1. PATIENCE Before you start, take a deep breath and remind yourself that it may take longer than you had anticipated to get that killer shot of your pet. This picture of Sasha is by no means perfect. There are shadows and a floating hand, but sometimes you have to take what you can get (Sasha is a very energetic dog and to be honest, it was a miracle that I got her to sit still at all).
2. BE READY Even though they are parts of our families, pets are not people and sometimes their surroundings are far more interesting than your pleas to look at the camera. Calling "Say Cheese!" rarely ever gets their attention (unless you're photographing a mouse). Have your finger on that trigger ready to press when you get the expression you're looking for. If you are taking pictures of your dog with people in the picture, have the people just smile continuously at the camera so that everyone will be ready when your four-legged friend finally deems you interesting enough to deserve a glance.
3. WOO WOO WOO Speaking of getting their attention, have something that makes noise that either an assistant can use behind you or that you can hold above your camera to get them to look at you. If you don't have anything, try saying "Woo woo woo" in a high pitched voice. I'm not sure why that one works, but more often than not, it has worked for me. If you're in a quiet area, sometimes just the camera shutter going off is enough to pique your pet's curiosity. Unless you use film, there's no harm in just snapping some photos to try to get their attention. You might even get some great candids.
4. EARS UP, MOUTHS OPEN If your dog or cat is stressed out, they tend to put their ears down giving them a scared or aggressive appearance. Make them feel comfortable. With more timid animals, this can take awhile. Find an environment that is familiar to them where they can be themselves. After all, the best pictures capture the personality that you love. Be patient enough to let that come out.
5. HAVE FUN Don't stress yourself out if everything isn't perfect. As long as the picture is in focus, the lighting is decent, the background doesn't distract from your adorable subject and you feel as though you have accurately captured your pet's personality, you're doing pretty well! Look at it as a chance to get to know your furry friend better...even if all you discover is that you both have short attention spans.
Have some tips that you've picked up along the way? Add 'em to the comments!