Pet Photography 101

Pet Photography 101

Taking photos of your pets at home can be difficult. In this video I run you through 5 tips you can use to improve your photos, whether you are using basic or advanced equipment.

The gear I used is below – of course understanding light and how to work with it is more important than any particular gear:
Check out my light course at
The light:
The light modifier:
The painted backgrounds I use:
And the Sony camera I showed was this one:

GEAR we usually film with… (Amazon + BH)
Main Camera: |
2nd Camera: |
The Drone: |
The outdoor tripod: |
Giant in-studio tripod: |
Lav Mics: |
Travel photo tripod: |

FYI – I had my desk custom made by Timber Forge Woodworks in NJ:

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  1. Shawn Vine on October 19, 2021 at 10:12 am

    At least Tyson didn’t bite your ear. Thanks for the tips.

  2. Indra Jaka Satria on October 19, 2021 at 10:17 am

    Hi, can you help me?
    Recommended background color for taking cat photos.
    For cats of dark and light colors.

  3. Ellie McGrath on October 19, 2021 at 10:17 am

    Hilarious that the cats kept fighting!! hahahaha That tabby looks almost EXACTLY like my tabby. LOVE HER SO MUCH

  4. Edward Perry on October 19, 2021 at 10:18 am

    Hey, Matt thanks for doing video. Love what you do and I love The business of Photography.. It helped me out a great deal when I first started.. With cats, I have found that it almost never misses to use a heating pad.. give it a try 🙂

  5. Jean Pierre Guaron on October 19, 2021 at 10:19 am

    Whether they qualify as "portraits" or not, I prefer working more along the lines of candid or street photography – studying my subject, being patient and looking for opportunities to capture an image when the pet is doing something typical.
    And then perhaps applying some of the skills that birders bring to the table. And the gear they might use.
    I know it’s anathema to some photographers, but i generally shoot pet shots without a tripod and using a limited range, quality zoom. If the pet’s owner or a person the pet is friendly with is available, the pet will often look for attention and slow down a bit, so you can move in with a decent prime, instead.
    Plain backgrounds are out of the question, normally, if you capture the pet that way – but you get the pet in its natural surroundings, and with sensible use of DoF, bokeh etc you still an end up with a very suitable background.
    The sony cam is a great suggestion – I noticed the other day that Nikon’s mirrorless cams (was it both? – or just the Z7?) are getting a firmware upgrade to give them focus on the eyes – shooting bursts (if the pet is moving) helps too

  6. Shane Miles on October 19, 2021 at 10:22 am

    never use flash with pets in a studio environment, always use continues lighting. Flash can hurt their eyes and may spook them too. Also cats respond more to movement and dogs to treats.

  7. Richard Crowe on October 19, 2021 at 10:22 am

    Great advice…
    I have photographed hundreds of dogs and a few of my own cats. IMO, dogs are far easier to pose. SIT! STAY! HERE’S THE TOY OR TREAT" I have had my best luck with cats by having a camera/flash ready to capture them when THEY decide to pose, Like this:

  8. kittykittysoftpaws on October 19, 2021 at 10:23 am

    Your kitties are gorgeous…and great pictures too! Thank u for the tips : )

  9. Noealz - Seoul Photowalks on October 19, 2021 at 10:24 am

    The only tip ya need- get the Sony with anime eye Ef. JK, always enjoy your videos man. But I feel people on the pet photography, super hard to get them to do what youd like

  10. Matt Granger on October 19, 2021 at 10:25 am

    The gear I used is below – of course understanding light and how to work with it is more important than any particular gear:
    Check out my light course at
    The light:
    The light modifier:
    The painted backgrounds I use:
    And the Sony camera I showed was the R3:

  11. Justin Bourne on October 19, 2021 at 10:30 am

    nice tips

  12. Jay G. on October 19, 2021 at 10:32 am

    My award winning photo of Pretzel!

  13. hdrsmit on October 19, 2021 at 10:33 am

    always my biggest problem and basic question…..why do i often get the zombie eye look with flash ? especially when it’s on axis….and even when the pupils are NOT dilated ?? 
    …. obvious you didn’t seem to think this is a problem worth mentioning
    – i get it with dogs too, but more so with cats since they can reflect even more light in their eyes

    TIA and examples pleeese 🙂

  14. Vilhjalmr Edmundson on October 19, 2021 at 10:34 am

    My girl is violent like Tyson, too, so the only time I can shoot her is when she decides it’s OK. The only time she’s in my studio is when she’s playing ‘chase’ around my backdrop or flag.

