How to Prepare for a Pet Photoshoot: Top Tips from Two Professional Pet Photographers
As a Cat and Dog Bow Tie designer and maker I have experienced my fair share of pet photography sessions. It takes a lot of work and organisation to get those adorable shots of both Cats and Dogs showing how cute they look in a Wool & Whiskers Bow Tie, not to mention patience!
A personal pet photography session is a wonderful way to capture the personality of your furry family member. We can all grab pics on our camera phones but investing in a dedicated pet photoshoot, with a professional pet photographer can ensure seriously stunning shots…and you can even be in the pictures with your cat or dog.
A pet photographer can capture your dog’s energy or your cat’s expressions as they interact with you. A magical memory to be cherished of the incredible relationship you share with your furry companion.
As I consider organising my next Dog Bow Tie photoshoot here in Amsterdam, I reached out to two top Pet Photographers to ask them for their top tips for pet owners who may be considering booking a pet photography session.
The Pet Photographers
I spoke with both Richard Heald, a UK based photographer for over 19 years who specialises in Pet Photography.
And Aurélie Four, a UK and European Wedding and Lifestyle Photographer for people who love dogs.
Aurélie often travels with her Corgi, Marcel, a professional dog model. The two of them are booked for a variety of commissions together. They have, at the time of writing, been kept very busy creating media content and ad campaigns around the English coronation of King Charles.
What Top Tips would you recommend Pet Owners consider before booking a Pet Photography session?
Definitely consider what you want to get from the session, including any specific shots of your dog.
Consider where the final prints are going so you can be clear on which format you need
And if they want the images for Instagram, to ensure the photographer gets some in a 1x1 format
Before booking a pet photographer be considerate of the best time of day for your pet to be photographed. Is your dog more active in the morning and if so, would a relaxed afternoon slot be a better option?
"Jess" photo by Richard Heald
Ask yourself if your companion animal is comfortable with a camera? If not, train them, be prepared that this will take time, and never push them. Dogs engage with human faces, cameras can get in the way of this so practice with them and build a positive, rewarding association with the camera for them. Give them treats, a favourite toy, your positive, happy voice. Praise and reward them for looking at the camera. And give plenty of breaks.
Consider whether you want to be in the picture with your companion animal or not (I highly recommend everyone gets in so you have memories together)
Research pet photographers to ensure you like their photography style and that it will work for your companion animal (i.e. not booking a studio session for an animal that is easily scared or sensitive to light, flashes, heat etc...)
Be clear on what your pet likes and dislikes. Communicate this to the photographer so you together you can work around their limits
Remember that although the cost of a pet photography session may seem a lot, it will capture memories that last forever.
Photo by Aurélie Four
How do you recommend Pet Owners prepare their Dog for the Photography Session?
Have your pet freshly groomed before the session.
Ensure your dog is relaxed. Maybe they need a big walk before the session to burn off excess energy if you have an excitable pet.
Decide ahead of the session whether you want your pet photographed in their collar or without or even both?
Consider whether you want to be in the shots or not and dress accordingly. You don’t want to miss an opportunity because you don’t feel you are looking your best.
Ensure your companion animal is used to the camera and feeling comfortable.
Before the session, practice basic training commands, gradually and always positively.
Pamper your companion animal (this can include grooming, brushing, removing tear stains...)
Before the photography session, exercise your animal if they are young and energetic (but not so much that they are exhausted), or rest them if your pet is older.
Give them a lighter meal on the day. A hungry dog will drool so you want to avoid that, but keep enough of an appetite for some rewarding treats to be a good motivation to obey commands.
What can a Pet Owner expect from a Pet Photography session with you?
A relaxed informal atmosphere, the photography sessions are booked in for an hour, which gives us plenty of time to capture your pet at their best and I am often happy to take longer if needed. Part of the experience is also to have fun in the shoot and get the pets relaxed and feeling comfortable to show off their character and personality.
"Molly" Photo by Richard Heald
They can expect a relaxed session, adapted to your companion animal, captured in natural light and by someone who knows, understands and loves animals (I have also attended training on how to read the signs of stress in dogs and extensive experience in working with dogs on film sets). I seldom pose animals and instead take a documentary approach.
Photo by Aurélie Four
What are 3 Helpful things a Pet Owner can bring with them to a Pet Photoshoot?
