Choosing the Best Location for Pet Photography – A 3 Step Process

Before I became a professional pet photographer, I looked for pretty places to take pictures of my dogs. The first thing I looked for was something pretty background – and that was the complete wrong way to go about it! Once I learned this 3 step process of choosing the right pet photography location I started going to every new venue with a plan to get images I was proud to show.


Thanks to learning how a pet photographer should choose the right location I eliminated photos with:

  • Distracting backgrounds
  • Harsh light & shadow that led to hot spots on my models
  • Black dogs looking like black blobs

 This simple 3 step process can help you evaluate your location to know exactly where to place your dog (or horse, or cat, or pig, or person) subject to get beautiful and flattering images. In this blog I’m sharing my 3 step process.

Learning how to choose the best location for pet photography means your black dog won't look like a black blob.

Step 1 to Choosing the Right Location for Pet Photography – Find the LIGHT

The first step in fininding the right location for dog photography is to look for the right light.

Photography is light. Moving forward with that simple definition makes it obvious that the first thing you should do when looking for the right location for pet photography is find the light. But, that’s easier said than done.

It’s so easy to see a pretty brick wall or cluster of flowers and want that in the photo. You might place your models there without considering the red building directly across from that brick wall that’s going to create yucky red color casts all over your doggie subject making all their whites look pink. Or not seeing the harsh side lighting on those flowers that is going to make one side of your dog just a black blob.

So what do you do?

I start every pet photography session looking for where the light will be most beautiful on my subject – after all this photoshoot is all about them. If I’m creating an equine black background image I am looking for light that is indirect, soft, without light seeping in from behind. If I am looking to create a dog portrait with backlight I need sunlight that is filtered through something behind my dog model (like a copse of trees) and I need open access to the sky for them to face into.

I might have to pass on using some “pretty backgrounds” because I work with available light for my outdoor pet photography sessions, but I’ll deliver beautiful pet portraits.

Step 2 to Choosing the Right Location for Pet Photography – Choosing The Background

OK, I know I spent a lot of time just saying don’t look for the background, but what I mean is don’t look for the background first.

Once you have determined where the light is what you want for your image – then you have to check the background. It doesn’t matter how gorgeous the light is if the background is a porta-potty.

Because my focus as a pet photographer is gorgeous portraits – I want locations where the background is not distracting. I’m looking for backgrounds that are simple where my pet model pops right out at you. I try to avoid anything that has really bright spots whether it’s bright color or a really bright spot of light coming through.

My style of outdoor pet photography also relies on creamy, blurry backgrounds by using a wide aperture on my camera. Those buttery backgrounds look best when there is color harmony. And that blurred background style of photography also means that you likely won’t be able to tell exactly what’s in the background anyway.

Before we move on to the 3rd step for pet photographers choosing the right location – I do want to mention sometimes it’s fun to break the rules! Art is about knowing the rules and knowing when to break them – so enjoy a few of my favorite images where I just tossed all those silly rules right out the window.

Choosing the best background for pet photography means eliminating distractions.

Step 3 to Choosing the Right Location for Pet Photography – Composition

Composition in photography is how we tell our view where to look in our images. Once you’ve determined where the best light is and found where that good light meets a non-distracting background you plan where to put your pet model in the scene.

Should you use the rule of thirds by placing your horse & rider on the power point to the right using the fence line to draw the eye right to them? Maybe you want to place your dog directly in the center of the frame for a centered composition?

Using composition in your pet photography is what helps take to the next level of artistry as a professional pet photographer. When you can start to see a spot where the light and background are right and then also notice how the curve of the path can lead your viewer through the image – then you know you’ve mastered how to choose a location for pet photography.

Model pups lends a helping paw to create a great brand for Atlanta dog walking service.
Ok, now take a look around your yard.

What location would you choose?
DM me a picture on Instagram

I’d love to see it!

This blog is a part of a blog circle with pet photographers near me and from across the globe! This week we’re talking about locations!

Head over to Nancy Of Nancy Kieffer Photography shares some favorite locations in Syracuse for your pet portrait session.

Be sure to keep clicking the link at the bottom to complete the circle until you wind up back here!

What to read next?


  1. Nancy

    Yes, the light. it is all about the light.

  2. Nicole

    That brindle dog is adorable! Thanks for sharing these tips!

  3. Tracy Allard

    Terrific tips and I love the image of the terrier with the rose collar!!!


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