You know your dog is the best dog out there, right? His smiles are the widest, he perks up adorably and his head tilts – they’re something else. But how do you prove it to the world? Photos, of course. But when it comes to capturing your pet’s unique looks and spirit on camera, it’s easier said than done.

The DogWatch team knows how you feel (and we have plenty of blurry pics to prove it). To help you out, we have consulted the experts. Here are their tips to take that elusive, perfect pet photo.

Have Patience

Professional pet photographer Amanda Jones says it best. “As a pet owner, you’ve already got the patience of a saint. Make sure to use those powers when taking photos.”

Remember that it takes time to nab that perfect pic.  Be ready to try different poses, locations and times of day, and don’t get frustrated if it takes 40 (or 140) snaps to nab the right one. And remember, you can always clean up imperfections using photo editing software on your computer or a photo editing app like Instagram.

Professional photographer Brittany Croft agrees that patience and flexibility are key to capturing great pet photos. Check out her video, where she shares her expertise and lets you go behind the scenes of a photo shoot with two Labrador Retrievers.

Don’t Go at It Alone

Consider recruiting a friend or family member to help you during your pet’s “photo shoot.” This extra person can help you out by dangling or squeaking a toy to get your pet’s attention, or dispensing treats to get the pet in the specific pose you want. Just remember to choose wisely. If your dog barks or your cat hides when strangers come around, then that stranger won’t be of much help to you, and may even make your job harder.

Try Things from Your Pet’s Level

Ziggy the LabradoodleDon’t just stick to the traditional “aim the camera down while the dog is looking up” photos. Get down on your knees or stomach so that the camera is on your pet’s level. Professional pet photographer Jim Datfield likes this approach: “Animals are very pure and honest in their responses, so it’s lovely to capture some pictures at that level.” Plus, everyone loves a great close-up shot of two sparkling eyes and a big wet nose!

To get some inspiration, watch this behind-the-scenes videos of professional photographer Peter Kaskons capturing great images at a recent DogWatch photo shoot. Strike a pose, doggies!

Avoid “Matchy-Matchy Syndrome”

Choosing the proper background for your pet’s photo is also important. Chuck De Laney, dean of the New York Institute of Photography in Manhattan, suggests selecting a background color that is complementary to your pet’s coloring, but not the same. For example, white cats look great perched on a blue pillow, black dogs are striking against a bright, light-colored sky, and golden retrievers shine when photographed in a green lawn. (For proof, just check out the dogs on our homepage!) Remember, your pet should stand out, not blend in!

Natural Light is Best

Most experts agree that outdoor shoots often produce the best pet pictures. Indoor photos often require a flash, which can mean red-eye and in some cases, a frightened subject. Furthermore, your pet is often at her most playful and adorable when enjoying the outdoors. Natural light helps you capture all of your pet’s beautiful features. On brighter Close up of gray tabby cat wearing a DogWatch collardays, look for shady place to take your pictures, to avoid the washout look of photos taken in direct sunlight.

Outdoor photos are not always feasible. For example, you may have an indoor cat. In that case, try taking his or her photo by a window, on a screened-in porch or any other place inside where there is plenty of natural light. That way, you can take advantage of the best light, and produce some wonderful shots!

Focus on What Makes Them Special

Finally, in your quest for the perfect photograph, don’t forget your ultimate goal – capturing what makes your pet so unique and wonderful. Sure, your white dog may always look a little muddy in the spring or your energetic puppy may prefer being photographed rolling around in the grass instead of sitting serenely on the front steps. That fun-loving spirit is why we love them, so focus on capturing that feeling, rather than any particular pose. The best pet photographs are the ones that tell you something about the animal’s personality, and those are the ones you’ll treasure.

Did we miss anything? Share you pet photography tips and favorite pet photos here, or via Facebook and Instagram using the hashtag #DogWatchHiddenFences. Now, snap away!

Featured image, middle: “All Tongue” by David Goehring is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

Featured image, left and right: Ziggy the Labradoodle and Bandit the mixed breed by Peter Kaskons for DogWatch

Cat photo: DogWatch Hidden Fences of Santa Barbara Facebook page.