- Treats that your pet particularly loves
- Your pet’s favourite toy
- Your pet’s favourite blanket
- Your pet’s favourite toy or treat, whichever they prefer best.
- A towel, brush and pet friendly wipes (although I always bring those to a pet photoshoot too)
- A plain collar and lead (plain often works better for photos). Both should be clean. If necessary, a long training lead for those animals that cannot go off lead (I can then edit this out if preferred)
What are some common misconceptions/mistakes Pet Owners make when booking a Pet Photography session:
Thinking that their pet needs to constantly sit still, some of the best shots are the images captured in-between the shots.
Getting stressed if their pet is not performing in the first 10 minutes or so, there’s plenty of time in every session.
Worrying about the time, I allot an hour, however, there is no problem if the session finishes early or late, I will let you know once I have enough shots
To forget to let me know if there’s a particular shot you would like me to get.
Not telling the photographer about specific things that make your animal comfortable or uncomfortable.
Booking a photographer whose style they do not like (always worth checking their website to see their work or asking for examples)
Failing to read the fine print (ie is the fee for the session only or including digital images?)
Assuming that your pet will be a natural poser and not training them in advance of the photoshoot.
Do you have any advice on how you make a Pet comfortable during a Photoshoot session?
I always let the pet run around and get used to the surroundings. If the pet needs a drink or rest periods or a run in my garden then that’s absolutely fine, we have plenty of time.
Establish a patient atmosphere during the photoshoot. I also highly recommend taking the time to train your pet ahead of the session.
Make sure the pet photoshoot takes place in an environment that your pet will feel comfortable with and in. Consider noise, smells etc.
Have water and high value treats / toys on hand
Consider the weather and work around the temperatures (ie early or late if in warmer months and a location with shelter if outdoors)
What are your Top Tips on how Pet Owners can use the imagery after the Pet Photoshoot:
"Wensley" photo by Richard Heald
I include a 12”x8” mounted print in the session and at least 10 digital images, so I recommend printing all images on the same paper.
I also offer a multi aperture option with 9 different size images, so it’s good to think which images would fit into your mounted frames
Get the images in the right format so you can share your furry pride and joy on social media (and tagging your Pet Photographer is always highly appreciated)
If you are undecided of which of the many images to print, get some smaller versions of the digital files printed first. Everything always looks slightly different in a physical format.
Back up the digital images you receive (in several places)
Print them, on canvas, in an album, individual photos to frame
Display them - do not leave them sitting on a computer and make sure to enjoy them!
Have your favourite image of your pet printed in a locket to wear all the time.
Photo by Aurélie Four
And Aurélie, as a Wedding Photographer - what are some great ways people can include their Pet in their Wedding Day?
Whilst having those very important members of the family present on your wedding, I highly recommend considering their personalities and not pushing them, and only including them "in pawson" for part of the day (usually ceremony and some pictures) and having a minder before and after so they can rest and be away when things get too rowdy for them.
You can have your pet play a special role in the day in pawson (ring bearer, walking one of the nearlyweds down the aisle...) and then for some photos if they are comfortable with this.
Including them in the photos of the bride and groom getting ready or even a special pre-wedding photography session can be a relaxed way of getting some visual memories of them on the day before the hecticness of the day.
Have a cake topper that's made to look like your companion animals (either edible or felted to look like them and then keep it for anniversarys)
Have wedding favours made with their image or perhaps wear an accessory (socks, a locket necklace) with their photo or an illustration of them to include them in the day in a memorable way.
What are the Top 3 images you prioritise capturing of the happy couple and their Pet on their Wedding Day?
- Ceremony pictures if they have a role in it (bringing the rings...)
- Having them in the group photo and photos with the pawrents.
- General relaxed, candid shots during the ceremony and after.
Thank you Richard and Aurélie for sharing your Pet Photography insights and tips! I certainly have some helpful ideas on how to organise my next Wool & Whiskers photoshoot - now to find some owners up for bringing their dogs to a fun and relaxed Dog Bow Tie photoshoot! Treat subscribers keep an eye out for my dog model appeal coming to your inbox soon!
Should you want to follow either pet photographers; Richard Heald or Aurélie Four (and her gorgeous corgi Marcel), find their Instagram handles and websites below.