11 Tips for Paw-Fect Holiday Photos With Your Dog

The winter holidays are fast approaching, and that means holiday cards are going out soon! What better way to wish your loved ones “Happy Holidays” than with a holiday photo of your dog?

If you’re planning to include your pooch in the family photo shoot or to make them the feature of this year’s Christmas card, here are 11 tips for snapping great holiday pics with your four-legged friend.

Keep These Things Handy When Photographing Your Dog:

  • Treats to reward them
  • Toys to keep them engaged
  • Props for adorable holiday photos
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1. Choose Your Timing Carefully

You know your dog best, so think about what time of day would be best for a dog-friendly photoshoot. Are they sluggish and agreeable in the morning, getting their energy later in the day? Or does your dog wake up with excitement and need a walk or a few good rounds of fetch to manage their energy?

Taking your dog holiday photos before your furry best friend has had a meal is another tip to keep them on task. Even the best dogs might not be motivated with a full belly!

2. Keep It Simple

When choosing a background, it can be tempting to use something festive like your decorated Christmas tree. Having a background with too much going on can distract from the best part of the photo — your cute little Christmas pup! Simple, solid backgrounds are the best way to highlight your furry friend.

3. Know Your Camera

a little boy takes a picture of his dog

Nothing says you can’t get AMAZING holiday photos with an iPhone, though some prefer a more advanced camera. Whichever you choose to use, knowing how to adjust the settings or use auto settings will work in your favor.

Most smartphones have automated presets that can be adjusted. On professional cameras, increasing the ISO setting will help your camera lens capture more light in low-light settings.

Since pets tend to move around quite a bit, using a faster shutter speed will help you capture photos without blurring if there’s a slight motion.

4. Pick The Right Lighting

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If you’re planning to take your pup’s Christmas photo outside, choose the timing of your photoshoot when natural lighting is best — usually in the early morning or late afternoon. Mid-day lighting can be harsh and cause people and pets to squint, or leave photos looking washed out.

For indoor photo shoots, utilize natural light coming in through windows and doors as much as possible. Use adjustable light features when needed. Add Christmas lights to your photo for an extra festive feel!

5. Practice Taking Photos In Your Chosen Location

Having a quick practice session will give you the chance to get a feel for things like lighting, the need for props, and avoiding possible distractions. It’d be a shame to get you and your furry friend all dressed up, only to arrive and find your location is too dark or not exactly what you had in mind.

Scoping out the location ahead of time can also give you a chance to practice with your camera, and adjust any settings you may need to change before the final photo shoot.

6. Try A Cute Costume Or A Santa Claus Suit

Nothing says “Merry Christmas” like a dog-sized Santa hat. Another classic go-to for cute dog Christmas photos is antlers. Even if your dog won’t actually wear either one, there’s still potential for adorable photos of them playing with them or carrying them in their mouth!

If headwear is a total no-go, try a cute and cozy holiday sweater or a costume they can’t shake off before you snap a few dog holiday photos.

7. Use Festive Props

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Rather than the standard “sit and stay” photo, try capturing your dog in action! Festive props add something unique to your dog Christmas photos and give the opportunity to let more of your dog’s adorable personality shine through.

Festive toys like a cute holiday hedgehog or a stuffed candy cane make for cute chew toys during a holiday photo session (even if it means giving them a few Christmas presents early).

8. Watch The Younger Family Members For Group Photos

dog with family members petting him at a gathering

If you’re getting the whole family together for holiday photos, there can often be a little chaos among the joy — especially with hounds around during the holidays

Children (especially those who may not live with the dog) might be tempted to try and pick your pup up or sit on them. This can be pretty upsetting to some pups and might make it harder to get them to cooperate for photos afterward. Making sure the whole family is comfortable and having fun is key to getting great photos!

9. Take Lots Of Photos To Choose From

Don’t put the pressure on your dog or yourself to get one perfect holiday photo. Take advantage of the time you’ve set aside and take as many photos as possible! You’ll be glad you have options when choosing your favorites.

Try different poses, different lighting, with and without props, and do different things! Mixing it up will keep your dog engaged and give you unique photos to choose from.

10. Consider A Pet Photographer

dog holiday photos

If the idea of having to DIY your holiday pet photos has you saying “bah humbug,” give yourself the Christmas present and hire a pet photographer!

Pet photographers have experience getting great dog photos, and will often come up with their own ideas and bring props. Pros also usually have a list of good local locations in mind. If you’re a dog lover who really wants professional holiday photos, hiring a photographer will leave you with one less thing to worry about this holiday season.

11. Make Sure To Have Fun with Dog Holiday Photos!

Remember, the holidays are all about JOY! You want to capture your dog having fun, not scare them into the perfect photo. Natural photos of your dog just being a dog or the family interacting with them are much more genuine than strictly posed pictures.

If you’re mid-photo session and it’s not going as planned, put the camera down and come back to it later. A few rounds of fetch might help you relax, too!