So You Want Senior Pics With Your Pooch?
On the scale of zero to adorable, there’s not much that can top cute pictures of your pet—unless, of course, it’s cute pictures of you WITH your pet. Your senior picture photo shoot is the perfect time to bring along Fido or Phoebe or Boomer (or all of your furry companions), because it’s a pretty sure bet that they’ve been a big part of the memories you’ve made throughout your school years.
If you’re planning on bringing your pup along for your big day (which I highly recommend!), I have a few tips and tricks that will help things go smoothly. After all, your photo shoot is a lot like a vacation. It takes some planning, we’re going to be tired when it’s all said and done, and if the pooches come along, we need to plan ahead for that.
I’ve done a LOT of photo shoots, and I’ve captured a lot of tail wags and slobbery canine kisses along the way. So trust me when I say the cute factor of the pictures will more than outweigh the little bit of planning we do to make sure things work out how we want them to. Here’s what you need to know:
Operation Cooperation – Getting Your Pooch to Cooperate
Yeah, this isn’t going to happen. You know every dog commercial where the obedient and well-groomed pup leaps into the air with perfect timing to catch the frisbee that’s thrown to them? That’s likely take #412 of that shot, and at that point, the guy behind the camera is probably considering giving up his career to live a solitary existence somewhere in a forest. So, instead of putting pressure on your furry best friend and expecting him or her to behave in a certain way, we’ll just capture the moments organically. Trust me…we’ll get better pictures that way anyway. Just look at this sweet photo of Trevor and his pup, Mario! Completely unplanned…I mean, I’m good, but even I can’t force a connection like this.
We all know we don’t get enough years with our furry friends, so I do always try to get at least one picture of your dog, just so you’ll always remember that sweet face. I’m sure originally they thought it unnecessary, but after Mario passed away a few years ago I got a bittersweet message from Trevor’s mom thanking me again for this darling image of him.
The Less Complicated, The Better
If you’d like your pooch to wear a velvet capelet while prancing through a field with a flower crown balanced on her head and spontaneously nudge a butterfly with her nose, that’s not going to happen either. However, if you plan on finding beauty in the simple moments, you’re guaranteed some great images of you and your best fur-buddy that you’ll cherish forever. And please don’t forget to clean up after your pup. We’re typically in public places, so always bring paper towel and a bag for those potty breaks. Nobody wants to step in that!
Seconds before this picture was taken, Marissa’s dog nearly knocked her over. “Quick, grab him and give him a hug!” Let’s just say that a 10-month-old pit bull might just have a few other ideas about how the session should go. But seriously…this face!!!
Capturing Their Character
Goofy? Serious? Playful? Gruff? Whatever your pup’s personality—and however your pet acts with you—I want to capture that in pictures. Does your best pal get the zoomies whenever you play with him? Let’s see that whir and blur of tail and ears! Does your best gal flop of her back for belly rubs whenever you’re around? Whatever their silly quirks, whatever makes them your unique best friend, THAT’s what will make pictures with your pup the very best pictures ever. Don’t worry about all the sitting and shaking and behaving. This whole photo shoot will be out of the norm, so don’t count on your pooch to take that lying down!
While you might think this portion of your session is a disaster, just remember to trust me. This photo of Matthew and his dog, Cooper, originally was an outtake! Notice that the leash isn’t attached. Well, Cooper had other ideas and decided to explore, and this outtake turned in a final image in Matthew’s gallery.
Not Opposed to Bribery
Got Snausages? By all means, go ahead and fill your pockets with whatever treats will calm the savage beast (or drooling fluffball). Seriously, if you need some snacks for yourself, too, go right ahead. Just try to steer clear of Cheetos or anything broccoli-ish that might get stuck in your teeth. My point is, go ahead and bribe your pup with a Beggin’ Strip or two. I’m all about everyone having a little bit of fun!
The first picture is what every client thinks they want. Literally all of you, right? Until we get the 2nd picture. Which one do you think is printed BIG for their wall? It isn’t the first image of Brandon and his new pup staring sweetly at the camera. It’s the one where you can smell that puppy breath and feel the slobbery kisses! Maybe we used a little peanut butter, maybe we didn’t! Nobody will ever know.
