Wiggleless Dog Back Brace was so kind as to send me a brace years ago to try out on Lola, who has IVDD (a slipped disc). We kept in touch and leading up to the holiday season in 2016, the team asked if I’d like to do a guest blog post on their website for taking pet photos. I was thrilled and honored to write for Wiggleless.
Getting the perfect fridge-worthy photo of your furry family member to include on your greeting card can be a challenge, even for professionals. You have a huge advantage, though, because you know your pet best! If you follow the tips below and use your knowledge of your pet’s personality, you can get the perfect photos for the holidays:
1. Wear your pup out. This is crucial and I can’t stress enough how much exercising your pet will help you get a better photo. A tired dog is a cooperative dog. You’ll know what sort of activity you’ll need to do with your pet to burn off excess energy. Some hyper breeds might need an hour-long session at the dog park, while others might just need a walk around the block. Do what you must to get them nice and tuckered out for your photo op.
2. Get your dog used to the camera. Hopefully, you’ve used your camera around your dog a little bit prior to attempting to take your holiday photos, but if you haven’t, take a week or so to use it around your dog and with your dog so they’re not too camera shy. I recommend lots of treats when you take a photo so they realize it’s a good thing that gets them a reward.
3. Pick your location and time wisely. A well-lit, familiar place with few distractions is best for pet photos. You don’t want your pup too interested in the surroundings or they won’t be looking at you for the photo! Your backyard or even a little staged area inside with some holiday decorations should work just fine. Just be sure it’s well lit, which means lots of sunlight coming in through the windows if you’re inside and, if you’re planning on shooting outside, use the shade OR wait until right before sunset where everything is evenly lit; we photographers call that the “golden hour” for a reason.
4. Pick out the appropriate props. A lot of people like dressing up their pet and/or using holiday decor in their photos. This is totally up to you! I recommend putting your pet’s outfit on them a few days prior for periods of time so they get used to it. If you’re doing a scenery, set that up a day or two beforehand so they can sniff it out and aren’t too distracted when you actually go to take the photos.
5. Don’t use flash. A well-lit location is crucial, because using the flash on an animal doesn’t turn out too well. If you’ve noticed, dogs get very large yellow, blue, and all kinds of colored orbs instead of the typical “red eye.” This is pretty much impossible to fix without looking super awkward, so it’s best to avoid using flash all together.
6. Get on your pet’s level. Make sure the camera is eye-level with your dog. This is a much more flattering and natural angle than up above, when you’re in the standing position. I’m usually in a squat position during pet photoshoots and often you have to lay on the ground to get the shot!
7. Have a treat, toy, or sidekick to get your dog to “look” at the camera. Most dogs don’t inherently look into the camera lens. They look away or wait until you move it from your face to look at you. You know your dog best, so use their favorite motivator to get them to look at you when you’re ready to take the photo. A helper is amazing in times like these, so grab a friend or family member that your dog trusts. Just make sure that whatever is being used to get their attention is held near the lens, but out of the shot. I usually hold a treat or toy myself right above my lens with my free arm or have my helper hold it as close to the camera as possible.
8. Be patient and take lots of photos. You’ll take a lot of shots before you get THE one. Be patient with your dog and listen to them. If it’s too much or you’re not getting what you want, take a break and come back to it. Have a practice session the day before to warm your pet up. If they won’t sit still, take them for a quick walk or play with their favorite toy for 10-15 minutes. Shots don’t have to be perfect, either. The important thing is to show your pet’s personality. If they get tinsel on their nose or roll on their belly, that could be the best shot right there! Just react quickly and be ready for cute moments at all times.
9. Leave some space around your photos. You never know what kind of card design you’ll fall in love with, so always leave some room around your pet in the photo so you have options. You can always zoom into a photo after it’s taken, but you can’t zoom out!
10. Have fun! Most importantly, have fun with it! The photo doesn’t have to be absolutely perfect. The biggest thing is that you capture a holiday memory of your pet. So relax and enjoy the experience and bonding time with your pup!