Photography • How-To How to Take and Edit Pet Portraits in Adobe Photoshop Lightroom

Turn your nonhuman pal into a social-media star.

Scrolling through pet photos on Instagram is probably the fastest way to make anyone’s day better in an instant. Learn practical tips on photographing your companion and bringing out their best with Adobe Photoshop Lightroom.

Headshot of Kendall Plant

I’m Kendall Plant. I’m a creative director at Adobe. I like exploring new ways of expressing my creativity and helping others do the same.

Before You Start

Here is the edited version of my photo if you’d like to open it in Lightroom to see the adjustments I made. I hope these techniques help you have a successful pet photography session.

Step 1: Get Your Companion Camera-Ready

The model for this photoshoot was my cat, Boo. She’s a 13-year-old, garage-sale rescue who enjoys napping in the sun, belly rubs, and tearing up paper.

You can take photos of your furry, scaly, or feathered friends just about anywhere. For a composed portrait session, find a spot with plenty of natural light and a background that’s not too cluttered. Set up a cushion or stool in front of a blank wall to make a simple scene in a pinch. Most importantly, your companion should be comfortable. Some clean white sheets on my bed created a stylish contrast with Boo’s fur.

Black cat with green eyes on white sheets, a DSLR camera is next to her, and a turquoise-colored yarn ball is in front of her

Two ingredients for great pet portraits are patience and treats. It might take some time to get the perfect pic, but the outtakes are part of the fun of getting there. Experiment with different angles as you work—getting eye-level with your companion, photographing them from above, or alternating between wide and tight shots. To keep Boo’s attention on me, I dangled one of her toys above the lens. I also gave her treats for being such a good model.

To give my photos a bright and airy look, I used a wide aperture (low f-stop) on my camera. This blurred the background behind Boo. I used portrait mode on my phone for a similar look. The top row of photos below was taken with my DSLR; the bottom row with my phone.

8 pictures of a black cat on white sheets displayed in 2 rows of 4 each, each picture shows a different pose

Step 2: Frame Your Pet

Open your favorite image in Lightroom. I used the app on my phone for quick editing and sharing, but you can make these same edits with the app on your desktop.

First, I chose Crop and used the handles to trim the background. Then I dragged the portrait to center Boo in the frame and tapped the checkmark to save the changes.

Left: Cat on white sheets fills the frame; Right: Cat shows in preview window with Crop tool from Lightroom mobile below it

Step 3: Shed Some Light

I opened the Light tool and raised Exposure to brighten the overall image. Since Boo’s fur is so dark, I increased Shadows to reveal more of her features and decreased Blacks to keep her rich color.

If your pet is a lighter color, try experimenting with the Highlights and Whites.

Lightroom Photoshop mobile app Light module is selected with adjustments to Exposure, Highlights, Shadows, and Blacks

Step 4: Bring Out the Color

Sometimes black coats look slightly blue or purple in photos, and white fur looks yellow. If you notice this in your photos, you can use the Color Mix tool to fine-tune specific colors. I tapped Orange and increased Saturation to bring out the shades of brown in Boo’s coat.

You can also use this tool to boost colors on vibrant pets like reptiles and birds. Don’t forget to tap Done when finished.

Color module with Mix highlighted and edits to Saturation on Orange channel; cat preview shows brown highlights in fur

Step 5: Highlight Their Best Feature

I wanted to make the color of Boo’s eyes stand out so I opened the Selective Editing tools, tapped the + (plus sign) icon, and chose the Brush tool. After touching the size icon and sliding my finger to adjust the brush size, I brushed over Boo’s eyes. The red overlay shows where the edits will be made.

I used the Color tool to decrease Temperature and Tint and increase Saturation. I then tapped the checkmark to save changes.

Left: Selective module, brush, and brush size highlighted, red overlay on cat eyes; Right: Cat eyes are bright green

Step 6: Add Finishing Touches

When you work with your furry friends, there will likely be spots or flyaways you want to remove from your photo. I used the Healing Brush to do some cleanup by brushing over spots I wanted to remove and tapped the checkmark when done.

To bring out the definition to Boo’s fur, I opened the Effects tools and increased Clarity.

Left: Healing tool and spot under cat’s eye selected; Right: Effects tool selected and Clarity is set to 12

Step 7: Make Your Pet Instagram-Famous

When you’re happy with your image, you can share it directly to Instagram from Lightroom. Tap the Share icon, Share to, and choose Instagram.

Note: The Share icon looks different on an iPhone than it does on Android.

Lightroom mobile app Share icon is selected, Share to submenu has an orange callout

Create a Portfolio of Personality

Pets make great subjects for practicing photography, whether you’re snapping quick photos on the go or setting up a mini photoshoot in your home. For an artistic look, experiment by posing your companion in shadows or dramatic light, or photograph them through a window. Tag @AdobeCreate so we can see what kind of personality your pet has.

Gallery shows images of 9 pets – 4 cats and 2 dogs each in different poses

Note: Project files included with this tutorial are for practice purposes only.

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