Photography of dogs, cats, and pets of many species are all around us but it takes skill to translate the average domestic animal photo into a licensable image that buyers can use. You’ll want to approach photographing your pet for a commercial shoot differently than if you were simply uploading those pictures to a personal social network. Follow these tips to create captivating images of humankind’s best friends that stand out from the pack.

1. Focus on features & characteristics unique to the breed

Jaws by Stanislav Novak on

Photographing a black dog on a black background is no easy feat. In this photo, the dog’s teeth and shiny wet nose are emphasized by the minimalistic style and work together to create a compelling perspective. Experiment with lighting, composition, and depth of field to show your pet in a way that can only be captured through the art of photography.

2. Capture the bond between a person and their pet

Girl playing with cat by Vladislav Nosick on

Anytime you add a human element to your photo it becomes more relatable to the viewer. Including a person in your photo makes it instantly unique and licensable since it illustrates the relationship between a pet and their owner. Remember, if the person in the photo is recognizable, be sure to secure a signed model release to ensure that your photo can be licensed commercially.

3. Think outside the box

Sherlock as a Lamp by Samantha Lynn on

For an image that will stop a buyer in their tracks, coordinate a conceptual photography shoot, which is all about creating a scene that activates our imagination and invites the viewer to think about things in a new way. For success in conceptual photography, get creative: use props, costumes, dramatic lighting, interesting backgrounds, and other elements to create a photo that both surprises and delights.

4. Show pets in everyday life

Toby riding a streetcar in Toronto by Alejandro Santiago on

Bring your camera with you next time you take your dog for a walk. Be alert for activities or locations you pass by that might make a memorable photo like public transportation, a quick trip to the office, a ride in the car, a visit to the vet, or anywhere else that you and your dog, cat, or other pet may travel together.

5. Show animals expressing human emotions


Animals have feelings too and unlike people, they usually aren’t camera shy. If they do happen to be bashful, use that as an opportunity to snap an adorable photo as seen with the above bunny. Use treats and toys to encourage your pet to engage with the camera and be ready for what may be some amazingly candid moments.

6. Capture animals being animals

Untitled by Peter Salovaara on

As a contrast to showing the human side of our pets, viewers also want to see animals in their natural playful states. Animals are full of surprising behaviors and reactions. Show us the true nature of your pets at their most natural: wagging, yawning, stretching, scratching, or barking!