I have a lot of couples ask if they can bring their dog(s) along to their engagement session for a few photos. I end up photographing a lot of pups and yet, ironically, I don’t have any pets of my own! When it comes to photographing dogs, while I don’t have any experience as a pet owner, I do have a lot of experience as a photographer and I rely heavily on that to get the best reactions from both the animal(s) and the humans.
Here are 5 tips if you plan on having your dog in your engagement photos:
1. Be realistic. What I mean is that animals are similar to children; they have short attention spans and are usually really excited to be in a new place (grass! trees! water! new smells! adventure!) with new people (me…with an exciting “toy” that I’m looking through that makes clicking noises). Expect that the first few minutes will simply be letting your dog explore a bit and get used to what is happening. Your dog may not look at the camera. Your dog may not want anything to do with your beautiful family photo. And that’s okay! Those happen to be my favorite photos! Play with your pup and let me capture real life for you. The imperfect is what makes it perfect.
2. Have a friend help. This is especially helpful if your dog won’t want to stay in the car or tied on a leash to a tree. A lot of couples will bring a friend or family member along so we can take photos with your dog first, then the friend will take him/her for a walk or back to your house or wherever works best. That way you can relax and focus on the rest of the session (you two!! in love!!) without any distractions.
3. Bring treats. This is really helpful if your dog is a treat-incentivized animal or a young, energetic dog. This is usually the best way to get him or her to sit still if even for a moment, but even if s/he doesn’t, I kind of think s/he deserves a treat anyway just for going along with the plan and trying.
4. Keep it short. I usually limit the pet portion of photos to 10 minutes. Again, the main focus of the engagement session is for you two, but also, see item #1. Short attention spans mean working quickly and getting genuine moments.
5. Have fun. I’ll ask you to play with your dog and have fun. Laugh, chase, kiss, etcetera. Have fun and be silly (like you normally would at home!) with your pet and you’ll absolutely treasure the photos.