How to Prepare for your Pet Photoshoot

You’ve deliberated. You’ve weighed the pros and cons. And now you’ve made your final decision.

You have decided to book a professional photoshoot for your pet. After all, what better way is there to commemorate the goofy grin your pet has every time you walk into the room than with beautiful artwork?

But now you find yourself thinking about how the shoot will go, and how to prepare so it goes wonderfully.

First of all, it's going to be fantastic. So don't worry! You've hired a pro, and they know what they're doing. Professional pet photographers have worked with ALL types of pets with different personalities and quirks. I can almost guarantee that your pet is not the most challenging one they've photographed.

There are a few things you can do beforehand to ensure the shoot goes smoothly.

Here are 8 of the most helpful tricks to best prepare for your pet photoshoot:

1. Think About the Artwork You Want Us to Create Together

The first thing you want to consider is what kind of artwork do you want to display. Maybe you want multiple framed pieces hanging in your entryway or maybe you prefer a beautiful album on your coffee table that you can flip through with family and friends.

Think about where you would want to show your portraits. Do you want them in your sleek modern living room? Or maybe in your comfy home library? Try to imagine what types of scenery you enjoy most and what types would look best in those spaces. There are various options to choose from.

A photoshoot during a walk in the downtown city streets might pair well in a modern living space but would clash with the aesthetic of a warm, cozy reading nook. The same idea applies for colours. If you want to hang your pet portraits in a beach-inspired bar area, maybe a scenic forest session wouldn’t be the best option to choose from.

Having a really good grasp on what kind of artwork you want to have will help your photographer get a feel for what kind of portraits to create for you.

2. Plan the Perfect Custom Photoshoot with Your Photographer

Communication is key when it comes to planning a great photoshoot. Just as you want to be completely prepared, your photographer needs to know exactly what you have in mind to be able to bring your vision to life.

The Planning Call is a key element of preparing for your pet photoshoot. In a scheduled video chat after you’ve booked your reservation, we will go over key factors to what will get you the results you’re looking for while having a good time for both you and your pet.

We will talk about your pet’s particular personality. Is she a puppy who gets excited about everything? Maybe she’s a rescue who needs a bit more coaxing to get comfortable enough in front of the camera. No matter what your pet’s personality is, it is still absolutely possible to create amazing portraits of them.

We’ll also go over what the best location is and what time of day might be suit your pet most. Your pet’s comfort matters to me so it’s important that we pick a location that your pet will be comfortable in. For example, an urban setting might not be a great choice if your dog is easily startled by loud cars or buses.

Time of day also makes a huge difference. Some locations are better in the morning than they are in the evening. The lighting is better at certain times of the day. And some places are basically deserted in early morning, which is perfect for nervous or reactive dogs. Plus, uust like you might be a morning person, your dog may be most energetic in the morning as well. We’ll go over all the possible options for your photo shoot during the Planning Call.

3. Get Your Pet Picture-Perfect

You definitely want your pet to look his best for the photoshoot. After all, his pictures are going to be on display in your home (plus, you always want to look pretty for your pictures too, right?).

Make sure your pet’s fur is groomed before arriving for your photo session. If you need to book a grooming appointment, make sure you book it for a few days in advance. This gives his fur time to settle into its new style. A good tip to remember is to never book the grooming session the same day as your photoshoot. This may result in your pet being overly tired or overly stressed to be able to have fun at their photoshoot.

If your pet is fairly low maintenance and doesn’t need a full grooming, make sure to bathe her the night before and give her a good brushing. Then cross your fingers and try not to let her get dirty again before her shoot.

And whether it’s part of a full grooming or you do them yourself, don’t forget the pawdicure! Even though it's a small detail, if your dog's nails are too long they can look unkempt.

Black dog sitting on a boardwalk in a forest in Ottawa, looking at the camera, shot by Sam Coral Photography

4. What to Bring to your Pet Photoshoot

Get your backpack ready because there are definitely a lot of things to keep handy to keep your pet’s photo shoot running smoothly.

