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Guest Blog: Peggy Mundell – Photographing Pets

May 8, 2011

Today we have Peggy Mundell from DogBreedz, and she’s sharing with us some of her super tips for photographing pets (she’s a pro). Pay attention, folks – this is a guest blog chock full of sound advice!


Photographing Pets for Greeting Cards

In last week’s Design Spotlight, Ernestine Grindal showed us that a snapshot of our dear pet can be turned into a fantastic greeting card that many can enjoy.  And yet, when you submit your favorite fur-kid home photo, the Reviewers kick it back to you for edits.  Or worse, they deny your card all together – what gives? My goal today is to give you hints to overcome some common problems when photographing pets and tips on how to make more of those photos usable in your GCU cards.

First things first – keep your camera within reach!  How many times have you seen that oh-so-adorable sleeping puppy shot, but when you even think about getting up to find your camera, the moment is gone and your pup is at your feet, ready for the next adventure of the day?  Having your camera always less than an arm-length away means you will have more opportunities to capture those “awwww!” moments.

Point of view can make a ho-hum photo into one that pops and gets the shoppers’ attention.  Instead of standing to take the photo, get down on your pet’s level.  Lay on the ground, or if your pet is in a chair then kneel down before you focus and click. A different perspective is often what capture’s a viewer’s attention.

Is red-eye an issue for you?  The ol’ devil eye is caused by light reflecting off the retina in the back of the pet’s eye – the red is because of the blood vessels back there.  Either shoot in a well-lit area so the pupils are not dialated (and therefore letting less light into the eye) or if your camera has a “double flash” feature, make use of it.  The first flash will constrict the pupils and the second flash will light the scene for the photo.  No double flash feature?  If you can cover the flash with cheesecloth, it will allow the light to come thru while diffusing it just enough to reduce the red eye.  Even better, if you can move the flash off the camera at all, having it on a different plane or angle from the camera lens will do the trick too.  Of course there is always post-processing programs to help correct red-eye, if you have access to one.

Now you are jumping with joy – you know that your last photo HAS to be the photo-of-the-year, without a doubt!  Your cutie-patootie pet just jumped up to bat at a butterfly and your camera was ready!  But wait … when you look at it, all you see is a blurry tip of a tail – how the heck did THAT happen?!  Many common point-n-shoot cameras have a slight delay – even tho you pushed the shutter at the precise moment Fido hit the top of his high-jump, the delay had you missing the shot.  If your camera is one of those – be ready to take the photo a second before the height of the action.  Or, turn your attentions to the more sedate, yet just as adorable shots.

Work on training in everyday life.  Teach your pooch to sit on command before the food bowl hits the ground at dinner time and you can use that handy sit command when setting up a “spontaneous” shot.  You have your dog now in a perfect sit, but his attention is elsewhere once the camera is raised?  Hold the camera with one hand, and in the other hand have his favorite toy, a ball ready to throw, or a super yummy to-die-for treat – as you bring that hand in closer to the lens of the camera, you’ll have a dog that is posing like the true ham that he is when you take the shot.  The next time your Rover guts a squeaky toy, don’t throw the squeaker out with the stuffing.  When you are out at the park or exploring the back yard, focus on your pet and give a couple of quick squeaks – the head will come up and snap to attention in your direction for a perfect photo!  Does Fluffy have a favorite spot where she likes to hang out?  Hang a solid color sheet behind to cut down on the clutter that will show in your final photo – and have an instant home studio!

These are just a few tricks that I use in my professional photo shoots.  I hope they come in handy while you take your own photos.  Let’s see those animals on your greeting cards!  If you have any questions, please leave a comment – I’ll be happy to help if I can.

Here are three examples of my greeting cards:


Corrie: And here are some examples of poor pet pictures, provided by Greeting Card Universe. Yes, one of the reasons we’re forced to wait so long to get card approvals is the submission of cards with snapshots like these on them. Please remember,  if you want to sell cards, they must have commercial appeal. Meaning, they have to be something someone else will actually pay for. Peggy’s cards are great and her advice is priceless.

Take our advice: if you’re hankering to put your pooch (or your kitty) on a card, use her tips to ensure a good result that not only doesn’t waste the reviewers precious time (and that of your fellow artists, too) but might put a little money in your pocket when a shopper buys it.

20 Comments leave one →
  1. May 8, 2011 10:02 am

    Great tips! Well done.

  2. Cathy Gangwer permalink
    May 8, 2011 2:52 pm

    Thank You for the helpful tips!

  3. May 8, 2011 3:09 pm

    Terrific job Peggy! You made me laugh…10+years ago I won my 1st digital camera a Sony Mavica (write to cd) and we adopted 2 kittens. That camera was so excruciatingly slow that I would break down laughing because my husband would say after he heard the shutter click “No Cats”! I had hundreds of photos with only a tail…LOL!

    Great tips from a pro! Thank you Peggy!!

    • May 10, 2011 5:26 am

      That is hilarious, Doreen, and a great example of matching the camera to the job at hand! I’m glad that my tips brought a laugh, as well as being useful. You are welcome!

  4. May 8, 2011 6:25 pm

    Good advice. Thanks. You have some wonderful photos on your site. BTW, with photo editing software (I use Photoshop Elements 9) we can jazz up some of our more mundane photos. For example, the rose with the Chow Mix photo couild have been added later — or other enhancing images could be added.

  5. May 8, 2011 7:34 pm

    Great interview Peggy. You made me laugh out loud with the ‘cat tails.’ That’s my biggest complaint about our new Digital cameras. If I had a penny for every fantastic shot I’ve MISSED with my digital-hurry-up-and-wait-camera, I’d be fabulously wealthy. You have some wonderful pooch-photos. Cheers!

    • May 10, 2011 5:34 am

      Thanks, Sue. Your Lakeland is an adorable model! Don’t discount those “oops!” shots right way … look at them with an open eye (instead of looking for what you expected to capture) and you might have a wonderful card still – a touch of humor, perhaps? : )-

  6. May 9, 2011 12:02 am

    Great advice! Thanks so much. I just love your dog photography – beautiful!

  7. Rycky Creations permalink
    May 9, 2011 12:52 am

    Great tips, Peggy… thanks for sharing!

  8. May 9, 2011 2:52 am

    Peggy, I love your Dog Photos. Thank you for the great tips. Great Job!

  9. May 9, 2011 3:24 pm

    Thanks for the great tips, Peggy! You’ve inspired me to try once again to get a good photo of my Shih Tzu. There always seems to be one thing or another wrong with my photos of him.

    • May 10, 2011 5:41 am

      You are welcome, Pattiann. I am thrilled that I’ve helped inspire you! Feel free to shoot me an email with specific questions – I’ll do my best to offer guidance. It may even inspire ME to do a followup guest blog!

  10. May 12, 2011 5:47 pm

    Super advice and expertise Peggy! Your photos are just superb 🙂

    Thank goodness for digital photography to be able to just delete, delete, delete away the poor shots. I can remember the days of waiting a week or so for developing only to find that out of the 30+ shots I’d taken of my pets were flops.

    Hmm, funny enough I’d imagine that many of your tips would apply to photographing small children too!

  11. ernestine permalink
    May 20, 2011 3:03 am


    You really capture the personality of your furry creatures, love your photos!

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