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When it comes to animals, wildlife photographer Joel Sartore, 55, has almost seen it all.

The American lensman has 25 years of experience shooting for the National Geographic. Other than Instagram, where he has 1mil followers (@joelsatore), Joel also documents his work on a project called National Geographic Photo Ark, the world’s largest archive of animal studio portraits which he started in 2005 to raise awareness about animal extinction and save endangered species.

“I feel like a shepherd of animals responsible for telling their stories, but I’m also a little bit nervous that I won’t do a good job,” laughs the paw-rent of two dogs who will be in Singapore this month to give a National Geographic Live! talk about his work.

We won’t give too much about his talk away, but we did get Joel to share tips on how to snap, er, paw-some photos of our pets. Who says your dog can’t be an Instagram star

1.     Don’t force Fido to pose 
“People forget that it’s hard to get pets and children to do what they don’t want to do, like sit there and stare at you,” says Joel. “Don’t force a moment on them. You need to be patient and wait for a good chance [to snap photos], like when you’re eating a sandwich and they’re looking at you eating it.”

2.     The Pooch Selfie gadget only works sometimes
You’re meant to attach a tennis ball to this doodad and fix it onto your phone to get your pet to focus on the camera. But things may not always go according to the PR spiel. According to Joel, “It might work if the animal is motivated to look at the ball.” Which means if you usually can’t get Mr Cuddles to do your bidding even with treats, don’t bother.

3.     Position yourself strategically
Unless you’re trying to shoot a predatory beast, Joel recommends moving closer to the animal for better photos. “The key is to put the camera at their eye level so you can get a picture of them looking at you in the eye.”

4.      Use flash for fast-moving animals
Joel shares, “[For quick animals], we usually use flash, like in fashion photography. The flash is very short and freezes the action.”

5.     You don’t have to invest in expensive cameras
Joel reckons he has “taken great photos with an iPhone many times without using a single app”. The trick? Good old-fashioned waiting for the right moment to snap. “People need to be more patient. We have waited for animals who take 20 to 30 minutes to eat their breakfast.”

6.     It’s all about timing
“To get nice lighting, either work very early or late in the day.”

PHOTOS: JOEL SARTORE’S INSTAGRAM/ NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC

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