Think about what motivates your pet the most. You will definitely want to pack a few favourite treats for your pet. (And you will want to bring twice as many as you think you’ll need. Either way, you’ll probably run out.) A good tip is to bring treats that have different levels of value. For example, I use beef liver (good), cheese (great), and hot dogs (AMAZING!) for my two corgis.

If your pet is more motivated by toys, be sure to pack a few favourites.

Your pet’s regular collar that he normally wears and a standard leash will suit just fine as accessories. (Just to note, almost all dogs I take pictures of are on leashes. I just photoshop them out. So, opt for a thinner leash whenever possible.) However, if you want to have a little fun, bring along anything else you might want your pet to wear in the photos.

Definitely don’t forget to bring the basics: water (for you and your pet), poop bags, a brush if needed, and a hand towel just in case they get dirty or wet. Also, have fun! Go a little crazy and bring along anything else you could possibly think of that might be perfect in your photos.

5. Manage Your Pet’s Energy Before the Photoshoot

You know your pet better than anyone. Depending on your pet’s energy levels, you are going to want to figure out how to best manage his energy to help him focus during the photo shoot.

If you have an active pet, it’s a great idea to exercise them before their photoshoot. For early morning shoots, take them on an extra walk or play session the night before. For later shoots, take them on a longer walk the day of their photoshoot. We just want to burn off a little bit of energy, but we don't want them to be totally exhausted. We want them to still have some energy to explore and have fun so we can capture their personality.

On the opposite side, if you have a senior pet or a pet who prefers lounging all day long, it’s probably a better idea to just let them rest the day before the photoshoot. This way, they have energy leftover to play during their shoot.

Small white dog sitting in grass at park with trees in Ottawa, looking at the camera, shot by Sam Coral Photography

6. Hunger as Motivation

If you plan to feed your pet before bringing them to your photoshoot, it’s better to feed them half of their normal amount. (This tip is for healthy pets only. Check in with your vet first if your pet requires special feedings.)

There are going to be PLENTY of opportunity for treats in the hour or two we spend taking pictures. If your pet comes already full, they may be less motivated for treats and end up being harder to work with. Being a bit hungry will make sure they are more likely to focus when they know they’ll get a yummy treat as a reward.

7. Don’t Stress. Have Fun!

This tip might be the hardest yet but DON’T STRESS! Don’t worry about your pet posing properly or being the perfect angel. Most dogs and cats I photograph are just regular companion animals with no special training. A pet with personality is super fun to photograph and we want that personality to come shining through in the pictures.

Creating great pet portraits takes a lot of time and patience. There will be a lot of waiting and repeating poses or shots several times. This is totally normal. It’s best to show up with a positive attitude and low expectations for your pet. Remember to have fun! Leave the rest up to me and I’ll guide you through exactly what to do the rest of the way.

Pitbull dog sitting in front of barn with red ball in mouth in Ottawa, looking at the camera, shot by Sam Coral Photography

8. For the Pet Parent Overachievers

Did you read that last part and think, "But wait...I really want to work on training my pet before our photoshoot."? Then this point is for you. If you didn't think that, skip this! It is NOT a requirement to do any training before your shoot.

If you really want to work on some commands with your pet before the shoot, it is best to stick with the basics. Sit, Down, and Stand are good tricks to have your pet follow well. It’s also good to get your pet used to Stay or Wait and work on increasing the distance between you and the amount of time in the position. Up is a good basic trick for when you want your pet to jump up onto something or place their two front paws on an object.

There's a lot of thought that goes into planning a pet photo shoot. These are memories that you will have forever even after your loving companion has crossed the rainbow bridge. I do my best to make sure both you and your pet have the best experience during the whole process.

Just like people, every pet is one of a kind. If you still have concerns or worries that you just can’t shake, book a free consultation to chat about your pet's unique personality and situation. I'd love to chat about how we can design a photoshoot you both will love. My goal is to make the whole process enjoyable and make sure you have amazing memories that will last forever.

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