More than 60% of all American’s have one or more pets in their home and of those, 95% consider them to be a part of the family. I’m totally one of those 95 percenters, with my cat Bagheerah purring on my lap as I type.

It’s no wonder more and more people are wanting to bring their pet along for their family portraits. If my cat wasn’t so shy I’d totally hire someone to photograph my little family with her and I’d hang those photos ALL OVER my home!

Over the years I’ve photographed dogs at family sessions, maternity sessions and engagement sessions! If you’re thinking about bringing your own pup (or two) along for your next portrait session, this blog post is for you.

First of All, Your Packing List:

Treats, Squeak Toy, Favorite Toy, Water & Bowl, Leash & Collar and a Poop Baggie.

Tips for bringing dog to portrait session

Tips for bringing your dog to a portrait session

1. Tell your photographer in advance

The best time to tell your photographer you want to bring your dog to a session is while booking. By telling your photographer that you want to bring your pet along, they’ll be able to prep for the session better and help you choose a location that works best for your fur-baby. For example, if your dog gets too excited around other dogs and crowds of people your photographer could help you choose a location that is more secluded. Or if they’re scared of loud noises and cars driving by you wouldn’t want to plan to have your session at the park along the parkway and stress your pup out. It’s also possible that the photographer you choose may be scared of dogs or uncomfortable with it, in this case…. come talk to me. Gimme all the dogs!

Heather Palecek Best of 2019


2. Lots of exercise before the session

I highly recommend taking your dog for a long walk and playing with them a whole lot before the session to try to wear them out a little bit. A tired dog will make posing easier! 🙂


3. Bring treats and toys

Since your family will be in front of the camera with your dog, I’m going to need something to keep their attention. Bringing along a squeak toy or their favorite toy could be a great tool for me to use to get them to look at the camera. Another great reason to bring along their favorite toy is for some candid shots of the kids playing with the dog. Some awesome options would be a frisbee or a rope for tug-of-war!


4. Have a friend on call

If you have a neighbor or family member you trust nearby it might be advantageous to have them pick up your dog halfway through the session so that we can also get some photos without your dog. (Not necessary, but it’s helpful.) On the occasions that I’ve photographed families without a pickup person the dog became anxious when not with their owners, being tied to a nearby tree. This could cause tension within your family portrait and wandering eyes with the kids looking over at the dog instead of the camera. It’s hard to be attentive, snuggly and cute in front of the camera when your fur-baby is crying nearby.

Tips for Bringing your dog to a portrait session


5. Special Collars or Outfits

Just for fun, you may want to bring along a bowtie or special-occasion collar to match the session like Danielle and Bob did for their engagement session. It was a small but important detail that made their photos so much more special.

Special Dog Collar for Engagement Session

This Collar was made by Bull in a Collar Shop


Lastly, and this is something that I mention to all parents, don’t get hung up on the notion of the “perfect picture” or an idea of how it’s supposed to be. Working with kids and pets is somewhat unpredictable. Don’t be stressed if your precious pup isn’t sitting and smiling at the camera on command as you envisioned. We’ll just go with the flow. If they’re happier standing with your kids arms around them then that’s what we’ll do and ya know what? It’ll be even more perfect than what you envisioned because it’ll be the reality of your family dynamic… and what could be better than that? 

If you have any questions, comments, or want to add your own tips, please feel free to do so in the comments below! I’d love to talk about the best ways to incorporate pets into portrait sessions! ~Heather


Heather Palecek Best of 2019 Heather Palecek Best of 2019