Photographing your pets, whatever they may be, does require, as you may have already discovered, not only a certain amount of skill but lashings of patience and a very mild and even temperament.
So, with that in mind, I have discovered that the best opportune time is when they have either just been aroused from a deep sleep or have recently eaten a large meal.
Of course, you may be lucky enough to possess a pet which is fully responsive and quite willing to do whatever you want, but I assure you these individuals are very far and few between. Especially at a juvenile age.
I would advise that you plan the shoot to be undertaken indoors, in a restricted room, where there is a good amount of natural light coming into the room from a large open window or doorway. It is important that your pet is familiar and comfortable with the room and its surroundings, but if you are unsure I would suggest, a couple of days beforehand that you set up the planned area with whatever you intend to use in the shoot, such as props, favourite toys, etc. That will at least put the animal at ease.
By the way, natural light is best to use in these situations. You don’t want to use on-camera flash, as it tends to create nasty shadows and blown out areas as well as red-eye and not to mention the fact that it could be uncomfortable and cause the animal stress when fired at close range.
It is important to note here too, that you are fully aware of your camera’s capabilities, as some of the requirements here may restrict you.
Apart from the props you use, you really need a tripod and a remote shutter release would be an asset but not essential.
Your camera and its lens will need the ability to not only get full body shots of your pet but also close-up, Macro type shots, which might include just the eyes and face.
It is important that the animal has had a recent bath to ensure the eyes and face are clean, as this is likely to be the main focal point and where you will be mainly directing you focus control at. You should also be attempting to convey the character of your pet by catching some quirky little antics that also bring out the emotion not only in yourself but those who view the images.
A classic shot to get is when they show sudden alertness such as when they have been playing quietly with something for a while and you suddenly whistle or clap your hands.
Don’t be satisfied with just one or two shots. Even if it means keeping the area set up for a few extra days, get in as many different shots as you can and from various angles and viewpoints. In particularly those shots that bring out the best in your pet.
Life is too short - even more so for our pets. And even more reason to make the shoot worthwhile.