How to include your furry friend in your family photos?

I. Introduction: Why include your dog or pet in your photo session?

Bernie my F2B cokapoo

Did you know that 34% of Families in the UK have pets? In families with children, at least 77% have a pet. So why do so few families include them in their family photos?

I think the main reason is that they are worried about their pet’s behaviour during the session, and most photographers are not equipped to deal with turbulent dogs. In this blog post, I will help you get ready and give you my best tips to include your furry friend in your family photoshoot.

A. Importance of taking your dog or pet to your family photoshoot

I love pets. I have grown up with all kinds of animals. From horses to dogs, cats, rabbits and even a ferret, my family always had lots of pets. They’ve always been part of the family to me. Even more lately as in July, after years of waiting for the right time, I got my own puppy. Her name is Bernie, she is a Cockapoo. She is very clever and has a lot of energy to give! We love her to bits (even when she poo in my sliders) and I believe that if you also have a dog, you should include them in your photoshoot. But how? Well, let me give you some help here. And you are in luck! If you didn’t know already, I used to be a pet photographer!

B. Benefits of involving pets in family activities, including photoshoots

Including your dog in your family’s outdoor activities and annual photos is beneficial to them as they get used to being put in different situations, which makes them less sensitive in the long term.

It’s also beneficial to both children and parents as it helps them relax straight away as they play with their usual friends. I just have to jump in and photograph what is already there: their beautiful bond. I have a long mental list of shots I like to get of your little one walking or playing with your pup, while parents are watching proudly in the background. Super cute!

II. Planning for a successful photoshoot with your pet

A. Choosing the right location for your photo session

The location is super important as you will need to make sure that it’s safe and suitable for your pet. For example, if it’s a dog and we decide to shoot at the beach, we need to know what period of the year we are allowed. Does it require a lead at all times? Are there a lot of people and other dogs at this time of the day that could trigger them?

We will discuss what is the best location for your pet. Each pet is unique and behaves differently so I am always flexible and can adjust to their special needs.

Another tip is to take the dog for a walk around the location if it’s unknown to them, it will help the dog relax and be the most comfortable.

If you think your pet is better photographed at home, for example, cats, rabbits, or sensitive dogs, that is absolutely an option, I’ve written a blog here that helps you understand if your home is suitable for family photos.

B. Selecting suitable outfits for the entire family, including your pet

Styling is so important to get the most beautiful family photography. For that, I help you with guides on what to wear which you can find in my other blog post. I’ve written what-to-wear guides for Spring, Autumn and Winter.

I also offer free personalised styling so feel to ask me all the questions you need if you are lost.

For your pet, and especially your dog, I would recommend staying neutral and just using their natural beauty and cuteness. No need for distracting tacky Amazon outfits. Done that before and trust me it isn’t great. Pick a discreet collar (no harness) and a bright leash so it’s easy for me to digitally remove. Another tip will be to pick colours that complement your dog’s fur. My Bernie has a deep red colour, so I would pick deep red or earthy colours.

Pro tip: If your animal sheds, make sure to have a lint roller on hand.

C. Ensuring your animal’s comfort during the photoshoot

Making sure your pet is comfortable during the session is super important. Make sure you bring water and any accessories like a dog bed or toy to keep them busy during the session. Taking breaks can also be useful so make sure you plan enough time. My sessions are typically around 90 minutes, but I do not mind staying another 30 minutes to help get the right shot. No extra fee will be charged!

D. Feeling calm and relaxed prior to the session

Animals are very sensitive and empathetic. They will feel if you are anxious so it’s important to relax and not stress about the session. You are in professional hands, I will be there to help you and your pet get comfortable in front of the camera so you can let go and focus on having fun with your gorgeous family. We will play games and time will fly, I promise. So don’t stress!

III. Preparing your four-legged friend for the big day

A. Grooming and bathing your pet prior to your family portraits

Same tips as for hoomans! Make sure your pet is well groomed, clean of any mud and dirt and their fur is not too short. I find dogs much cuter and they are super floofy. It creates a beautiful texture for the photos.

