One of the joys of the holidays is capturing images of family members having fun—and that includes our dogs and cats. Two experts share the best ways to prepare pets for their closeups and make sure they have a good time in the process.
- Practice in your desired location. Choose the location where you’d like to take your holiday photo (which room, what is the backdrop, using any furniture, etc.), and practice sitting/posing there with your pet to get him comfortable sitting in that location with you.
- Get down low. Don’t be afraid to bring the camera down to your pet’s level to take the photo. This is always a great idea for photos of just your pupper or kitty but can absolutely work with you in them too. Just get down on the same level as your pet — sit down next to him or lie on your belly with him. This camera angle can make the photographs more visually interesting.
- Face your pet toward the light. Facing your dog or cat toward the brightest light source in the room (e.g., a large window or a sliding glass door behind the photographer’s back) helps bring out the color in their fur and eyes, especially for darker pets.
- Use treats and sounds. Have the person taking the photo use treats to get your dog or cat’s attention. If you are looking for an adorable head tilt, have the photographer try using sounds (squeakers or hunting calls, meows like a cat or whine like a puppy), or words (walk, car, ride, etc.) that typically get them excited. Then reward them with a treat!
- Watch the little ones. Avoid allowing children to squeeze, climb on, or sit or lie on your dog or pull your cat’s tail. While this may look cute in photos, it can be dangerous and is usually stressful for the animal.
- Look out for potential “looks like food” hazards. If your dog likes to eat anything and everything, keep an eye on decorations, especially items such as live plants or ornaments that resemble food! Christmas lilies, for instance, are highly toxic and even deadly to cats.
- Be willing to try different poses and take lots of pictures. If your pet is comfortable with the first pose you have in mind, take the photo! If not, be open to making some adjustments. Try having everyone lie down, have one person sitting next to your pet, and have someone else kneeling, etc. Go with the flow and try several different ideas. If you wait until that perfect pose to snap the shot, you may miss great opportunities.
- Keep things fun. If you try to force things, that will become evident in your photos. The more fun your pet is having, the more your holiday photo will look genuine and loving! If you are looking for a formal “posed” photo, that’s great. Photos of you and your family interacting with your pet can feel more meaningful. Keep things light-hearted and fun.
- Take breaks as needed. Throughout the entire process, watch your dog or cat’s body language for stress signals and take breaks as needed.
Share your favorite photos with friends and family. You can use digital and physical means such as social media platforms as well as by creating and printing custom holiday cards to send in the mail.
This article was reviewed/edited by board-certified veterinary behaviorist Dr. Kenneth Martin and/or veterinary technician specialist in behavior Debbie Martin, LVT.
Krystal Hise is the owner/photographer of Krystal Photography, LLC (www.krystalphotography.com), and author of Tails of the Space Coast, Volumes 1 and 2. She has photographed over 100 dogs in the central Florida area and has traveled as far as Australia for continuing education. She specializes in empowering her clients to celebrate the love they share with their heart dog(s) and honor their version of family through luxury studio portraits. Krystal aspires to help pet parents and pet photographers alike embrace the concept of a modern, fear-free approach to photographing pets.
Tiffany Lovell, CSAT, CPDT-KA, AAI, has been a professional trainer and behavior consultant with Cold Nose College for 15 years. Their team offers online training and behavior consulting and specializes in separation anxiety. She has contributed articles to Whole Dog Journal and Bark magazine. www.coldnosecollege.com
Published December 6, 2021