The Art of Taking Ridiculously Adorable Pet Photos with Your Phone


Pets are a big part of most people’s lives, and most pet owners love to have shots on their phones to show off to other pet lovers.

But for many of us, our pet photos are just giant blurry blobs – it doesn’t matter if we’re shooting with a high end DSLR or a 3-year-old phone, pets are difficult. But if you’d love to get a shot of your best furry friend in action, here are some tips that can help you take irresistible pet photos with your phone.

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The lighting was a little bright when Elvis, our orange tabby, sat down on this red blanket but the pose was too cute to pass up. (Image: Tamra Hart, HTC Rezound)

All the basics of lighting and composition apply with pet photos the same way they do with people photos. Most phone cameras aren’t as good at action as DSLRs, so you’ll want to shoot more posed shots. With dark-furred animals, you’ll want to pay extra attention to lighting; position them where they’ll be well lit.

Also, see if your cellphone has any settings to help with motion blur (for example, using a higher ISO or an “action” scene mode) because most pets don’t freeze and smile when you say “cheese” (most of them would rather eat said cheese).

Timing is Everything
Pets have active times and restful times. Don’t try to get a shot when they’re full of energy and moving faster than your cellphone can focus. Even the best trained dog won’t want to pose when their body is telling them to run and play. Aim to get your shot at the tail end of play time, when they’re ready to sit for a moment, or after a big meal when they’re ready to nap.

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Gideon is an afternoon napper, so we timed our visit so he’d be feeling mellow. (Image: Tamra Hart, HTC Rezound)

Cats also like to eat, play, and sleep around the same time each day, so if you know their schedule, you can plan to get your shot before they nap.

Limit Distractions
You’re not going to get your pet to look at you for more than a millisecond when there are other interesting things to look at. This means you have to wait to get their attention until they’re bored with the bird in the tree outside, and you may have to wait until you’re the only person in the room with them.

This works both ways, though — if you want a shot of your pet looking very interestedly off-camera, you can have someone else make a slight noise at a planned time to get a lively and interested expression.

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Gideon is much more interested in his owner than in the photographer, so we had to really work to get his attention. (Image: Bruce Hart, HTC Rezound)

Save Your Bribes and Noises
Most photographers start out by offering the bribe or making the really cool noise right off the bat, and then don’t have anything to work up to. Save those for after you’ve tried to get a few shots using other methods. Start by getting the composition you want in your phone grid and then say their name quietly. If they’re still distracted, don’t repeat their name twenty times in hopes they’ll catch on. I know from personal experience that if it’s a cat, it will definitely catch on – and you’ll get the dreaded “does my butt look fat when I pose like this” stare.

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My husband snapped his fingers over my head to get Bella Luna’s attention. (Image: Tamra Hart, HTC Rezound)

Once you’ve tried the name, move on to the interesting noises (squeaks and clicks). Only when that doesn’t work, should you offer a treat to get them to look at you. Don’t forget to give it to them once you’ve gotten them to look for a few shots – you don’t want them to associate your photo-taking with torture.

Toy Time
If you haven’t gotten the shot you wanted by this point, it’s time to pull out a single toy that squeaks or moves. Remember not to squeak or move too much, or your pet will totally forget that they’ve already played and were thinking of a nap. If you want a shot of them paying attention to the toy, but not turning into a 700mph tornado of play, you might need to repeat this whole series of steps several days in a row to get to the point where they’re just a tiny bit bored and have more of an “Oh yeah, I know that toy! I’ve played with it” reaction.

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Gideon was definitely interested in his squeaky frog toy, and dropped the soggy chewy bone that wasn’t portrait-ready. (Image: Bruce Hart, HTC Rezound)

Once you have a good shot, it’s time to think about editing. Whether you’re wanting a classic b&w portrait of your pet, or a full-color masterpiece, you can use your phone software or a computer program to crop, tone, and enhance any of the images you want to print.

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My blue-eyed orange and brown tortie point Siamese didn’t quite match the grey and white blanket so I changed the photo to a classic black and white that will look perfect printed and framed. (Image: Tamra Hart, HTC Rezound)

Good cellphone photos of your pets are possible with a little planning and a bit of pet psychology. And don’t forget the squeaky toys.

If you want to mail these adorable shots over to all your best friends and have everyone collectively go “squeeeee!”, just go to to get started.

Featured Image: The Cutest Kitten Ever

Tamra Heathershaw-Hart is a photographer, writer, and graphic designer based in Salem, Oregon. You can find her on Google (‎) and Facebook (‎).

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