I have a lot of couples ask if they can do some pictures with their dog(s) on their wedding day. I end up photographing a lot of pups (both at engagements and at weddings!) 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…and with your family and friends and lots of attention). 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/family member help. This is an absolute must on a wedding day. Most likely your dog won’t be there the whole day and usually just pops by for a short time for some photos. Have someone in charge who both a) knows your dog and b) will not need to be there for pictures around that same time. For example, maybe you have a friend or aunt/uncle who is not in the bridal party or immediate family photos on dog duty so that he/she can take your dog back to your house while we move on to bridal party and family photos.
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 5-10 minutes. Again, the main focus of your wedding day 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.