So you want to bring your dog to your engagement shoot… same! We don’t blame you. Here’s a picture of our office pup when he was like .5 years old to get us all excited about doggies:
Brb, in a haze convincing myself on reasons why I need another baby animal. A friend for the dog, you know. For him, not me.
That was fun! Moving on:
After shooting many engagement shoots with dogs in tow (you can find links to our favourites at the end of the post), and then getting one ourselves, we’ve picked up a few tips and tricks along the way on how to make the most out of the experience. The underlying theme with these tips is to remain as relaxed and stress-free as possible. Your photos will look natural and natural = better photos.
Bring someone to help with the dog
If you can, ask a friend or family member to tag along for the very beginning of the shoot to help with the pup. They can help with their toys, treats, calling the dog’s name during photos, etc. When we’re done with photos that include the dog, this person can then just leave with your dog. You + your pup will be muuuuch less stressed out this way, which means better, more relaxed photos!
Do photos with the dog at the beginning of the session
This goes hand-in-hand with the previous point. To make it easiest on everyone, get the portraits done with your dog during the first part of the engagement shoot. This way, you’ll know you got some key shots with your pup, but then once they leave you’ll have peace of mind because they’re happy and looked after and not stressed out/on leash on the side waiting for you. This means you’ll be able to relax and move on for the second-half of your session for more intimate portraits of just the two of you. Pup will be happy back at home with treats and belly rubs if he’s lucky.
Location, location, location
If possible, plan for your engagement shoot to be at a place your dog is used to/has been before. This way, your dog won’t be super tempted or distracted with sniffing around and vetting the place the out. If you have your heart set on somewhere that’s new to your dog, head to the shoot 30 minutes early so pup can figure it all out before portraits begin. Again, relaxed dog = happy humans = more relaxed and natural looking photos.
A part 2 to location: if your dog is easily distracted by humans/other dogs/excitement, consider either not doing your engagement shoot at a location that’s super busy, or schedule them on a day that’s typically less busy.
Pack comforts for your pup
As chill as your dog might be, including them in an engagement shoot is still quite a feat for the lil pooch. Reward him as you go, and bribe him with treats too, of course, which’ll help him sit niiiiice and pretty for the camera. When you can tell that your dog needs a bit of a break (restless, barky, etc) give him more treats, some water, and a bit of play time with his favourite toy.
Have realistic expectations
It’s important to go into the engagement shoot with a realistic mindset. Even the most well-behaved dog might get flustered or anxious during the shoot. That’s okay. We’ll make it work. There’s no rush, we just have to be patient. As dog owners know, the more we get stressed out, the more stressed the dog will be. Some dogs (like people ;)) take more time getting used to a camera in their face than others, so it’s important to have a “go with the flow” mentality when going into a photo session with a dog. No matter what, you’ll get some fun shots with you and your pup that you’ll love.
Budget extra time
Because we’ll be taking lots of little breaks, the engagement shoot will last a little longer than most, so don’t feel pressured to rush through the portraits. We’ll be taking it slow to make sure everyone is relaxed, happy, and if you’re lucky, full of treats.
Want to see some examples? This pretty pooch had High Park all to herself during Cherry Blossom season. These two braved the Distillery District Christmas Market before warming up in their condo close by, while this guy had the time of his life at Ashbridge’s Bay. And the chillest pup award goes to this pug who I almost stole at the end of the session.
If you were feeling a little overwhelmed with bringing your dog to your engagement shoot before, we hope you feel more at ease and just plain excited about it now.