10 Ways to Take Perfect Holiday Pet Pictures

According to a recent American Veterinary Medical Association survey, six out of 10 pet owners consider their pets family members, and when it comes time for holiday cards, of course we want the entire family included. 

From refrigerator-worthy postcard greetings to frame-worthy family portraits, getting great pet photos can be tricky. To help, we compiled some tried-and-true tips from photographers and other experts.

Tips for Taking Great Holiday Pictures

Cat posing for a photo

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1. Get your pet familiar with the camera.
Cats and dogs are wary of new devices and the sounds they make. Mary Bloom, staff photographer for the Westminster Kennel Club, recommends pointing the lens away from your pet and clicking the shutter to get him comfortable with the camera and its noises. You can even treat your pet every time your camera makes a noise. Pairing the sound with a reward helps him associate the camera with a positive experience which will make for a better photo.

Dog in shade.

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2. Be mindful of lighting.
No one wants her pet to have red or yellow eyes in photos. To avoid this, Jamie Pflughoeft, owner of Cowbelly Pet Photography in Seattle, recommends skipping the flash if possible. “Flash-produced pet photos look terrible," Pflughoeft says. "If you don't have manual controls on your camera, take the photos in natural light outside during the day, so you avoid the dreaded yellow-green glare in your pet's eyes.” A flash can also frighten your pet, so if you must use one, choose one that can be pointed toward the ceiling rather than straight ahead.

Kitten lounging with snowflake background

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3. Minimize distractions.
Don’t photograph her in a place she'll be distracted by people or other animals because that can affect the photo. You should also limit props to what is necessary (if anything at all) and let her check them out beforehand.

Dog playing in snow

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4. Let your pet be himself.
Instead of putting him in a prolonged sit, capture his personality. Let him play; after all, an active pet is a happy pet. Plus, he may get a little of his restlessness out of the way early in the session, which means less chasing and more snapping for you.
(Hint: Playing with him beforehand wouldn't hurt either!)

Dog with Santa hat

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5. Get on your pet’s level.
You may need to get creative to make sure you capture the best moment. For photographer Kate Lacey this means stooping, kneeling or even lying down. “For truly engaging photos, I keep my camera at or below eye level to an animal," she says. "Lie on the floor if you have to!"

Girl snapping fingers at dog.

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6. Use the proper attention-getter.
For this one, you have to use what you already know about your pet. If calling her name makes her come toward you or squeaking a toy makes her hyper, you probably shouldn’t use those things to get her attention during a photo session. Some alternatives may be snapping your fingers or holding a treat next to the lens of your camera.

Cat on sofa.

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7. Keep sessions short and comfortable.
Requiring him to sit for extended periods of time or
posing in uncomfortable positions will quickly irritate him. Joel Riner, a commercial photographer from Quicksilver Studios in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, recommends catching him in a place he likes — lying on the sofa, sitting at the window or curled up by the fire. To get a great image, let him pose naturally and allow him to move around. You could even catch him during a nap. Just don't force it. 

Boy & dog looking at each other.

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8. Be patient.
This one goes hand in hand with keeping your session comfortable and short. Pets are like kids: They lose attention and get bored quickly. Don’t be discouraged if you don't get the shot you’re looking for on the first try. Take a break. Try again. It’ll happen — and sometimes the best photos are of candid moments, not posed ones.

Mother and son with dog

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9. Get in the photo.
Pets are most at ease when they are with the people they love. So whether it’s a selfie or you have someone else take the shot, get in the photo and love on your pet. That's sure to make everyone smile!

Kitten in reindeer hat

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10. Don't forget the final touches.
Once you've captured that perfect shot, use an online editing program such as Photoshop Express Editor to fine-tune your favorite pic. It's free and allows you to crop, adjust exposure and sharpen images. Once you're ready to print, drop your photo into a template from minted.com or tinyprints.com and get those stamps ready.

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