Photo being taken of dog in grass

Whether you're using a long-lens digital SLR or a mobile phone, one of the keys to successful pet photography is taking lots of pictures. Keeping your camera of choice at the ready is another. After all, the opportunity to snap a photo of your dog or cat wearing that ridiculous party hat may pass before you can say "sit!"

For more formal photo sessions, here are a few tips:

1. Use the right attention-getter. Dogs will react to jingled or thrown keys, squeaky toys or tennis balls. Try the same thing with a cat, and the only thing you'll get is a picture of the tip of a tail as he departs in disgust. Talk sweetly to your cat for a better response, or tease him with a favorite toy. Food is another winner, and it works with both dogs and cats.

2. Use natural light. Natural, available light helps you avoid the dreaded red-eye shot, in which the flash makes your beautiful pet look like a possessed monster. Taking pictures outside also gives your pet a more natural, healthy look. If you must take pictures inside, avoid the reflection by not pointing the flash straight at the animal or by having the animal look off to the side at another person (kids are great photo assistants).

3. Come in close. If you want a strong shot, you're going to have to go where your pet is. Shoot at just below your pet's eye level and zoom in as closely as you can for the best detail.

4. Watch your backgrounds. Think neutral — a plain wall works better than a cluttered cabinet. Think contrast — light backgrounds for a dark pet, dark backdrops for a light one.

5. Keep your sessions short. Kids and pets get bored quickly — and don't forget to keep them fun with lots of praise all around.