I'm a Maine based photographer, specializing in weddings and lifestyle portraiture. I serve all of New England and beyond as no event is ever too far.

Tony Downer’s 7 Tips for Successful Pet Portrait Photography

Below is an article by the Hallmark Institute of Photography with “7 Tips for Successful Pet Portrait Photography” by instructor Tony Downer. It ties in perfectly with today’s Facebook post by Hallmark of Tony demonstrating pet photography.  He was one of my instructors at Hallmark and one of the best guys you could ever meet!


Hallmark Institute of Photography Instructor, Tony Downer, was first introduced to pet photography when he was a student at Hallmark (class of ’95). He now teaches Hallmark students how to photograph pets, an important part of running a portrait studio. He shared with us his tips for getting the best shots of our furry friends.

  1. Set realistic expectations for the pet’s owner—“I usually tell the pet parent, ‘We may not get good images right off, and we don’t want to stress the animal,’” Tony says. “Usually, with this understanding, it works out the first time with good handling, patience, and time.”
  2. Learn from the pet’s owner what key word the pet understands—“I never use a key word or an attention getter until I’m ready to shoot,” Tony says. “You don’t want to wear it out. I would rather not use treats, because then that’s all they want.”
  3. Make sure the animal is comfortable with the flash—“We pop the flashes frequently when the pet arrives,” Tony says. “We don’t make anything of it, just to let them know it’s not a thing.”
  4. Create a quiet environment in the studio—“A pet’s parent and the photographer are the only ones that should be around,” Tony recommends. “No odd noises and especially no other pets nearby.”
  5. Get down to their level— “Pet parents usually get the standing above them, pet-looking-up pose. As a professional, I like to get right down at the pet’s level and cover head and shoulder shots, sitting, standing and laying down.”
  6. Look for the best angles—“I like to have the pet’s body angled away from my key light, and their head turned back to the key light,” Tony says. “This creates angles and makes the image more dynamic.”
  7. Be prepared for emotional sessions—“I have made portraits of pets that were near the end of their life, sometimes about to be put down.” Tony says. “For me it’s very emotional. It’s tough. I don’t know the pet but it makes the session personal and important to me.”

[original article by can be found here]

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