    My boy Big Man is very curious; I think he likes the sound of Velcro so he’s always hanging about when I’m setting up. He is not a climbing cat thought – he likes the floor – so I set the light low and nearly horizontal and he’ll usually come and hang out underneath it while I sit with the camera on the floor.

  15. Ready Rover on October 19, 2021 at 10:35 am

    Spent many years as senior editor of CAT FANCY and DOG FANCY magazines, at the time the most widely read dog and cat magazines in the world. Lots of good tips here. From many studio and location shoots I would also suggest:
    *Have at least one assistant, preferably more
    *Use constant lighting instead of flash, or as you mention go outdoors
    *Depending on the pet you may need to spend 20 minutes getting them comfortable with the setting before even trying to shoot. Patience will pay off.
    *If you want the "smiling” dog portrait take the dog for a brisk walk before shooting so they have that open mouth grin
    *Rescuers, including Jackson Galaxy, use meat-flavored baby food as super treats to get the attention of especially challenging cats (Will Ferrell told me he had his face covered with baby food to shoot dog scenes for both Anchorman movies when Baxter was giving him "kisses.")
    *Puppies and kittens often respond best to toys, not food. Give them time to burn off energy and you will get some awesome sleeping puppy or kitten photos
    *Record weird sounds like squirrels chirping or odd noises on your cell phone and have an assistant replay those just above camera level. You will get not just the pet’s attention but also the "tilted head” what the hell is that? look.
    Enjoy the videos. Thanks for sharing.

  16. Big Bird Fishin' on October 19, 2021 at 10:37 am

    What exact shutter speeds do you typically run for cats?

  17. Azenturi on October 19, 2021 at 10:37 am

    I wish my dogs were this easy to get pictures of. One cares about as little as a cat, but always moves his head around. The other runs straight toward you the second you try to get her attention or bend down to take a shot. Doesn’t matter if it’s where they like to sleep or not.

  18. Bazza1041 on October 19, 2021 at 10:38 am

    If you want to video at animal level, put a camcorder on a monopod and hold upside down and follow the pet. it can be corrected in adobe to be the right way up. my first attempt doing this with our border terrier.

    gives a different view as the pet sees life

  19. Andreas Brilke on October 19, 2021 at 10:38 am

    Funny and helpful, great video!

  20. Andrew Bristoe on October 19, 2021 at 10:41 am

    Cats are tricky I find have camera ready to shoot hide and wait bit simular to wildlife photography house cat hide useful aka birds

  21. Dave Pruett on October 19, 2021 at 10:43 am

    Tip #7: Hang out with temple cats and fellow cat lovers in temples all around the world. Fun stuff. Loved the keeper shots!

  22. Sousa Larson on October 19, 2021 at 10:44 am

    Did you discuss what types of lenses you find best for bets?

  23. Steven Kamradt on October 19, 2021 at 10:44 am

    As an owner of a black cat, I also should say it helps to shoot manual and to not trust spot metering for those quick "aww cute" shots without flash. I believe the only shots that ever come out from my cat ninja is where I shot manually or used flash. My other cat, who has a cream coat isn’t a problem. Now if I can teach them that the seamless paper is not fun to run under and play chase, or the popup backdrop is not for climbing….

  24. David Sornberger Films on October 19, 2021 at 10:47 am

    Love this, Matt. I’m always inspired by how much thought and planning you put into you videos. You inspired me to up the content on my YouTube channel. Thank you 👍

  25. Manny Lai on October 19, 2021 at 10:48 am

    Thanks for the tips! I would adopt Mabel in a blink.

  26. Cecile Kalayadjian on October 19, 2021 at 10:49 am

    So excellent your cat’s pictures :)))))))))))) I’m also taking many pictures of my cats and dogs, but yours are so stunning and so cute

  27. Duncan Wallace on October 19, 2021 at 10:50 am

    Sit on the floor for good dog photos.

  28. ke4uyp on October 19, 2021 at 10:51 am

  29. William DeSevo on October 19, 2021 at 10:52 am

    Cats are the best. Most of the time they just tolerate us humans at best. Other than that I think they just hold us in contempt.

  30. Inga Pracute on October 19, 2021 at 10:52 am

    Hi Matt, thanks for a great video!

    I have a question about photographing a pet with a white fur. Is it just me or it’s more difficult? I can do nice portraits, but any actions shots turn out not sharp. I use the shutter speed of at least 1/500 sec, tried on very sunny days so could get a good exposure ( using around 8 f), however, still the shots aren’t as sharp. I’m using Fuji xt-1 with 35mm f 1.2 lens. What am I missing for a sharp shot?

