Lights, Camera, Action! 10 Tips for Taking Pics of Your Pet

Great photos can be lifelong treasures; as Eudora Welty once said, "A good snapshot stops a moment from running away." Never did this ring more true to me than when I was able to look back through years of pictures of my Cavalier King Charles, Wellington, after losing him this past fall. After all, what's more precious than the moments we share with our pets?

With the New Year upon us, it is prime picture-taking time -- and the perfect opportunity to get pets in on the action! Of course, any pet parent who has tried knows it's not always easy to wrangle furry friends into photos. But take heart -- this year can be different. The best way to get started is to break out the camera, open the shutter and start snapping. You can produce photos you'll love for years to come, and treasure in the future -- just follow these rules for making the most of each close up!

Rule 1: Practice patience!
This is probably the most important rule. Pets are unpredictable, and with all of their worming and squirming, it can take a few (ok a few hundred) tries to get a good shot. Don't give up! If Plan A isn't working, experiment! Try a different angle or go to a new location -- you may be surprised at what you can capture when you give up control and go with the flow.

Rule 2: Do some homework
Going with the flow is great, but it does still help to have a foundation to build on. Practice a few basic training moves for a few days before the shoot. Commands like SIT, STAY and DOWN can come in handy when trying to snap a still life.

Rule 3: Time it right
Think about the kind of pictures you want to take and plan when you take them accordingly. If action shots are your aim, take pictures during your pet's usual playtime. If you want a pet to hold still and "smile," shoot after exercise time when your pet is tired.

Rule 4: Don't shy away from bribery
What's a great way to get your pet to do what you want? Feeding them treats! Have lots of treats on hand for your "photo shoot." Use tiny training treats (or break larger treats into small pieces) to avoid a calorie overload. Try toys or affection as a reward if your pet is so food-obsessed that all bets are off when the goodie bag appears.

Rule 5: Go natural
Pets look best in natural light. Take the photos somewhere bright to light up your pet's best features. Avoid using a flash, which can scare pets, cause red eye and make white or light-colored animals appear to glow.

Rule 6: Get on their level
To get the best angle for the pictures, shoot from your pet's eye level or just below it.

Rule 7: Click quickly!
Shooting in continuous mode gives you a better chance of capturing just the right moment as your pet plays and prances.

Rule 8: Make it personal
Pick a photo set up that reflects your pet's "pawsonality." If you have a pet who is super active and hates sitting still, forego the formal portrait and capture them romping in snow. If you have a pet who loves to chew, throw them a bone and get film of the feast. If your best friend is a cuddle bug, sneaking some shots while they're sleeping can have very cute results!

Rule 9: Shift your focus
After you take all the portraits and full-body action shots you can handle, take a few minutes to try a different focus. Zooming in on certain physical characteristics can capture what makes your pet truly unique. Giant paws, a curly tail, expressive eyes, ear-resistable ears -- put your pet's best feature front and center and blur everything else in the background.

Rule 10: Have fun!
No matter how the pictures turn out, don't forget to have a little fun. Taking some time out to appreciate your pet and spend quality time together is its own reward -- even if you don't end up with prize-worthy pictures.

Photos of friends and family with our furry loved ones always inspire a smile, even when the subjects in the picture are no longer with us. Give my tips a try and enjoy each moment with your pets. And no matter how it all turns out, remember: if at first you don't succeed, hire a professional next year!