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Engagement Photo Tips: How To Best Include Your Pet!

Engagement or Couples Photos with Your Dog

If you've been following along with me and Jill Caren Photo for any amount of time, you probably already know I'm obsessed with my two boys pictured above, my husband Cory and our Frenchton Beans. Beans even has his own Instagram account (yes I'm that person!), although I'm not the best at keeping up with it. He's full of personality, spunk, is truly our child and I couldn't imagine not having him in a few photos on the rare occasion when we step in front of the camera. If you feel this way about your own pup or pups then you've found the right photographer for your next session!

A few pieces of advice before I fully jump into sharing all my tips and tricks for how to include your pets successfully in your next session or even wedding day:

  • Please don't feel weird or awkward about asking me or any photographer if your pet can be included! It's a very common request and I'm always thrilled to get asked.

  • Set realistic expectations for you, your fiancé, and your pup. There will be new smells, sounds, and things to explore for your pup and these are all very normal responses. Your pet may not be as polished and proper as you might like them to be, but try not to stress. Instead, we'll have fun and work at their pace. When I know pets are going to be part of our session, I typically add in some extra time for us.

  • If you have specific poses or photos in mind you'd like to have captured, feel free to share those ahead of time! There's lots of inspiration out there and even right here on my blog, so search around and see what feels right for you and your little family.

Top 10 Tips For Including Your Pet During Your Photo Session

1. Bring Along or Hire a Pet Handler
A pet handler is someone you trust and who knows your pet. This person will be in charge of your pet, making sure they arrive on time, and will take them home once their photo portion of the session is finished. Since your pets are really only involved for around 20 - 30 minutes of your session, having a pet handler allows for you and your partner to focus on each other and enjoy the remainder of your session. This person can also be a great help during your session with getting the pet's attention, giving treats, squeaking toys, keeping them clean, etc. If you don't feel like you have any family members or friends who you would want to bring along as your pet handler, I have a few local Kansas City recommendations for you! This is especially helpful when thinking about your wedding day and if you want your pets involved - so ask away!

2. Pack Plenty of their Favorite Snacks
If your pet is treat motivated, treats and snacks are important! Bring along a little bag of their favorite treats to reward them for taking some super great photos and to help get their attention.

3. Include Their Favorite Squeaker Toy
If your pet is toy motivated, bring along their favorite toy! This is the same concept as treats, an object that will help get their attention is always a good idea. A toy/ball/frisbee is also a great candid way for you and your partner to interact with your pup.

4. Bring Items to Help Keep Everyone Clean
Blankets, towels, wet wipes, and lint rollers - are all great options to help keep everyone clean. From muddy paws to furry outfits, these items will help everyone to look their best for the whole session.

5. Pack a Bowl and Water

Since being adorable and having your photo taken is such hard work, a bowl and water are super important and enjoyed by your pet. This tip is especially crucial for photo sessions and weddings during the warmer months.

6. Choose a Nice Minimal/Neutral Leash and Collar/Harness

While the silly patterned or neon reflective collars and leashes might be great for daily use, they might clash with your outfits and stick out in your final images. I always suggest using a neutral or minimal collar, harness, and leash for your pet.

7. Consider Your Location / Choose a Pet-Friendly Location
This tip should be one of the first things we look into when considering bringing a pet to a session. You'll want to choose a location where your pet is allowed and feels comfortable. You likely have a vision for your photos and equally, know your pet best. If your vision is to be walking in an open field with your dog running next to you, I wouldn't suggest choosing a downtown Kansas City location or a popular park. If you're stumped on where to bring your pup for your session, possibly start in or near your home where they feel most comfortable.

8. Hit Up a Doggie Spa
Just like yourself getting all prim and proper for your session with nail appointments, makeup, hair cuts, beard trims, spray tans, and more, your pup will want some sprucing too! Consider scheduling them a grooming day at the doggie spa or giving them a bath at home. Everyone will look like a million bucks in your photos!

9. Practice Basic Commands
If your pet knows and understands basic commands this is always helpful. You can communicate those commands with me and your handler so we can all do our best to use the same form of communication with your pet.

10. Have Playtime or Walk time Before Your Shoot

Wearing your pet out before our session is a great idea! Taking them on walks or having a big playtime before can help your session run more smoothly. But let’s be real: during their photo time, the pups typically control the show! Again, try not to stress if they’re not perfectly behaved during the session. It’s an exciting, new experience for your pet, so of course, they are going to be a bit more energetic than normal. But sometimes the silly or candid photos end up being the cutest anyway! So try not to stress about your dog posing for the “perfect photo” or even listening to all the commands. Your couples session, family session, engagement session, or even wedding day should be a fun experience with your best furry friend, and capturing your pet’s personality is truly one of my favorite parts!

Bonus Tip!

  • Thinking of dressing them up or including props, bandanas, flower collars, bow ties, and more? My answer is always going to be DO IT!! I love seeing your personalities create a unique vibe for your session. So bring on all the cuteness for your pet.

Ready for your next photo session with your pet? ME TOO! I hope these tips on how to include your pet in your next photo session have been helpful and prepared you for your time in front of the camera. I'm so excited to work with all pups this year for engagement sessions, wedding days, and more.

Remember photos last a lifetime, and including your pet can be a great documented memory for you and your family to look back on for years, reminding you of that special time in your relationship. If you'd like to have your story with your fur baby documented, connect with me here!

With Love,

Beans, Jill, and Cory


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