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Pawsitively Memorable: Preparing for a Pet-Friendly Photoshoot with Ease


I often have clients wanting or interested in pet portraits/to include pets in family portraits. However, they are nervous as to how well-behaved said pet will be. This can lead to tense owners as they are too busy worrying about whether I am going to capture anything or not, rather than just relaxing and enjoying themselves. 

Let me assure you I will always get the photo you want. I have a surprising amount of patience that I have developed over the years. In addition, I tend to shoot lots and lots and lots of pictures when pets are involved, simply to increase my chances of success.

So here are some helpful tips and tricks to help you before and during your next photoshoot with your pet. Mostly this applies to dogs but can also be applied to almost any animal.


Firstly, we want to control the energy levels of your furry friend. You don't need to hike up Snowdon and back, but letting them have a good run, a decent walk, or play some energetic games like fetch will take the edge off that excess energy they may have. You don't need to tire them out completely, just enough that they are not hyper. 

If you are doing a photo shoot on location, it would be best to arrive a little early and explore the surroundings. This way they will be more likely to settle straight into the photoshoot, as there is less chance of distraction from smells. 


Just like you, most people want their fur babies to look their best in portraits. If your pet has a naturally shaggy or unkempt look and that's what makes them, them, you don't need to worry. 

Don't worry about your pet being freshly bathed, or having a manicure. At most all they need is a good groom to ensure they are not losing huge tufts of fur, and if they are prone to a build-up of gunk in the corners of their eyes use cool boiled water to try and clean them out. If you have a long-haired pet that needs professional grooming, ensure they recently had a haircut so they look their best and we can see their face.


This mostly applies to dogs, though you can get leads for almost all pets. If you have a pet who is easily distracted, or can't be trusted not to run off, then I would always recommend the use of a lead. Most of the time we will hide the lead, either behind your back or under your arm. 

When doing solo portraits of pets, I will get you to hold the lead either straight up, down or to the side, not pulling the lead too tight as they will affect the position of the collar, with yourself standing just out of the way. Sometimes this can look odd when taking the photo or in the raw on the back of the camera. However, rest assured that this is an easy edit, and the lead will be completely removed in post-production.


Yes, we are talking about bribery. I don't know about you, but I know I'm normally more willing to try something if I have a good incentive. And it's the same principle. Rewards can vary from pet to pet, they are something that can either be given frequently or every couple of poses. 

We don't want to use the rewards as taunts, as this is cruel and can make your pet misbehave. Hence, rewards need to be something they can have frequently in a short space of time. E.G:

  • Favourite treats or kibbles

  • Pieces of meat or cheese

  • A favourite ball

  • Favourite toy

  • A quick game of fetch

It needs to be anything your pet finds to be a simulant that they respond well to and will do anything to get it. 


There are some pets out there that do not respond at all to external rewards. 

Nearly everyone and everything responds well to praise, whether it's a cheer, applause or a 'good boy' and a big fuss. Make them feel praised when you've held a pose, this will encourage further behaviour like this, which will make the photoshoot go more smoothly.  

Make It Fun

Pets and children are the same they only have short attention spans and generally only sit still and look in one direction for so long before the fidgets start to kick in, or they simply get bored. This is why I call myself a Lifestyle photographer!!! 

I normally take a handful of traditional portraits in every photoshoot. (Only now and then do a photo shoot where I almost exclusively shoot traditional portraits.) This is rarely the case when pets are involved, most of the time as we transition between poses, this is a good time to give your pet a break and let them sniff and roam. 

One of the best ways to truly capture your pet's full personality is through playing, whether it's standing, dancing, playing fetch, or letting them run free at the camera, this is when they are most happy and even better if you have children involved too. You'll have a quiet night after that photoshoot.

Learning To Stay Calm

The most important thing I want you to always remember on a photoshoot with me is RELAX!!! As long as you keep smiling and stay calm I'll get those they picture for you. Pets of any kind, respond to our temperaments and shifts in mood. This can make them on edge and more likely to act up and they sense something is wrong. So, in through the nose, and out through the mouth!!!

Going into any photoshoot most people normally have some kind of vision of the end product, this can vary, but for some people who wish to recreate an image they've found online or an image I have previously produced. Making it frustrating when their pet does not want to be held or go where they are told. Sometimes you might need to take a deep breath, and in the words of Elsa, 'let it go'. 


If you feel up to it, use the days or weeks leading up to your photoshoot to work on some training with your pet. This doesn't have to be anything complicated you don't need them to hug another pet or stand like a statue, just basic sit, stand, stay and lie down commands.


  • Take a handful of small treats, with your hand tightly closed, and let them have a quick sniff so they know what you've got (which they probably already know). 

  • Hold one treat ready between your index finger and your thumb.

  • Hold this treat in front of their nose 

  • Then lift the treat slowly up and towards the back of their head

  • As you do you say SIT clearly

  • Once their bump hits to floor reward them with the treat and make a fuss of how well they did, even if it was only for a second.

  • Once they get the hang of that, with a treat in your fingers hold your hand in front of you (like you're doing the stereotypical Italian hand gesture) 

  • Say SIT (again reward as soon as their bump touches the ground)

  • (TIP: Once they start sitting straight away, slowly leave it longer and longer before you reward them with a treat!)


Once your pet has mastered stay or if they are already proficient at this command, you can move on to the STAY command.

  • Once again getting your treats ready have your pet stand, sit or lie down

  • Holding the palm of your hand up flat to them 

  • Clearly say the command STAY or WAIT (whichever you prefer)

  • And reward them

  • Each time take one step further back and say the command once you've stopped moving

  • (TIP: Don't say the command too many times in a short time "Wait, wait, wait, wait" This loses its meaning and they are more likely to not do what you want"

For more tips on commands, you can find lots of great videos on YouTube showing even beginners how to teach these simple commands.

I Hope That Helps

I hope you now feel ready for your pet photoshoot. What's your biggest fear when thinking about including your beloved family pet in portraits or having professional portraits taken of your pet on their own? Have you had a particularly bad experience in the past? 

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