject for any new lighting technique you want to try. If something isn’t right, you can take your time and alter things as you need, without having to worry about taking up someone else’s time.

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Individual lighting techniques tend to work as well with animals as they do with people. Once you have a setup the way you want it, often all you will need to do to switch to a human subject, is raise the lights up. If you’re using natural light, you wouldn’t even need to do that.

In the end

There is a lot of contention out there about whether or not photographers should share photos of their pets. That’s up to you, nobody else. Share them or not, as long as you’re putting the hours in and getting the experience, that’s all that matters.

Hopefully you can see how dedicating time to photographing your pets can help you to improve a broad set of skills simultaneously. By removing accessibility issues and keeping costs minimal (a bag of treats is a cost, right?) you can ramp up the time you spend practicing, and reach the top of the learning curve in no time.

If nothing else, can spending some extra time with your pet be a bad thing?

A special  Thanks to Digital Photography School, and John McIntire for this incredible article about Pets.  I know that taking good photos of pets is truly an art, and this is great advice.   Thank you John.

John McIntire is a portrait photographer currently living in the UK. He studied commercial photography at Leeds Metropolitan University. He is obsessive with photography and is always trying to learn something new. All the above photos were taken by John McIntiere except where noted.

You can find him on Instagram and 500px



Entertainment & Learning for the photographer





Take a look at these places to go on vacation.  These vacation attractions will make your stomach drop:

Bloukrans Bridge bungee jumping, South Africa

Photo provide by:  Flickr / Allan Watt

The tallest commercial bungee jumping attraction in the world is at the Bloukrans Bridge in South Africa. It’s 708 feet above the Bloukrans River.

That’s a long way down to think about whether the cord will snap at the bottom.


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Coiling Dragon Cliff skywalk, Zhangjiajie, China

Photo by: Getty Images

In the northwest of China’s Hunan province,  travel visitors can talk a leisurely stroll along the walkway attached to Tianmen Mountain – 4,700 feet above the ground.

The glass-bottomed walkway is more than 300 feet long and only about five feet wide, providing an experience that’s sure to leave you clutching the rockface for support.



Titlis Cliff Walk, Engelberg, Switzerland

Photo by:  Arnd Wiegmann/Reuters

Noteworthy for its distinction as Europe’s highest suspension bridge, the attraction sits more than 9,000 feet above sea level.

There might not be any glass bottoms, but that’s not exactly comforting when the entirety of the Swiss Alps rests beneath you.




    Step Into the Void, French Alps

Photo by:  Robert Pratta/Reuters

If you’re not in the mood for a walk through the Swiss Alps, why not take a couple steps into the French Alps?

Step Into the Void lets people venture onto a reinforced glass platform to immerse themselves in the surrounding mountain range. Looking down is pretty much unavoidable, but if you’ve traveled all that way, why bother?  What a great place to travel !


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Grand Canyon Skywalk, Arizona

Photo by:   Frank Pierson/Flickr

If postcards don’t do the Grand Canyon justice in your opinion, consider walking out to the edge of the Skywalk and snapping a photo at the railing.

Located roughly 720 feet above the canyon floor, the ledge juts out directly over the vast, empty space. Oh, and it’s glass-bottomed.



CN Tower EdgeWalk, Toronto, Canada

Photo by: Reuters/Mark Blinch

The tallest attraction in Toronto lets people stand right on the edge of the CN Tower and lean over.

To the uninformed spectator, it may look like visitors have a death wish, but each participant is safely harnessed in. When you’re nearly 1,200 feet above the ground, you’d better be.



Dinner in the Sky, multiple locations

Photo by:  Reuters/Francois Lenoir

Dinner in the Sky is exactly what it sounds like.

In cities all around the world, you can pay to strap in around a dining room table as a chef prepares a gourmet meal directly in the center for you and 21 other guests. All this while dangling from a crane 180 feet in the air.  An interesting travel idea.



Burj Khalifa observation deck, Dubai, UAE

Photo by:   AP Photo/Kamran Jebreili

You’ll have to venture to Dubai to enjoy the tallest observation deck in the world, located inside the Burj Khalifa skyscraper 1,820 feet above the Earth.

If you still have any appetite after looking out the window, you can also enjoy the world’s highest restaurant, At.mosphere, just a few steps away from the deck.



Stratosphere Hotel, Las Vegas, Nevada

Photo by:  Sam Morris/Reuters

In true Las Vegas spirit, the Stratosphere Hotel boasts an eccentric set of rides right on the roof of the building.

One is the X-Scream, an eight-person car that tilts out over the city and dangles the car perilously over the edge. The other is Insanity, a massive claw-like ride that extends 64 feet over the edge of the 900-foot tower and spins you in the air.



Mt. Huashan, Shaanxi province, China

Photo by:  Shutterstock

If a trip to the CN Tower seems like a snooze, there’s always the wooden planks and rockfaces of Mt. Huashan.

Visitors can hike along the side of the mountain by attaching harnesses to a chain strung throughout the path, which, by the way, ends at a tea house more than 7,000 feet above the ground.  What an incredible travel destination.



Willis Tower, Chicago

Photo by:  Shutterstock

Chicago’s famed Willis Tower has attracted tourists from all the over world primarily for its glass-bottom observation window.

Even when you know the glass is several inches thick and can handle several people at once, it’s still a long way down.



Trolltunga Cliff, Hordaland county, Norway

Photo by:  Shutterstock/Brykaylo Yuriy

There are no railings to protect visitors at the Norwegian Trolltunga Cliff.

If you want to take in the unadulterated beauty of the nearby cliffs and lake, you’ll need to mosey your way out to the ledge. But be warned, people have accidentally fallen off, and no amount of Instagram likes is worth such daring.



Alpspix Viewing platform, Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany

Photo by:   Pixelteufel/Flickr

Like the Grand Canyon in Arizona, the Alpspix platform in Garmisch-Partenkirchen lets people walk out over the expanse they’re taking in.

More than 3,000 feet above the valley below, the dual platforms allow melted snow and ice fall through slatted grates and keep the attraction open all year.


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Sky Tower, Auckland, New Zealand

Photo by:  Shutterstock

If you want to combine multiple thrills into one, consider the Sky Tower in New Zealand, where you can soak in the sweeping views of Auckland at 1,076 feet one moment and plunge to the Earth below the next.

Of course, you are attached to the tower via a bungee cord and will not splatter once you complete your fall. That’d ruin your travel vacation for sure.



And written by:  Chris Weller

Entertainment & Learning for the Photographer