A Little Goes a LONG Way
Here’s where we throw in a little strategy. You may have noticed that your doggo doesn’t have the longest attention span—and that’s ok. But we need to plan for that. The best way for us to get amazing shots of you with your pup is to limit the time he or she spends in front of the camera. While you’ll be going to several locations for your pictures, your pup will likely only go to one. We’ll work together to pick the perfect spot. I try to pick a time either at the very beginning or end of your shoot, and have someone (mom, dad, friend) swing by with your pup at the perfect time. We will be at a safe location—not near busy streets or train tracks—just in case there’s a slip of the collar or escape attempt. I also try to pick wide open places like parks or even back yards so there’s less noise and confusion for your pup. I’ll get several shots of you interacting with your best fur-buddy, and then he or she can go home and relax after their short photo session experience. It’s super stress-free for you…and for your pet!
My Dog is Crazy!
Um, aren’t they all? Isn’t that why we love them so much! I can’t tell you how many clients have come in for their in-person consultation and never considered including their dog because they “don’t listen” or they’re “too wild and crazy.” Lucky for you, wild and crazy is my specialty! Trust me, ALL dogs are like that! Well, except Mocha, this sweet pup below. But I’m telling you, she is the exception not the rule. Also, when we got our first dog (years and years ago, before we were married) we had our dog trained by professionals. Really, they trained us not the dog, so my husband and I both know techniques that work with many dogs. I’ve worked with rescues, small dogs, big dogs, you name it. And of course it doesn’t have to be a dog either! I’d love to meet your cat, horse, or other beloved pet!
Louie is such a sweet boy, but as a rescue was a little timid. We gave him time to adjust to the surroundings, and as long as he was with Madie, he was in heaven! So we let him run, play, give kisses, and just enjoy his family. Then in between, we captured gorgeous senior pictures for Madie!
Some of the cutest and most fun senior pictures I’ve taken have included family pets. When it’s time to sit down and talk about your session, ask me to show you some of my favorites. Once you see all the slobbery faces and wagging tails, you’ll definitely want to include your pup in your senior picture photo shoot. After all, they’ve been your study buddy, your slumber party pal, your midnight snack sidekick, and your secret confidant for all these years. It just takes a little bit of planning to include them in your photo memories.
These are amazing!! I always love your work!
Holly, you are so sweet! Thanks so much for taking the time to read about our senior portrait session!
This is an amazing blog post! And HOORAY for tip #6!!!! No excuses. Get that fur sibling in the picture, everyone! ♥️♥️♥️
Ha ha, so true right? Everyone’s dogs are crazy and we love them for it! That is no reason to leave them out of your photo shoot. They are such a huge part of our lives…include them!
Such great tips! Wish I would have read these before I had a senior that wanted to include her dog! The pictures turned out cute, but it was a little overwhelming for this non-dog person!
Oh Brandi, I can totally imagine! If I weren’t a huge dog lover I would definitely be overwhelmed sometimes, especially with two 10-month-old pit bulls! LOL! Just remember to go with the flow and try to capture the love and emotion that dogs bring to their owners. Let them play and have fun with it. Just think of them as furry toddlers!
Wonderful tips. Looks like you have this senior shoots with pets thing down pretty well! i’m coming to you if I need help in the future!
Definitely Jodi! I’m always happy to help out a fellow photographer. After that shoot with the 2 pit bull puppies, I can handle anything!
I love the animation and excitement that pets have brought to your senior photo sessions! Well done and inspiring! Bet your seniors are loving these photos!
Thanks so much Andrea! “Animation and excitement.” Yep, that’s a great way to put it!
I really enjoyed this photos with your dog blog! My favorite tip is too keep it simple. So often those great big ideas get us into trouble because they are not achievable and too much time is spent struggling to achieve the unrealistic! Thank you for putting that into perspective. Loves the perfectly posed dog and owned photo contrasted to the dog kiss photo! It’s just so true that the latter is the favorite moment in time.
Hey Andrea! I’m glad to know I’m not the only one that feels that way. It’s really true for just about any photo shoot. Don’t overthink this, go out and enjoy, and let me capture whatever happens. You’ll be surprised at the results. And as a fellow photographer, I know you understand that! Thanks so much for commenting!
Such great advice for anyone who wants to include their canine best friend in photos!
Thanks so much for commenting, Susan!