  31. Bill Bentley on October 19, 2021 at 10:54 am

    No animals were harmed in the making of this video……but one human was. 😋

  32. Carpet Hooligan on October 19, 2021 at 10:55 am

    It may be better to use continuous lighting for cats instead of flashes. Better for their eyesight since they are so sensitive.

  33. Yoko Kurama on October 19, 2021 at 10:56 am

    7:08 lol

  34. keikaikakupaa on October 19, 2021 at 10:56 am

    I can’t stress how much patience is a virtue in this! Especially with the more skittish animals, cat or dog. But for those, if they aren’t your pet, my tip is to spend time with them individually both with and without your gear prior to shooting. This way they get to know who you are, and what your gear is if they aren’t used to being photographed. My part feral cat hates cameras and other things associated with photography – so no flashes and no strobes or reflectors either – I improvised this though with flooding as much light as I could into the scene and just adjusting the ISO to get the proper exposure.

  35. Nerdy Movie Nights on October 19, 2021 at 10:56 am

    6:32 is my favorite shot! XD

  36. greenjelly01 on October 19, 2021 at 10:56 am

    Great tips! Could you also make one on post processing for pet photos?

  37. James Harris on October 19, 2021 at 10:57 am

    Many years ago I wanted to get a nice picture of my dog, but he was not cooperating. The expression on his face was "Get me out of here". It was the month of July so I used that to help out a little. I turned the air condition off and let the house get uncomfortably hot. I place him up on the piano to restrict his movements and when he stuck out his tongue and started panting (their internal air conditioning system) he appeared to be excited and smiling. I snapped the picture and everyone wanted to know how I got him to smile like that! 🙂
    The takeaway: you have to figure out how to get the picture or expression you want, unfortunately they never respond to "Smile and say cheese". 🙂

  38. capailldubh on October 19, 2021 at 10:58 am

    ..doin the things cats do..

  39. SatanSupimpa on October 19, 2021 at 10:58 am

    Are you excited with the Zeiss Otus 100mm f/1.4?

  40. Linton Coke on October 19, 2021 at 10:59 am

    What type of tripod and ballhead would you suggest?

  41. rufus joseph on October 19, 2021 at 11:00 am

    hi how to take pet photos at night without using flash out doors

  42. Matty D on October 19, 2021 at 11:00 am

    Very good. I’m going to give this a go!

  43. Gokul on October 19, 2021 at 11:01 am

    7.19 Tyson swag

  44. Mau R. on October 19, 2021 at 11:02 am

    gonna try.. nice idea

  45. jenky1044 on October 19, 2021 at 11:02 am

    Great show, thank you.
    Animals are like kids in many ways. One is that, it seems they never want to perform when you want them to.

  46. Bachmann Manuel on October 19, 2021 at 11:04 am

    Love cats as well, and try to shoot them as many as possible. especially when its raining outside XD

  47. Patty Mattes on October 19, 2021 at 11:05 am

    I do use flash instead of continuous light. I can get a faster shutter speed which is essential. Flash doesn’t bother the animals. I shoot at the local shelter and I’ve not had any animals scared of the flash. The noise of the paper backdrop can make them more nervous. When they move around and cause the paper to make a noise it can bother them. I prefer to use a fabric backdrop. For small animals such as cats put them up on a table. It’s always good to have an assist from the handlers and or pet owner. I use treats but noise makers such as squeakers work well for both dogs and cats. Just make sure you change up as they will get used to the noise. Those wand cat toys not only work for cats but work well for dogs too. You are correct. The key is to have lots of patience and take lots of shots. Sometimes you have to wait out the dog or cat. You may have to wait a bit for them to relax and get used to the equipment. I get my best shots when the dog or cat gets relaxed. Keep at their level. Top down shots are not good unless they are looking straight up at you. It’s always best if they’ve been fed but not too much so you can use treats. Make sure they have relieved themselves and worked out excess energy before you do a session .

    Matt, thank you for this video!!!

  48. M P on October 19, 2021 at 11:05 am

    For cat I always want big circle eye, so I lower the light of the room, I don’t use full power flash to avoid blinding them too much

  49. Neels Redelinghuys on October 19, 2021 at 11:06 am

    Loki and Tyson are just too awesome. Love these tips! Thanks for sharing, Matt.

  50. John Hazlewood on October 19, 2021 at 11:08 am

    Some really cute photos there Matt. Thanks for the tips. Will have to try with my daughters catties.