Lighting is key to taking great animal photographs, and the basics of good lighting apply whether you’re using an expensive SLR, a point and shoot, or even a cell phone.
First and foremost, don’t shoot directly into the sun. If you’re shooting outside and the sun is behind your pet, he or she will appear completely in shadow in your photo. Just walk around and take the photo from the opposite side, with the sun behind you or just to your side.
Early morning and late afternoon are always the best times to photograph outdoors. Bright sunlight in the middle of the day will take an OK photo of your pet – but it will tend to be flat and not very interesting. If you have to shoot mid-day, take your pet under a tree branch, where sunlight will filter through and shine points of light on your pet that will add beauty and depth to your image.
If you’re shooting indoors, natural light is great if there is a large bright window nearby. Most of the time, especially in New York apartments, that’s not the case. I do use a flash attachment on my camera, but never face it to my subject. One method I use is to tilt the flash up to bounce off the ceiling, half-way between me and the animal I’m photographing. Another is to hang a white sheet on a wall and face the flash toward it so the light bounces off the white wall and sheds a wide, soft light on the animal.
Please note that photographing a dog with black fur indoors requires a lot more light than one flash attachment. For the photo below, I used three portable Nikon speedlights. It’s a lot more work, but the results are definitely worth it.