Tips for How to Include Dogs at Photo Shoots

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I am so excited to share my top tips for how to include dogs at photo shoots!! As a dog mom, I understand how important it is to include family pets in your photo session. Pets are part of the family and they deserve to be included. Always.

Each year I include Milli in my headshots session and they always end up being my favorite photos! That’s how I personally know it’s important to include pets in your photos and why today I’m sharing these tips for how to include dogs at photo shoots.

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Pic by Cait Kramer Photography

The intention of any photo session I do is to of course capture the humans at their best. With these tips on how to include dogs at photo shoots, we’ll make sure to strike a great balance between including your four legged friends and capturing your special human-focused memories!

Disclaimer: I believe all pets should be included in your photo session (cats, birds, snakes, ferrets, bunnies, you name it!). I’m only sharing tips on how to include dogs at photo shoots because the reality for me is that I’ve only photographed dogs and one bunny rabbit:

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Bring someone to watch the dog when they aren’t in the photos. All dogs are adorable, and we don’t need them in every picture. Here are some ways to include your dog in some photos and not in others:

    • Ask someone to come to the shoot, have the dog be in photos for the first 5-10 minutes, then the dog-sitter will leave with the dog – take them home or take them for a walk for the rest of your session. Make sure you work this out with them beforehand.
    • Have the pup there for the whole session, and ask the dog-sitter to be on stand-by with the dog when we’re ready to include them in photos.
    • If your session is an engagement (or other couple’s session) and you have someone stay the whole time with the dog, make sure it’s a person you feel completely comfortable being affectionate in front of. You don’t want to have someone there you feel embarrassed or self conscious in front of when you have to kiss your fiancé(e)!

Be prepared to ditch them. Dogs sometimes won’t sit facing the right way, or are distracted by passers-by or random birds, or are too excited and won’t sit still. We don’t want to kill all your time in front of the camera trying to force a dog to cooperate, so at that point, we will make the call to have them exit stage left.

If this happens, we’ll get a few shots of you interacting with the dog in whatever way they’re able (maybe playing or snuggling or just looking at them), and then we’ll call it a day. You can hand them over to the dog-sitter or tether their leash to a nearby bench or tree for the rest of the session. If we have time at the end, we can try again.

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Bring treats. 

    1. Training treats – something you can hand to me (or your dog-sitter who will stand behind me) so I can get their attention and have them look towards the camera. Plus it’s a nice reward for when they cooperate so they hopefully learn to keep doing it!
    2. Distraction treats – something that takes them a while to chew (bone, rawhide, etc) and will keep them distracted while tethered up when they’re not in the photos (this is if you don’t bring a dog sitter).

Have your dog groomed or bathed before the session. Just like you want photos of yourself looking your best, you want the same for your dog!

    • For a long-haired dog, plan a grooming session before your photo shoot so their hair is at the length you like.
    • For dogs with short hair, brush them beforehand to get rid of the loose hair so it doesn’t get all over your clothes before or during the session.
    • Bring a lint-roller to the session in case their hair starts showing up on you.

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Coordinate their outfits with your outfits. You’ve spent a lot of time planning your outfits and coordinating them with the other people in the photos. You’ll want to do the same with your dog so they look picture perfect too!

    • Coordinate their leash and/or harness to your outfits. Nothing is more distracting in a photo than a dog with a bright orange outdoor harness when everyone else is in neutrals. Or when the leash is old and worn and the humans are looking posh.
    • Take the poop bag holder off the leash. ‘Nuff said. (But bring it with you and keep the bags handy in case of accidents!)
    • In my professional opinion, collars look better than harnesses. Something to consider…

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Have a plan for outfit changes. If you’re planning to change your outfit, just know beforehand whether you’re going to bring your dog with you or leave him near me. If it’s an engagement session, I won’t be able to watch him/her because I will be photographing your ring. If it’s another type of session, I’ll be glad to baby sit!

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Dog-friendly location choices are a must. This isn’t as much of an issue if you have a dog-sitter with you, but if not, we’ll want to choose a location that is dog friendly. One that doesn’t have a lot of foot traffic (for example, I wouldn’t recommend bringing a dog to Union Station or even Georgetown without a dog-sitter). More secluded, open, nature-based areas are best if you want to include dogs in photo shoots. It’s less chaotic and distracting.

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Have patience. Dogs have no idea what’s going on at a photo shoot! The best tip I can give you is to have patience so you can enjoy yourself.

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Did this post get you excited to book your own wedding, elopement, or engagement session?! If yes, send me a note and we can chat about what you have in mind: contact me

Hi – I’m Rachel! A wedding, engagements, and headshots photographer in Washington, D.C., Maryland, and northern Virginia. I love taking photos of elegant people who love to laugh, as well as of much in-love couples. If you’re a dog owner, that’s a plus! I’m currently booking 2019 portrait sessions, as well as 2019 and 2020 weddings.

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