Whenever I post a photo of a couple with their dog, I always get a handful of direct messages from photographers:
“Any tips for shooting sessions with dogs?”
“HOWWW did you get that shot!?”
“I’m always so nervous to let clients bring their dogs!”
I get it! Photographing a wedding or engagement session can be nerve wracking enough—add an animal who can’t follow directions, and you have the potential for even more stress. BUT, for those clients who love their “fur babies,” these photos can be invaluable. Plus, they’re precious!
With that said, I’m here to help you learn how to photograph weddings and engagement sessions with dogs. These 5 tips will help you feel more confident in shooting sessions with dogs, and love the images that you deliver to your clients.
How to Photograph Weddings and Engagement Sessions with Dogs (+ Posing Ideas!)
Bring a handler and a leash
It’s no surprise that pets can be a handful, no matter how well-trained they are! I always recommend asking your clients to bring a handler (and a leash!) with them for sessions or wedding days. This person is in charge of toting treats, keeping the dog calm, and, most importantly, taking them home (or to the air conditioned car) when you’re done photographing them. This could be a parent for an engagement session, but we recommend a friend or cousin (who’s not in the wedding party or needed for immediate family photos) on a wedding day.
Photograph pups first
For engagement sessions especially, we recommend getting all shots with the dog first. It’s a great ice breaker for clients—all eyes aren’t on just them, meaning that it will ease their nerves and make them more comfortable in front of the camera—and allows the handler and dog to leave once done so that you can complete the session without the pup barking for their humans!
For weddings, I recommend bringing in dogs right after the first look. That way, the handler has time to return the dog home and get themselves dressed in time for the ceremony.
Add a floral collar
For weddings especially, we highly recommend suggesting that your client coordinate the creation of a floral crown. Florists are always eager to provide them, as they create portfolio-worthy images. Though it may be a touch pricier, we always say to GO BIG with these! I love Nala’s beautiful wreath created by Albright’s. It makes a statement and coordinates perfectly.
Get on their level
For the most eye-catching photographs, I always try to get on the dog’s eye level. I think a straight-on view creates a better focal point for the dog rather than standing above. It draws the viewer into the image and I love the look it achieves. I frequently have clients crouch down and hug on the dog so that they’re all on the same plane. If the dog is small enough, I also love to have the couple hold the dog up
Shoot with a higher aperture
Rather than shoot wide open, I (generally) shoot at an aperture of 2.5 or above to ensure that the dog’s whole face is in focus. Because their eyes and noses are on two separate planes, it can be difficult to nail focus when your f/stop is below that. The caveat to this is if you’re shooting with a longer focal length (like an 85mm)—then, 1.8 is possible to get in focus.
Let dogs be dogs!
Though it can be tempting to want to get a perfectly posed shot of a pup and his humans, sometimes, things don’t go as planned. Maybe he wants to lick their faces, or sit in front of them (facing the couple and not you). That’s okay! Let a dog be a dog. Showing the dog’s personality only adds to the gallery and helps your clients remember them just the way they are.
And now, for a few posing tips…
Wide shot with the couple + their dog
Tight shot focusing on the dog
Tight shot focusing on the dog, with the couple kissing in the background
Sitting and posing in front of the couple
Walking with dog on a leash
So, there you have it! How to Photograph Weddings and Engagement Sessions with Dogs (+ Posing Ideas!) Have any questions? Leave them in the comments below?
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