It seems like a huge number of people become engaged between Thanksgiving and Valentine’s Day. Hopefully, a lot of couples are planning on including their dogs in their engagement photos. Since I used to be a second shooter for weddings and engagement portraits, I thought I would give you some ideas to help the session run smoothly.
Choose a Dog-Friendly Photographer
As a dog person, I find it hard to believe that some people don’t love dogs. But, they exist. Some people are afraid of dogs or just dislike them. Stay away from those photographers. Even if they are great, award-winning photographers, if they don’t love dogs, the photos will probably show that.
How can you tell? First, look at their portfolio, do they have great images of dogs and humans together? If so, it could be a perfect fit. If not, ask the photographer how she feels about dogs. Most photographers are happy to recommend other colleagues who might be a better match.
Before choosing your location, think about your dog. If you have a very anxious dog, consider having some photos taken with your dog in the backyard or in your home.
If you are going elsewhere, make sure that it is dog-friendly. Consider your dog’s personality too.
If you have a reactive dog, it may be challenging to have photos taken in a busy park.
However, don’t rule out an urban location just because you are bringing your dogs. Timing is everything, many popular areas are nearly empty if you go during off hours.
If your dog is well socialized, a busy area probably won’t be an issue.
Bathe and/or brush your dog before the shoot. If grooming is stressful for your dog, try and have it groomed a day or two before the shoot. A long walk or game of fetch might be needed before the photo session to help your dog be relaxed and calm for the portrait session. A well-trained dog is much easier to photograph than one who isn’t trained. Teach or practice simple commands like sit, lie down and stay. Even if your dog doesn’t master these commands, it will help if your dog has a general idea of what they mean.
Bring water, a leash (splurge on an attractive leash and collar), treats, poop bags, and possibly a favorite toy for your dog. Let your photographer know if your dog has a favorite word or sound. My dogs always perk up when they hear “treat,” or “do you want to go for a walk?” Squeaky toys are also perfect for getting a dog’s attention.
If it is cold, be sure you have a coat or blanket for your dog if needed. In hot weather, be extra careful that your dog doesn’t overheat. Have a plan on how to keep your dog comfortable if the weather is extreme.
If it is possible, bring a friend to take care of your dog while the photographer takes some romantic shots of you and your future spouse.
Set Realistic Expectations
Safety is your number one priority. If your dog isn’t reliable off leash, please don’t take the risk of letting her off leash, even for a few minutes.
You know your dog best, don’t be afraid to tell the photographer that something isn’t a good idea for your dog.
Photographers have a lot of things to keep track of, so be sure to have a discussion of what you want before the session. I recommend that you ask for some individual shots of your dog. However, don’t overwhelm your photographer with a shot list that is too long. Trust your photographer to create beautiful images, not recreate your Pinterest board.
Some dogs will need a break.
Many people choose to have their engagement session at several locations and just bring their dog to one.
I love seeing dogs dressed for the occasion. Choose something that complements your outfit as well.
You can’t go wrong with a bow tie!
Or matching sweaters!
I am a huge fan of dogs holding a Save The Date sign.
Or just being next to it!
I also love the new classic – engagement ring, hands, and paw shot.
I know this is obvious, but remember the goal of the day is to capture your love and your personality as a couple, and hopefully that of your dog. Don’t be afraid to be silly or let loose.
Patience is the key with pet photography, trust your photographer to get the shot.
Sometimes that means making silly noises or trying the same pose a few times, but it will be worth it!
What other advice do you have for including dogs in engagement photos?