Taking Better Photos
When you made the decision to become a pet sitter or dog walker, you probably didn’t realize you would soon collect the title of “pet photographer,” too! Most pet sitters and dog walkers take dozens, if not hundreds, of photos every day to send to their clients, use for marketing purposes, and keep for memories. The quality of these photos can significantly impact client acquisition, satisfaction, and retention. After all, pictures speak a thousand words!
In this lesson, we will provide some tips and tricks to help improve your pet photography skills.
When clients leave their pets in your care, the greatest reassurance you can give them while they are away is photos from every visit or walk that express the joy and comfort their pets feel when they’re with you. If left to their own imagination, clients may automatically assume the worst. Messages and updates are lovely, but nothing says “I love my pet sitter!” more than a picture of their smiling dog leaning against your leg or their cat nestling its head into your hand.
Capture The Good Times
Taking photos of your sweet moments with someone’s pet is an easy way to show them that their pet likes you, is well taken care of, and enjoys your company. Capturing a pet’s excitement when they’re playing with their favorite toy, their relaxation when they’re snuggling up beside you, or the smile on their face when you’re walking them on a cool spring day lets the client know there is nothing to worry about and that their pets are in great hands.
That said, just like their human counterparts, not all pets are photogenic. Even when a pet is happy, excited, and comfortable, sometimes the pictures you take can tell a different story. Maybe you snapped a photo just as the dog pulled their ears back at the end of a yawn, making them appear scared. Or perhaps a cat you’re watching began to cough up a furball just as you snapped a photo, making them seem sick or upset. Whatever the case, make sure the images you send your clients match the pet's overall emotion and health status so your clients don’t think to question their well-being.
DO: Send clear, crisp, high-definition photos.
Pets don’t understand the concept of “striking a pose”, so they aren’t inclined to help you take the perfect photo. Unfortunately, that means snapping clear pictures can be quite a challenge sometimes. Your pictures won’t always come out perfect; however, there are things you can do to increase the clarity of your photos to ensure you’re still capturing the happiness on your pet’s faces, such as using treats to grab their attention long enough to snap a photo or using a camera/photo app that has motion-reducing technology. Some phones even take “live” photos that shoot dozens of frames at a time, so you can go through and choose the clearest shot. If your camera or phone doesn’t take “live” photos, take four to five shots at a time, then scroll through them and choose the best one to send to your client.
DON’T: Send blurry, grainy photos.
Although every picture won’t be perfect, it is important not to send photos that barely even resemble the pet you’re watching. Unless you have a camera that is capable of taking still shots of moving targets, it’s probably best to take photos when the pet is walking slowly or staying still as opposed to the “action shots” of them chasing their tail or running across the yard. Blurry blobs aren’t enjoyable to look at, and because they don’t express the pet’s emotions, clients will surely be bored by them.
DO: Make the pet the center of attention.
The subject of your photos should always be the pets in them, not the scenery behind or around them. A good goal is to make sure the subject of the image takes up at least 50% of the photo, with their head and eyes at the center of the frame. Not all pets make this easy, though, and while they may not understand how to pose on demand, you can try things like using treats or toys to direct their attention, calling their names, and using commands to help “pose” them for your photos. It can be a little trickier to earn a cat’s attention, so try directing their attention using some of their favorite noises, like the crinkle of a treat bag or the chime of a bell from their favorite toy to draw their attention instead. This will ensure they are the stars of the photo, and your client’s eyes will be drawn to their pet first and foremost.
DON’T: Send photos with too much “empty space” around them.
The easier you can make it for your clients to see the happiness on their pet’s faces, the better. Images taken too far away from the pet can make it hard to find them, and your client may have to zoom in on the image to see their expressions, which may cause unnecessary blurriness. It is better to send photos that are already “zoomed in” and close to the pet so that your client doesn’t have to do any work to see their happy pets.
DO: Send well-lit photos.
Lighting can change the entire mood of a photo. The brighter the environment is, the more likely your images are to come out crisp and clear, and the better your client will be able to see the expressions on their pet's face. As we’ve covered many times in this lesson, the easier it is for clients to see their pets and their emotions, the better!
DON’T: Send dark photos with red or glowing eyes.
Dark photos tend to give off a depressing, gloomy mood. More importantly, the darker the environment is, the more likely you are to capture pictures of red or glowing eyes. Those effects, in combination with the fact that darker images are generally harder to see, distract from the goal of the pictures and make it harder to read the happy expressions on the pet’s faces.
DO: Get creative, and don’t be afraid to experiment!
Not every picture will be a winner or particularly exciting to look at, but you never know when you might strike gold! To increase your chances of capturing a unique moment, take various photos of the pet you’re looking after. Whether it’s while you’re out on a walk with a boisterous pup or when you’re giving scritches to a lazy kitty, try several different angles and use your environment or props around you to enhance your photos. Low angles looking up at the pet can be an entertaining vantage point to capture photos from, and incorporating things like reflections in a window or puddle is a great way to spice up the space, which will not only create a more dynamic photo but will give your pet parents something to engage with!
DON’T: Send the same photo over and over again.
When you visit or walk the same pet daily, it can be challenging to vary the types of photos you send to your clients. Especially if they aren’t a fan of sitting still for photos, it might be tempting to establish a routine where you know you can get a decent picture and call it a day. However, not only can this become boring for pet parents to receive, but sending the same type of photo day after day can register as a lack of effort or care on your part. To avoid this, try sending multiple photos to a client, marking them up with cute words or doodles, or taking a selfie to let the client know you’re having a blast with their pets!
DO: Be patient.
Pets can be extremely sensitive to the moods of the people around them and their surrounding environments. If you’re capturing some moments during a walk, avoid stopping near busy streets or intersections, as they might startle or distract the pet you’re with. If the pet is reactive to other dogs or strangers, wait until you’re in a more secluded area or until you’re near the client’s home to take photos. When you’ve found the perfect spot, use a pet’s favorite toy or treats to help pull their focus and use them as rewards when you’ve finished your photo session. Overall, pay attention to the pet’s comfort level and go at their pace!
DON’T: Take photos at a pet’s expense.
Costumes and props can be dazzling additions to any photoshoot, whether it be for pets or humans, but it’s important to consider whether or not they’re appropriate. Some pets regularly wear sweaters, and other costumes that their parents may supply you with, but other pets might find them uncomfortable or may only be keen on their parents dressing them up. While any client might love to see their pet wearing cute hats, bandanas, or clothes, be sure that you’re not bringing any stress or discomfort to their pet in the process.
Overall, the most important things to remember when taking photos of the pets in your care is to always have your camera ready, be mindful of your surroundings, and have tons of fun! Most camera and photo apps these days have many options that allow you to play with the lighting/coloration of your pictures, apply filters, and even add fun doodles. With so many ways to enhance your photos, it’s a great way to express creativity, have fun with the pets, and bond with your clients. With a bit of patience and a lot of love, you’ll be a master pet photographer in no time and have everyone wanting you to do photoshoots with their pets!