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9 Tips to Make Photo Sessions with Your Dog Run Smoothly

We know that for many couples your dog is more than a pet. He or she is part of your family, so it’s only natural to want them involved in your engagement, wedding, or family photos. We absolutely love finding ways to showcase couples’ four-legged family members in candid shots and portraits—whatever it takes to spotlight the special love couples have for their furbabiesAs you can imagine, though, planning a session with an animal is a bit more complicated than photographing a couple or person on their own. That’s why we’ve created a list of our best tips so you can pick the perfect locations and wardrobe, know what to expect, come prepared with treats, and if possible, an extra person to help the photos run smoothly.

If you follow these simple steps, then you and your dog should be more prepared for a stress-free photo session. Here are 9 tips to make photo sessions with your dog run smoothly!

Northern VA Pet Photographer

1. Make sure your photographer is pet-friendly

This seems like an obvious one but it’s a big one! You may fall in love with a particular photographer’s style, but if they aren’t familiar with or comfortable around dogs, then they might not be the best fit for your needs. Photographing pets requires different skills than photographing people, so it’s not always possible for someone with no experience taking pictures of pets to create the end product you’re hoping for. Be sure to talk to your potential photographer(s) about the possibilities of including your furbaby in the shoot before you make your decision.

2. Pick dog-friendly locations

When choosing the locations for your photo shoot, keep the needs of your dog at the top of your mind. If your dog is easily startled or distracted by loud noises, consider somewhere remote. If your dog likes to run off, don’t choose a place near busy roads with lots of traffic. You should also research locations’ pet rules. Some outdoor locations have leash laws and some venues may have a “no pets” policy.

Chihuahua portraits in Virginia
It could be helpful to pick a place your dog is familiar with so they aren’t as inclined to explore and can feel more comfortable. If you choose a place they’ve never been, take your dog to visit a few times before the shoot so they can familiarize themselves with the sights, sounds, and smells.

3. Plan your outfits carefully

Most of our engagement sessions (and some portrait sessions!) involve an outfit change. It’s important to keep your dog in mind when deciding what to wear. If your dog is a champion shedder, consider their fur color when choosing your clothing and bring a lint roller to the photo shoot for touch-ups to ensure your clothes are hair free in the photos.

4. Familiarize your dog with their accessories

We love it when the dogs at our shoots have a sense of style. Consider adding cute accessories like a bowtie, floral wreath, or coat for your furbaby to wear. Whatever you choose, try the outfit on your dog several times leading up to the session. It will help you both get used to putting it on and help your dog familiarize themselves with how it feels. Practice having them sit and lie down in the outfit as well—using praise and treats as rewards, of course!

Bonus tip: If there is a need to have a leash, harness, or collar on your dog in the shots, consider neutral colors that won’t clash with your outfits or their furAlso, I do not recommend using retractable leashes at all (not just in your photoshoot, in life as well) as they are dangerous!

5. Groom your dog

If you want your dog to look his or her best in the photos, consider taking them to the pet salon before the session. Your dog’s hair could need time to settle into place beforehand, so schedule the grooming appointment two days or so before the session.
Portrait of chihuahua

If you want your dog to be au naturel, bathe them a night or so before the session to help them look their best.

6. Tire them out

This one is super important, especially for younger, active, or anxious dogs! Photoshoots can be exciting—new people and things to get to know and new places to explore. Photoshoots are so exciting that sometimes it can be hard to get your dog to sit or stop pacing and pulling. The best way to combat this is to wear them out before the session. Take them on a long walk or give them some active playtime before your appointment, so your dog is mellow but not too tired to shine.

Northern VA Pet photographer

7. Bring someone to assist with your dog

Whether you bring a friend, family member, or even a trainer, it’s helpful to have a third person there to take care of your pet during an outfit change or during the pictures you take without your furbaby. While you’re busy taking photo and the photographer’s busy behind the camera, your friend can take your dog for a nice, leisurely walk or even take them home if their part of the photo shoot is complete.

Northern VA Family Photos

8. Bring treats and toys

Treat yo’ dog! Bringing your dog’s favorite treats and toys can be very helpful. Treats and toys are used as rewards for sitting still and as a way to get your dog to look at the camera at the right moment. They can also be used for comfort or as entertainment in between shoots. Please remember them!

Rottie jumping and playing chasing after ball in field

9. Have patience!

Pets always pick up on their owner’s feelings so any nervous or frustrated feelings you have about the day will be reflected in your dog’s behavior. Like kids, dogs can be unpredictable, so even if you want the day to go perfectly,  there may be some hiccups along the way. That’s ok! Remember that these things happen. Candid shots are wonderful to have with any session and you can even go the route of action shots if your pet is too fidgety to sit still. Most of all, take a deep breath and try to stay positive. Dogs are happiest when you’re happy, and that happiness will come through in the finished photos—which is what we all really want.

Even with planning, these photoshoots can sometimes still feel chaotic but they are ALWAYS worth it. The sessions we’ve had with our couples’ furbabies are truly some of our favorites and we are always SO excited when we see that our clients want their dogs involved. There’s a certain spontaneous joy that comes from photographing clients with their dog that you can’t get anywhere else.

And of course, if you are interested in a pet photography session with you and your furbaby, please contact us! We would be so honored to have the opportunity to take portraits of you together. <3

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