What Lighting is Best for Pet Photography?

Lighting is an essential aspect of all types of photography. It’s a vital skill, perhaps even more important than learning how to frame your subject. If you really want to level up your photography game learning about how different kinds of light affects the images you take is a great place to start.

When it comes to pet photography, lighting is just as important as any other type of photography. While lots of people take pictures of their pets outdoors where they obviously can’t physically control the lighting, it’s still worth thinking about what effect the light can have on the photos you take. And, experimenting with different kinds of natural light can create strikingly different sets of photos.

In this article, we’ll cover some of the styles of lighting you can experiment with in your own pet photography, as well as some advice and guidance for how to get the best out of each type of lighting

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Shooting outdoors – look out for gorgeous natural lighting effects

A lot of pet photographers prefer to shoot dogs outdoors, and this is definitely something we’d recommend. Letting dogs run around in nature, with plenty of space and interesting things to smell, is a great way to get natural looking photos.

However, it does mean that you can’t control the lighting – so you’ll need to be on the lookout for some natural lighting effects that you can take advantage of. Here are some of our favourites:

Golden hour

Golden hour is a popular time for any kind of photography. Referring to the time just before sunset or just after sunrise, the light in these periods is soft and redder in colour than typical light. It can lead to beautiful, majestic images of dogs, especially if you can position them with the sunset front-lighting them.

Dark silhouettes

Another amazing time to photograph dogs actually happens just a bit after or before golden hour. During the full sunset or sunrise – where the sun is in the process of coming up or down, you can shoot amazing dog photography, especially if you can capture them in a dark silhouette against a landscape with the sun behind them.

Use reflectors to add some extra light

If you’re finding that you need a little bit more light when you’re shooting dogs outdoors, you can use reflectors to try and angle a bit more light onto your subject. This generally only works with certain dogs who you can rely on to sit fairly still, as it’s challenging to follow a moving subject with a reflector. But it’s a good tip, and worth bearing in mind, as you can get striking shots even in quite dark areas with the addition of a reflector.

Use dappled shadow for an intriguing effect

If you’re shooting in the woods, a forest, or really anywhere with some tree cover, you can use the dappled shadows that the leaves or branches cast to create really interesting effects. Depending on the position of the dog, you’ll find the light naturally drawing the attention to certain areas of the frame, meaning every photo will be slightly different.

Shooting indoors – use soft and diffuse light

If you’re shooting indoors, it’s best to use natural light as much as possible. If you can shoot in front of large, airy windows, it’s a great way to get lots of light into the frame. However, if you are working with artificial lights, here are some tips on how to get the best out of them for dog photography.

Firstly, use soft, diffuse light. Dogs’ eyes are quite sensitive, so harsh lights can be very uncomfortable for them. Use lightboxes or other diffuse lights and try not to angle direct lighting towards the dogs.

Shooting with the lights directly in front of your pet is the most common option, and does often get the best overall effect. But, don’t be afraid to experiment with other kinds of lighting – overhead or off at an angle can create some really striking images.

Be extremely cautious if you’re using flash lighting, or any other kind of concentrated direct bright lights, like ring lights, as dogs’ eyes are very sensitive. Plus, you’ll often find that dogs will either jump or try and pre-empt the flash, ruining the shot anyway! Stick to soft, indirect lighting will give you the best results for indoor dog photography.

If you’re looking for professional dog photography for your furry best friend, speak to Pawtraits by Steve. My friendly service means I always take the time to get to know you and your dog, so I can capture intimate pictures of you enjoying each other’s company. I even offer gift vouchers, which make a perfect present for a friend to immortalise their relationship with their treasured companion.