Most pet owners would quickly agree that their animals are more than just pets; they are beloved members of the family. These days, I get a multitude of clients hiring me to shoot family portraits that include their pets, and oftentimes the animals are front and center, ready for their close-up! While it may seem like a daunting task to get an animal reined in for a portrait, it isn’t as difficult as you might think. Here are a few quick setups to consider between pets and their owners when shooting family portraits. (And don’t miss the photo gallery to see more adorable images!) Patience is key when dealing with animals. A good finger puppet also works great now and again!
1. Owners looking at their pets
I have the owner look at their pet, smiling, and the animal look at the camera. This gives a natural, candid feel, looking like the image was just snapped in the moment.
All photos © Kristie Lee
2. Down low
Shoot low and use the feet and legs of the owners as the focus of the portrait. This is a great pose for owners who don’t really want to be in the shot and helps you incorporate the environment from a different perspective.
3. People blurred behind the pets
This is a good pose for people who don’t want their photo taken but still want to be in the portrait. It also puts the focus on the pet and creates a position of importance.
4. Mirrored posing
When posing a family with pets, have everyone (pets included) in similar poses. This helps create symmetry and balance in the image.
5. Owners kissing their pets
This pose creates connection with the animal while also conveying the love and bond they share.
6. Looking in the same direction
I do this pose because it gives more of a dramatic, exaggerated feel to the image, creating the illusion that the animal is posing for the portrait as well.
7. Shooting the profile
If you shoot the subjects side on, with the owners looking directly into the pet’s eyes, the result is often an image with a light, humorous feel.
Also keep in mind…
I am often able to get the pets to look in different directions with a treat, toy or ball. I can also usually get them looking at the camera by making really strange noises, like barking, meowing or kissing sounds.
I usually have an assistant on set who is comfortable handling animals. They put the pet back in position, over and over, until we get the shot.
Kristie Lee is passionate about capturing animals and their owners using fashion, architecture and urban backgrounds to create lasting memories. She offers in-person workshops where you can learn how she styles and poses people with their pets to create portraits with beauty and connection. For more details go to kristieleephotographer.com/workshops.
CreativeLive Video Tutorial: How To Shoot Pets in the Studio
Related: Kristie Lee, Dog Whisperer