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6 Tips For Taking Holiday Portraits With Your Pets

dogs with owners in front of Christmas tree

‘Tis the season for hot chocolate, holiday shopping, being with family and friends, and the epitome of seasonal memory-making, holiday portraits. If your holiday photos include your precious pets, then you might already be stressing out about picture day. After all, pets aren’t known for being the most cooperative models, although they’re certainly some of the cutest. Don’t worry; you don’t need to get yourself in a tizzy; just follow these helpful tips to snag the ultimate holiday pet portrait.

cat with closed eyes

Why Doesn’t Your Pet Pose for Pictures?

First, as amazing as your furry friend is, and no matter how well-trained, you need to remember your pet isn’t human. Therefore, if Fido suddenly looks away at the worst moment, or your feline friend doesn’t want to smile for the camera, they aren’t doing it intentionally.

More than likely, your pet is distracted, antsy, or stressed out, making it difficult for him to stay still long enough so you can snap a photo or two. If your pet isn’t trained or perhaps has a stubborn streak, this can prove to be an extra challenge when it comes to taking pictures of your pet.

woman training dogs

6 Helpful Tips for Snapping the Perfect Holiday Pet Portrait

Of course, before you do anything, there’s no doubt that having a trained animal will make photo sessions much more manageable. It’s not that your pet pal has to have an impressive I.Q. or anything; it’s just that training your pet tends to make him a better listener.

Plus, when you take the time to train your pet, it also creates a stronger relationship between you and makes your pet happier and safer. Therefore, basic training should always be at the top of your checklist when you get a new animal buddy. And yes, you can train your cat, so this isn’t just about getting your dog to listen and obey.

Once you’ve tackled basic training, follow these tips to make your holiday pet portrait merry instead of scary.

Tempt Your Pet with Treats and Toys

Everyone does better when they have the right motivation, and the same thing applies to your pet. Before your photo session begins, have plenty of tasty treats at the ready, as well as some of your pet’s favorite toys on hand. You can use the toys to help guide your pet’s gaze to where you want him to look, and it helps catch his attention too.

To ensure your edible motivation is as effective as possible, try to do your photoshoot right before a meal. If your pet is hungry, he’ll be more likely to respond to your treat temptations. Plus, positive reinforcement is one of the most effective ways to get your pet to do what you want him to do.

Get Active Before Your Photo Session

Give your pal an opportunity to expend some energy before you try to snap his pic. It’s as easy as grabbing a leash and taking your pup for a walk or having a rousing play session with your tabby. When your pet has a chance to blow off some steam, he’ll be more focused and calm. Plus, you can even cheat a smile with pups by taking your dog for a quick run pre-photo. When your pup starts to pant, he’ll look like he has a big smile on his face.

Limit Distractions

Okay, so the cute dog-shaped pillow and giant bone and basket full of toy mice might all seem like the perfect props, but what they really are is a big distraction. Keep the props to a minimum; let your precious pet be the star of the show.

If you want to make a statement, try using a wearable item instead (if your animal can handle it). Dogs are probably a better candidate for this one than cats, but your pup could sport a cute winter dog coat or a Santa hat. In addition, consider the location of your pictures. Don’t choose a place with a lot of busy activity or tempting surroundings that will steal your pet’s focus.


Keep Your Pet Photography Session Short


This one is pretty much self-explanatory, but if you want to get a good portrait of your pet, then keep your session short and sweet. Your pet might be willing to give you a few minutes of focused attention, but if you're planning some elaborate two-hour photography session, you can forget about it. Think of your pet as an eager toddler, full of wiggles and squirms and only able to stay still for seconds at a time.

Enlist Some Help (Or Use an App)

If you have a friend or family member that is willing, an extra set of hands can prove to be very helpful. Your assistant can hold toys, help get your pet to focus while you’re staging photos, scoop up unexpected accidents (hey, it happens), and be a runner so you can concentrate on the camera work.

If you can’t find a helper, do your best to keep everything as hands-free as possible so that you can be your own extra-set of hands. Set up your camera on a tripod, and if you use your phone for your pics, you likely have a voice-activated setting that allows you to take pics with particular phrases and words instead of having to push a button.

You can also use different apps to help you snap the perfect holiday portrait. Yep, there’s an app for that. You can check out Android and iPhone apps, like Pose-a-Pet and BarkCam, to give you an extra edge on taking your photos. And, if all else fails and your pics turn out a little lackluster, there’s always
Photoshop (we won't tell)!

Use a Professional Pet Photographer

Sometimes, it pays to call in the professionals. If you don't have the time, energy, patience, or skills to get the quality holiday pet portrait you want, then it’s probably worth it to hire a professional photographer.

If you decide to go with a pro, it’s best to find a photographer that specializes in pet portraits. Ask your friend and family for recommendations. You can also ask your vet or groomer for suggestions, or you can use a service like to find pet professionals near you. You can expect to pay around $150 to $200 for your photo-shoot. This price might include a print or two, but you’ll likely have to pay extra for prints or a photo release.

No matter how you decide to capture your pet’s holiday cheer, make sure you prepare yourself too. Schedule and plan your pet photo session when you have the necessary time for it, so you don’t feel stressed or rush. Pet pictures are not something you want to do on the fly.

However, if you consider these tips, you can be on your way to creating lasting holiday memories of your pet that you’ll be proud to share. For more ideas and tips on how to celebrate the holidays with your pets, make sure to check out the rest of our blog! You’ll find all sorts of helpful resources and ideas that can help you be a stellar pet parent.


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