7 steps to choosing the perfect pic for your pet portrait

A step by step guide to choosing the perfect pic for your pet portrait

Before deciding to get a pet portrait, you need to pick the perfect photo of your pet! If you’re keen to get a bespoke print or other form of pet portrait, you’ll need to first take or find the best photos of your beloved pet. 

In this blog, I’ll share my top tips for choosing a cracking photo, so your pet print is everything you dreamed of. 

Step 1: Avoid deep shadows and bright lights

The lighting of your photo is very important…. And it can feel a little like trying to find the right temperature porridge for Goldilocks! 

Areas of bright patches or dark shadows on your pet means there will be very little detail captured in the picture, often none at all. This makes the image tricky to use because there's no lovely fur detail to enhance that will help to make your pet print 'pop'. 

photo of white dog taken in bright sunlight and how the fur detail is burnt out

Photos taken on an overcast day are ideal as clouds act as a natural filter and diffuses the light more evenly allowing you to avoid strong contrasts in your photo. If it's a very sunny day taking your picture in the shade avoids your camera/phone trying, and failing, to cope with the extreme range of light levels.

The examples below show the difference in fur detail captured in the two images after I've moved Luna into the shade of a nearby hedge.

comparison of 2 phone photos one taken in bright sunshine with loss of detail and one taken in shade that is much better quality

And natural light is better than artificial light. Lamp light or even the light from a TV can cause your cat or dog to look a different colour than they actually are, so wherever possible use images taken in daylight.

Example of how artificial lighting changes the fur colour on the cat

Step 2: Get the distance right

Don’t get too close, or too far away! Yup, it’s goldilocks syndrome again! You need to be close enough that all of your pet is visible, but not so far away that the details of their features are invisible.

Photo example of loss of detail in a dogs face when picture is taken from too far away and the subject is small in the frame

If the subject is too small in the frame I have to enlarge them to fit their design and the result is much less detail and clarity in their features which also means a distinct loss of quality overall. You can see this happening in the example with Luna above.

Photos showing a small dog in the frame compared to the dog much bigger

Example showing a close up of a cat licking his paws with part of his head cropped off and a better photo where all of the cat is visible

If the pet fills the frame to the point that parts of their body have been cropped off I can retouch back in the odd ear or paw that's missing but often these types of photos require some serious and time-consuming compositing so I wouldn't be able to use them.


Step 3: Avoid objects obscuring full view of your pet

To create a beautiful pet portrait, I need to be able to see your pet in full view. Make sure there is no clutter in the picture, or things like twigs, hands or furnishings covering parts of your pet. 


Step 4: Make sure your photo is in focus

Blurry images make it difficult to see your pet’s beautiful features in all their glory. Clean your lens before shooting and get the distance right for a nice focused photo of your beloved companion. Wait until your pet is still before taking the shot, any slight movement in the head could result in a blurred image.

dog photos showing a blurred face and a sharply focused face 

It may not be immediately obvious, zoom in on their eyes, face and chest to make sure your image is as sharp as possible.


Step 5: Avoid 'Portrait Mode' on your phone pics

When pictures have been taken in 'Portrait Mode' on your phone it creates an image where only a small part of the face and/or body is actually sharp. This effect gives a beautiful feel overall but when the pet or person is digitally cut out and placed into a crisp, sharp design like mine the out of focus areas become much more obvious and the results don't look realistic.


Step 6: Experiment with poses

Take photos from different angles and positions to gather an array of shots. These can capture your pet's personality in a visually appealing way.

chihuahua in various standing and sitting poses

cute chihuahua sleeping in a cutout heart shape and a letter P

Getting creative with the angle means you can highlight your pet's unique features whether it's their expressive eyes or striking fur markings. The chosen design however, can dictate which pose will make the most impact.

For example, a B or W are wide letters at their base and hence have more space to work with so your pet pose can be standing, sitting or even lying down inside their initial.

ginger cat and great dane posed in photoshop cutout letters


A letter T however has a much narrower space in which to show off your pet so an upright pose will always suit it better.


cute dog sitting in a letter print

A pose that allows me to overlap the edges of the letter in the most natural and effective way helps to enhance the 3 dimensional, layered effect.


Step 7: Choose your portrait style

Is it going to be a heart, their initial or maybe their name?

Do you have more than one pet? If so, would you like to show them together or separately?

Once you know how you'd like your portrait to look choosing your images gets a little easier.

For example, if you'd like two pets together in a single letter or shape, you can have one of them upright and the other lying down. This allows me to position them rather nicely, one in front of the other. It will depend on the letter though and these examples below wouldn't work as well if it was a letter I or T.

Pet portrait example of how cat and dog sitting and standing poses can work together

Alternatively, you can have them together on one design but each in their own initial like Oscar and Freddie here.

 yorkshire terrier and lhasa apso photoshopped separately in cutout style letters


To produce these modern pet prints and take your final, gorgeous, furry family portrait from just 'good' to 'A-MAZ-ING', means having the best possible quality photos from the start.


Need more help?

If you are unsure about an image I am more than happy to take a look before you make a purchase. This way you can be sure your photo is up to scratch and will give you the portrait you wish for. Just pop me an email at jackie@ohsodesign.co.uk 


Learn more about how I transform your photos into a stunning pet portrait or get more inspo with my guide on choosing the best background colour for your pet portrait - so it stands out for all the right reasons.