B. Training and familiarising your pet with basic commands

Having done pet photography in the past, I am super skilled with working with the hardest dogs, no matter what size, but some basic commands are needed. First, you need to make sure that your dog is socialised with other humans. This can sound silly but there isn’t much I can do if they are scarred or aggressive towards me.

Then, basic commands like “sit” and “lay down” are necessary. It will be also great if they know “stay!” and hold a sitting or laying pose for a few seconds. The recall is also important if you want to get photos with your dog off the lead.

Practice commands for a couple of weeks prior to the session to be ready for best behaviour.

C. Scheduling the photo shoot at a time when your pet is calm and comfortable

Make sure your pet is at its best, if it’s a dog and they get super excited, make sure they have a long walk prior to the session to tire them out so they are easier to work with.

D. Bring treats and toys, or use sounds to grab their attention

I love that money shot when the dog is looking at the camera and tilting their head. And with a couple of years of experience as a pet photographer, I have THE noise that makes 95% of the dog head’s tilt. But in the event of your dog being in the 5% that doesn’t respond well to it (Ah! My luck), here is what to do:

  1. Keeping your pet hungry is also a good idea if they respond well to treats. Food-driven dogs are great to work with.

  2. If they are better with toys, bring their favourite toys. Ideally, I would like something that looks neutral. No bright plastic toys please, instead a good strong stick or a neutral ball will look best on your family portraits.

IV. Capturing the best shots with your pet

During the session, I will focus on photographing your dog when they are calm. It mostly happens at the end of the session, when the excitement has dropped down. Until then, we will – ideally- let the dog off-lead if the location allows it. I like to create lifestyle moments, when the dogs pop in and out of the shot, or just hang out in the background. Every shot doesn’t have to be the money shot! Once they are ready, then we can include them in the photos.

V. Ensuring safety and well-being during the photoshoot

A. Monitoring your pet’s behaviour and signs of stress or discomfort

It is important that you, your pet, and other bypassers are safe AT ALL TIME. For that reason, it is important to keep an eye on your pet and make sure that they are not:

  • eating something that could arm them

  • getting tripped on

  • attacking or being attacked by other dogs

  • showing anxious or abnormal behaviours

If any of these happen, it is important to pause or stop the session and assess what is best for their safety.

B. Having a designated person to handle your pet during the shoot

By all means, the best thing to do is designate someone that will handle your pet during the session. It could be an extended family member or a family friend. If they are not so familiar with your animal’s behaviour, make sure to take the time to explain to them prior to the session.

C. Being mindful of the location’s rules and regulations regarding pets

As per previously mentioned, it is important to check the location’s rules and regulations regarding pets. Some will only allow dogs on lead, some not depending on the season and time of the day. We will make sure, together, that this is checked, so we can enjoy your animal’s company during your family session.

VI. Conclusion: Family Photoshoot with pets? Of course!

A. Importance of including pets as cherished members of the family

I hope you are now fully aware of the great benefits of bringing your pet or dog to your family session. Dogs are part of your family. Together with your pet, we will create beautiful, memorable family heirlooms that your kids will remember for the rest of their lives. They will recollect the special connection they shared with their beloved family pet.

B. Encouraging others to capture special moments with their pets in family photographs

If you haven’t done already, I invite you to bring your four-legged friend to your next family session. As a skilled family and pet photographer, I am one of the best to capture your family’s special bond. Don’t hesitate to send me an email following the link below if you want to capture those lasting memories.


If you’re after a candid, relaxed and intimate photography experience, you’ve come to the right place. 
My work focus on emotions, no stiff poses and forced smile; only gentle love and embraces. I offer a very hands-on experience, connecting over a video consultation with each family beforehand ; we explore their stories of love, loss and wins and turn it into a beautiful, meaningful session. Each family and session are unique and crafted with patience, love and understanding. 

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