Tips For Taking Professional Photos With Your Dog


March 14, 2018

Tips For Including your Dog in Photos

All the things to consider before including your dog in photos, such as how to prepare your pet, what to consider before including your dog in your wedding photos or ceremony, and how to get the best family photos with your dog.

“A dog is the only thing on earth that loves you more than he loves himself.”

Man’s best friend.  Our four-legged children.  Dog life is the best life.  There are few things in life we love more than our pets.  For many of us, they are our first childhood companions and may even qualify as our first “serious relationship” as we age into adulthood.  While we try to rear our children into well-rounded human beings, we have no qualms spoiling our pets rotten.  Zero.  Zilch.  Nada.

I’m a dog person, myself.  The snuggles, the tummy rubs, the ‘kid at Christmas’ excitement when I walk through the door…it’s like a hug to the heart every single time.  Unfortunately, I lost my sweet, crazy goldendoodle a few weeks ago and all I can do is WISH I had taken more photos of her later in life.  Her puppy stage was well-documented, believe me, but once my photography business started growing I found less time to turn the lens towards her fluffy, scruffy face.

No, I don’t mean to make you sad or turn the mood somber here on the blog.  I’m sharing this with you all so that you will know how compassionate I am towards couples and families who want to get professional pictures taken of their dogs or pets.  I L-O-V-E when a bride and groom want to snap some wedding photos with their dog, or when a little girl asks to get a photo of just her and her pup during her family’s lifestyle session.  I always encourage my clients to incorporate their dogs into their photo sessions if they’re so inclined, and many of them have been!

Having photographed several couples and families with their dogs in tow, I want to share what I’ve learned along the way in case you’re planning a photo session with your own fur baby!

Before taking professional photos with your dog, you should definitely consider…

Prepping Your Pets

As the famous quote goes “success is where preparation and opportunity meet.”  You’ll have the opportunity to capture forever photos of your furry friend during our session, but beforehand, I recommend preparing both your pet and your go-bag with some strategic supplies.

  • Practice commands with your pet before your sessionNo, you don’t need to hire a trainer.  Just a few simple commands such as “sit,” “stay,” and “lie down” will be extremely helpful for getting them to cooperate in front of the camera.
  • Groom them one to two weeks in advance of your session.  Just like people, fresh haircuts usually need to grow out a touch before they’re just right.  (This can be breed dependent.  Use your best judgement — if your dog looks better right after a blowout, then roll with it!)
  • Brings treats if your dog is food motivated.
  • Pack their favorite toy(s) to get and hold their attention.  Toys can also give comfort if they’re feeling unsure about the situation, or provide playtime fodder after they’ve finished modeling for the camera.
  • Practice, practice, and practice some more!  Set up a digital camera or remote-enabled camera phone to try snapping some photos using the commands you’re trying to teach your pet.

Another important consideration: the type of photos you’re taking with your dog.  Wedding photos and family lifestyle sessions are very different in terms of environment, formality, and timing.  These differences require you to prepare your dog and yourself in different ways before the day of your session…or your wedding!

Preparing Dogs For Wedding Photos

Is there anything cuter than watching a dog prance down the aisle at his owners’ wedding?  While Fido is sure to solicit some bona fide “awww’s” from your guests, it’s important to think over a few logistics first.  Before signing up your doggie for ring duty, consider the following:

  • Be sure your ceremony site allows pets.  This may seem like a no-brainer, but this one sneaks up on couples especially if they think of including their pet in their ceremony later in the planning process.  If your ceremony venue does not allow pets, other options for pictures with your pet include:
    • Going to a secondary location before or after the ceremony
    • Having them with you for the ‘getting ready’ portion of your wedding day
    • Your engagement session!
  • Your pet’s personality.  Dogs are like us — some are shy, some more outgoing.  Before you introduce your pet to a large crowd or expect them to play a starring role in your ceremony, think of their personality first.  If they’re well-behaved and trained, you’ll have a better chance of things running smoothly than a dog that gets anxious around strangers.  Include your dog in your engagement session or a smaller, private portion of your wedding day instead if they’re on the shyer side, or have a tendency to get aggressive.
  • Your pet’s safetyNobody thinks of weddings as high-risk environments, yet for dogs some precautions must be taken.  If you’ve picked out a cute outfit for your dog to wear, keep it simple with a bow tie or flower collar.  You don’t want anything too restrictive or that could become a choking hazard.  Also, be sure to check with your florist that all of your wedding florals are non-toxic to dogs.
  • Inform your guestsIt is considered good etiquette to let your guests know if a dog will be in attendance in case there are any serious allergies or phobias at play.  A simple inclusion of your plans on your wedding website should suffice.  Otherwise, tell your wedding planner or day-of coordinator to spread the word as guests arrive.
  • Hire a pet sitterAn extra set of hands on your wedding day is never a bad thing, especially when it comes to your fur baby!  A dedicated dog sitter can bring your pet to the ceremony or photo site, help entertain them, offer food and water, and take them home when it’s time.  Brides and grooms have so much to process on their wedding day, it’s a wise move to put your pet in capable hands so you don’t have to worry if they’re being cared for.
  • Tell your photographer ahead of time.  Photographers always like to know in advance of any special shots couples want to be sure to get out of their session.  Tell your wedding photographer you want photos with your dog so they can allot enough time;  they may even pack a squeaky toy or Scooby snack to keep Rover happy and get him to look right at the camera!

