A few months ago, on a hot afternoon in May, I found myself crouched between my dogs on the sidewalk, laughing as they fought over the final bites of an ice cream cone. Meanwhile, my photographer friend was snapping away, trying to capture the perfect shot. It was the final part of a day-long photo shoot we had been planning for months, and the results were worth the wait (and the mess).
If you’re anything like me, you take tons of pictures of your dog with your phone each day. But professional photographs are a great way to capture moments you might not be able to get yourself, in high-quality files for printing and sharing. And with a pro behind the lens, you can get in the picture, too.
Here are my pointers on how to choose a pet photographer, plan a photo shoot, and make it a fun and happy event for you and your dog. And while studio portraits are great, these tips are for outdoor, naturally-lit photos. So don’t forget to check the weather before you go!
Finding a photographer
I confess I lucked out, because my good friend Brandi happens to be an incredible photographer. But even if you don’t know a photographer in real life, you can still find the right person to take pictures of your dog.
Here are some tips for finding a great pet photographer:
- Ask friends and family for referrals
- Check the bulletin board at your local vet or pet supply store
- Conduct a web search for “pet photographer [name of your city].”
- Scan Instagram for hashtags like #petphotographer and #dogphotographer
Once you have a list of local options, visit their websites and look at their portfolios.It’ll help you narrow down your preferred style of photographs. My friend Brandi specializes in artistic, candid photographs in outdoor settings—exactly what I wanted to capture a day in the life of my four-legged best friends.
Next, talk to your potential photographer in real life. Think of it as a two-way interview to find out if you’re the right match for each other. The photographer should be friendly, enthusiastic, and transparent about their process and pricing. Answer their questions, trust their expertise, and (hopefully) you’ll soon be booking a photo shoot.
Choose a location (but be flexible)
Where’s the best place to do a photoshoot with dogs? Wherever your dogs will be comfortable. Your photographer may have suggestions, and they will probably recommend a time of day when the light will be best.
For my doggy photo shoot, I wanted to capture scenes from our life in Portland. So, we took a “photo walk” around the neighborhood: our favorite park, the murals down the street, and a historic cemetery nearby. Years from now, I’ll be able to look back and remember our daily routine.
Of course, when it comes to photography—and dogs—flexibility is key. Be prepared to change plans if the weather won’t cooperate, if your photographer is struck by inspiration, or if your dog loses patience with the whole process. Pictures taken in your own backyard may end up being your favorites.
Dress for the occasion
Your dog is the true star of the shoot, so start with them. Give them a bath if they need one, and pack some pet-safe wipes for any touch-ups during the day. If your dog likes dressing up, bring along a costume or hat. But don’t worry about their looks too much. After all, you want pictures of your dogs the way they look in real life.
As for you: remember, you’ll be moving around a lot! You can look fashionable, but be practical. You need to be comfortable crouching, sitting on the ground, walking, and generally moving around all day. My photo session happened to fall on a freakish 90-degree day—in the Pacific Northwest, in May!—so I went with a favorite casual dress and tennis shoes.
Bring lots of water and treats
Hopefully, your photo shoot will take place in cooler weather than mine. But you should still bring plenty of water along, and treats to reward your dog for being such a good model. In addition, pack a bag with the usual long dog walk essentials:
- Travel bowl or dog water bottle
- Poop bags
- Blanket or roll-up bed for taking a break during the day
- Treats for the dog, and snacks for the humans
And of course, I highly recommend stopping for ice cream at the end of the day.
Let your dog be a dog
It’s tempting to pose the perfect shot with your pooch, but let’s be honest: not all dogs can sit still to have their portrait taken. I ended up with several pictures of my dogs in mid-bark, or looking in different directions. And that’s great! I wanted pictures of them being themselves.
Your dog might not want to look at the camera or stand exactly where you want them. Don’t worry, the pictures will still turn out great. Let the photographer worry about capturing the shot, and let your dog be a dog.
Enjoy the experience
I planned a photoshoot because I wanted beautiful, high-quality photos of my dogs. But I was surprised by how meaningful the experience itself was. It was really special to spend several hours with my dogs walking to our favorite neighborhood spots. Having pictures to remember the day feels like a bonus.
Your photo shoot probably won’t go exactly as planned. I didn’t expect hot summer weather in May, or that I’d wind up with ice cream all over my hands. But the unexpected moments became some of my favorite shots. The most important tip for having a good photoshoot with your dog? Just be yourselves, and enjoy the day together.
All photos by Brandi Ediss, shared courtesy of the author.