I always tell my clients, “Your engagement session is about capturing their love story in this fleeting season.” When I photograph couples, I want their true selves to come out. Sometimes, that means including their fur babies! I am a big animal lover. Cats, of course, hold my heart most, but show me a pup and I’m melting. But animals can be unpredictable or hyper. So I thought I’d share some sure fire tips for including your dog in your engagement session without regretting it!
You don’t need a professional dog handler. Just ask a friend or family member who is familiar with your dog. This person will be in charge of holding the dog’s leash in between photos if your pup needs a break. Photo sessions ask a lot of a dog. Sometimes they need time to regroup, or perhaps you want some photos with and some without the pup!
In fact, whenever I have a couple who wants to include their dogs in an engagement session, I recommend doing half the session with the dogs and half without. That allows you to get the photos you’re dreaming of without the session becoming all about the pups. After all, your engagement session is about YOU! It is a celebration of this new season of life you’ve entered before you become husband and wife. You’ll see the engagement session here for Chad and Liz did just that — included their pups Joanna and Chip but then let their engagement shine after Liz’s sister took the dogs home.
Your pup deserves a small reward whenever we get “the shot.” Treats are a great way to keep your dog motivated. And toys are key to getting him/her to look at my camera. Having a squeaky toy or their favorite ball held above my head is an easy bribe for a photogenic dog. Your handler friend can help hold up toys or tease treats while I work, so my hands are free to work my camera.
Just like choosing your own outfits, what your dog wears can contribute greatly to the quality of your images. Bright, neon colors are common in dog supplies. But they cast unsightly colors onto your skin and their fur, which is tough to edit out.
Also, if you’re looking for an elevated look in your images, I would avoid silly costumes. I’m a sucker for a good bowtie collar or bow in the ears, but beyond that, dog costumes can get tacky super fast. Consider the occasion and make it special by keeping accessories to a minimum for your fur baby.
If we’re walking around a park or city streets, your dog is going to think they’re on a walk. So don’t be surprised when they… how should I say… pop a squat! (haha) Make sure you bring poop bags!
Also, if it’s warm or we’re out for a while, you may need to bring a water bottle and a bowl to give your pup a water break. I’ll help watch for excessive panting to indicate we should give them some extra water, so don’t worry about that. Keep your eyes where I pose you, and I’ll take care of watching out for your fur baby.
All this to say, frequent breaks are NORMAL for engagement sessions with your dog. Embrace them, have some patience with your dog, and trust me!
Despite all of our best efforts, sometimes dogs are just dogs. If your pup is usually a ham at home, they might be a ham at your engagement session. If your dog is a hyper maniac at home, he/she will probably be no better behaved when we’re at a park squeaking toys and teasing treats for an hour.
You know your dog best. I know Pinterest is tempting to believe that dogs magically behave when a camera is present, but I’m a photographer not a dog trainer. I can only capture what is there, unfortunately. I’ll do my best to make this an easy and stress-free experience, but if you worry your dog will cooperate, maybe consider if the risk is worth the reward and leave them home.
If leaving them at home is not an ideal option, consider the location. If your dog needs time to run, let’s have your session at a public park where that behavior is acceptable. Or if your pup is a bit lazier and won’t want to walk a ton, avoid the mountain hike engagement session and opt for a residential street in your city. The session featured in this post was taken at Historic London Town & Gardens, which was private and full of spots for the pups walk around with us. If you’re unsure, I’m happy to help you find the perfect spot for your engagement session!
Want more tips like this as you plan for your special day? Read more of my blog posts below:
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