Bride and her dog with greenery Goldendoodle at Chestnut Ridge WeddingBridal party with dog

Preparing Dogs For Family Photos

Our dogs are just as much members of our families as we are!  Sometimes they were the first “children” a couple had before giving birth to their biological kids.  Our bonds with our dogs are built from a young age and it’s an amazing thing watching our own sons and daughters forge relationships with pets of their own.  Of course we love to document these moments in time in photographs, and by following these simple tips, you’re more likely to get the pictures with you and your dog that you envisioned.

  • Tire them out before your session starts.  A tired dog is a good thing when it’s time to start snapping photos.  Taking them on a walk, run, or to the dog park will get out their doggy energy and leave them calmer for camera time.
  • If you have multiple locations, photograph your dog at the first one.  Some family lifestyle shoots like to mix things up between indoor and outdoor locations.  If all of your photos are at your house or on your property, this isn’t such a big deal.  But if you want to venture out for your photos (as most people do) and you like a change of venue for variety, be sure to order your location sites so that your dog photos happen first.  The longer Scruffy waits, the more likely he is to get frisky and be less amenable to posing for pictures.
  • Choose a calm, familiar location if possible.  A dog will always act more like themselves when in a comfortable environment.  This doesn’t mean you have to take your pictures at the dog run!  If your dog is happiest in wide-open spaces, choose a scenic field, trail, or meadow for your photos over a place that’s crowded.
  • Bring an extra helper.  A grandparent, nanny, or neighbor can help care for your dog before and after your segment with your pet.  They can either take your pet home or keep them on a leash while you finish your session.
  • Manage your expectationsNo, I don’t mean ‘prepare for your photos to stink.’  I mean keep it real and understand that sometimes the best laid plans go awry especially if there’s a four-legged friend involved.  Dogs can get spooked, whine, bark, growl…or even get a wild hair and go swimming in the nearby pond.  (Yes, that happened to me at an engagement session and the owner had to go in after him!)  Do your best to cover all the logistics, and then give yourself over to the experience.  I’m sure that groom didn’t expect to get wet at his engagement session but I’d be willing to bet he’ll relish telling that story with a smile and a laugh for years to come!
  • Keep your emotions in check.  Dogs are very sensitive and attuned to our emotions.  Try to keep a positive frame of mind and attitude when starting your session so your dog will feed off of your happy vibes.  If they sense you’re at ease, it can help them relax, too.

Dog and owners in Charlotte

Honeysuckle HIll Engagement pictures with dogDog jumps into lily pondNewborn with parents and family dog

There is always a way to include your dog in your forever photos if that’s what your heart is set on!  I love working with couples to find the best time and place to get their pup in pictures with them.  It does my heart good to capture the love between a person and their pet.  Whether it is your engagement session, family session or wedding, let’s chat about your photograph and including your dog in photos!

including your dog in photosA few photos of our crazy goldendoodle Sparkles!  She was smart, mischievous, entertaining and the best cuddler every!  You were much loved and will be missed greatly!


Looking to include your family pet in your wedding, engagement or family session?  Let’s chat about making that happen!



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Meet Kathy

A woman in glasses holding a coffee mug.

I’m Kathy – wedding photographer, mom of 1 daughter & 2 doodles, and avid sunset watcher. Once you’ve gotten to know a little more about me, it’ll be my turn to get to know you as too!! When I work with a couple, we usually end up feeling more like old friends by the time your wedding day arrives – which means a more relaxed, enjoyable wedding day experience for everyone. And when it comes to photo style, you’ll find your photos are vibrant and classic, in true-to-life color and timeless black and white. It’s my honor to serve joyful, authentic couples who want their wedding photos to be as timeless as their vows.

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