Tips For Taking Photos of Dogs Over The Holidays

dog photography

Do you plan on spending your holidays taking photos of your dog?

If you've taken a look at my Instagram account lately @Celebratingthislife or perhaps at Ivy's own Instagram @Celebratingivy then you know I love taking photos of my dog!

My love of photography started in my 10th grade photography class. Everything was shot on good old fashion film and since I lived in the country, I spent my free time taking nature shots and action shots (trying to be artsy) of my dog. After school, I sort of hung up my camera and never really got back into it until I got my first iPhone.

Looking back the picture quality on the iPhone 3 was just awful but at the time it was revolutionary! Try to imagine what it was like only just discovering that we carried this phone/camera in our pocket! So, I started taking photos of my kids and as we added more dogs, we once had three all at the same time, they became my focus. On my home iMac I have over 87,000 photos! And that's with me deleting the ones that are not usable!

So many photos, so many memories. I've learned a lot along the way. I am not the world's best pet photographer, but I'm also not the worst. I'm somewhere in the adequate category and I occasionally get really lucky and snap something truly special. My plan over the holidays is to rest, recharge and take an obscene amount of photos of Ivy. It's a really special time with her being a puppy and I know it will go by fast. I want to capture every moment I can.

At just 6 months old, Ivy is the perfect model. She loves to have her photo taken and enjoys getting dressed up. But this didn't happen overnight. I started her young, right when we got her at 7 weeks old. And that's not to say that an older dog can't be taught to love the camera! My Bernese mix, Lily who passed earlier this year, came to us as a 4 year old. After a lot of gentle guiding, she loved to have her picture taken. So, without further rambling, here are the tips I use to take photos of my beloved dogs. I'll be reminding myself of them before we head out on our holiday adventures with Ivy!

bernese puppy

Walk the dog

A worked dog is a rested dog. I've tried to skip this step in the past and have always regretted it. Dogs are little balls of energy and if they don't expel that through a walk, run, etc. they will expel it while you're trying to take photos. I took Ivy for a quick walk before I started taking these Christmas photos. She was hyper and too worked up which left me frustrated (see the next tip). I stopped, put away my camera and grabbed the leash again. This time, I didn't skimp on the walk.

bernese puppy

We went for a nice half hour trail walk up and down some pretty steep hills. She loved it. What I loved was the second we got back home and I picked up my camera, she sat and smiled. I even managed to get her to lay down to snap a photo, a first for us! After a few more photos, she slept for a good hour while I uploaded and shared the photos on social media.

bernese puppy

If you're frustrated, it's time to stop

This one is huge. If you find your heart starts racing, your palms are sweating and you just raised your voice at the dog, it's time to stop. Immediately. Firstly, you should never yell at your dog for something as silly as taking a photo. This is a man-made thing and not something natural in the animal kingdom.  You want your dog to associate picture time as something fun and if you lose your temper, they will only associate it with something bad and scary.

And I'm not sitting on my high horse here, I am guilty of it myself! When I couldn't get Ivy to sit just so, I felt a grumble bubble up. I don't want to be the person who loses their temper at their dog, the only creature on this earth that will love you unconditionally. So we took time out and came back to it after our walk. But even if she didn't want to take photos after our walk, I would have just left it for another day.

dog photos

Treats, toys and lots of them

Anything that will grab your dogs attention, you will want it within arms reach. Ivy is in love with Benny Bullys liver treats and luckily they are a low calorie treat. When you shoot a lot of photos, and give a lot of treats, you really need to think about the age of the animal and the calorie count. You don't want your pup to be putting on a ton of weight just to snap photos! Because Ivy is a puppy, we're still using treats to get her to take photos but I am slowly replacing that with squeaky toys and just snapping my fingers to get her to look where I want. As she gets older her weight is something we will have to keep an eye on, so I'm starting the work now of phasing them out.


Get low

I see this mistake over and over, taking a top down photo of your dog. In some of the photos you wouldn't even be able to recognize the dog! You need to get down to eye level so you can snap a lovely picture of your pup. It takes a bit of balance and a lot of training for your pup. I know the second I kneel down, Ivy runs over for a cuddle. We've been working on this by putting her in the position I want and while holding a treat I say "stay" over and over. I take two steps back, crouch and snap like crazy before she comes running over for her treat. Which leads me to my next tip...

bernese puppy

Shoot on burst or action mode

If you're using the camera on your phone, hold your shutter down to shoot in burst. It will snap 10 or more photos, depending on how long you hold it down for. Then, you can review all the photos and delete whichever ones didn't work out. The same goes for using a digital camera. Shoot on action and delete as necessary.

It also helps you to capture those split second moments when your pup actually looks right at you, or makes a funny face! I love the photos of Ivy with her eyes closed, it looks like she's laughing! I'm able to capture the split second she blinks or even an action shot. Some of the photos I've snapped when she's walking or running look great too!


Set up everything before the dog comes on set

This is for those times you really want to go all out. I just painted my front door this lovely blue colour this year and wanted to play on that for this photoshoot. I bought cheap wrapping paper from the dollar store in blues and reds and wrapped random boxes from our basement. I placed everything on the porch, and even snapped a few photos without Ivy in them to make sure everything looked right. I moved a few things around to capture the right light or to frame the spot I wanted her sitting in. Once that's done, I brought in my model and snapped away!

Don't forget to get yourself in there!

Make sure to take a few photos of you and your dog together. Hug them and take a selfie, have them sit on your lap while someone else snaps a photo. You don't have to be a blogger or Instagrammer. These photos can just be for your own use and enjoyment. One day your pup will pass on and those photos will help you through a few dark days of missing them terribly. Trust me on this one. We lost two dogs in 2018 and I can't tell you the amount of comfort that those 60 or so thousand photos brought our whole family.

Well I'm off to prep yet another little photo shoot of Ivy. I wish you and yours a very happy holidays and all the best in your dog photography endeavours!

1 comment

  1. Step 1. get yourself a ridiculously adorable and photogenic dog! You take such great photos of sweet Ivy, and I love your tips! Maybe I'll try some of them on my cats this weekend, haha!