Pets & Animals

How to take better photos of your pet in 9 simple steps

As Wrangler's personal paparazzo and occasional dog owner, I'm no stranger to pet photography. And while my camera roll may be filled with photos of dogs, the truth is that some of them are just truly terrible! Whether they're blurry, unflattering or poorly lit, these images will never see the light of day. We all have those shameful pet photos!

So from one photographer to another, here are my best tips and tricks for getting that Instagram-worthy shot of your furry friend.

#1: The key to success is in the kibble.

Unless your dog is a Zen master, 99 percent of the time they'll be distracted and won't look directly at the lens. Hold a favorite snack a few inches above the camera for maximum aw-factor.

Samantha Okazaki / TODAY
A behind-the-scenes look at how we got Wrangler's July 4 photo: teamwork! And lots of kibble!

#2: Try not to photograph the whites of their eyes.

I read a lot of comments from viewers who are concerned that Wrangler is depressed. I promise he’s not! He’s actually a very happy dog, he’s just really focused at work. Plus Labrador retrievers have naturally droopy eyes, so the more of the white you see, the sadder he looks.

RELATED: How to take great home videos of your kids

Samantha Okazaki / TODAY
Wrangler looks on with sad puppy eyes (but he's actually really happy!)

#3: If your pets have dark hair, photograph them facing a window.

This is a good rule of thumb for all photography, but especially when your pooch has dark brown or black fur. You've heard of "black dog syndrome," right? It's a real problem!

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See Wrangler grow from puppy to adult in 6 month time-lapse on TODAY

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See Wrangler grow from puppy to adult in 6 month time-lapse on TODAY

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#4: Have a boy dog? Make sure you're not revealing too much

Since your dog will likely be in his birthday suit for these photos, keep an eye on how much of his anatomy you're giving away. He may look absolutely perfect and innocent in real life, but if you get a shot where he's too exposed, that's all anyone else will see.

Samantha Okazaki / TODAY
Wrangler needed a little censoring; it's a morning show after all!

#5: Clean up your background.

Not only will a simple, preferably bright, backdrop bring the focus onto your dog but you'll also save yourself the embarrassment of posting a great photo with your dirty laundry in the background.

RELATED: Kathie Lee and Hoda snap pics snuggling with their dogs

#6: Practice what you preach: sit, stay, DOWN.

Don't feel awkward lying directly on the floor. You want to be at eye level with your dog for adorable up-close photos and a cute, unexpected perspective.

Samantha Okazaki / TODAY
How else do you think I got so up close and personal with Wrangler's favorite chew toy?

#7: Man's best friend is...burst mode

If your dog is doing something active — splashing in water, jumping from your bed, playing with a baby or fellow furry friend, etc. — capture it in a burst, which is a mode on most smartphones that takes several quick photos. That way you can pick the sharpest, most perfectly timed moment instead of snapping individual pictures and just praying that one of them doesn't make your pet look like a gremlin.

Bonus points: You can make a GIF by combining the whole series into one file!

#8: Don't photograph any habits you wouldn't normally encourage.

As a guide dog in training, Wrangler has a lot of skills to learn and rules to obey — that’s no easy feat for a puppy! We don't pose him in any way that would go against his training, and most of our photo sessions actually involve tasks that help him with patience or enforce good habits.

Samantha Okazaki / TODAY
Wrangler practices curbing his food impulses with the kibble challenge.

#9: Most importantly: Reward your dog for being an excellent model!

Give love, praise and cookies when you wrap up your photo shoot.

Samantha Okazaki / TODAY
Good job, Wrangler! Saxon rewards him with a treat after a long day's work.
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