• Courtney

4 Tips for Photographing Dogs at a Portrait Session

A Special Request: "Can I bring our dog?"

I don't usually advertise myself as an engagement photographer, but I couldn't pass up the opportunity to take my friend Kelsey's save-the-date photos for her upcoming wedding. She had one special request though—she wanted to include her dog in the portrait session. How on earth could I say no to that??

Meet Cooper

Cooper is an almost-two-year-old brown and black Dachshund puppy, and he instantly stole my heart. Prior to their portrait session, Kelsey described Cooper as a "wiggle worm," so I was a bit worried about capturing some good shots of him on the big day since I don't have much experience photographing pets.

In the end, I had nothing to worry about! Cooper stayed still for just long enough and with a little Photoshop magic everything worked out perfectly. If you're thinking of bring a dog to your next portrait session—whether you're the photographer or the client—keep reading to find out how to make sure your session goes as smoothly as possible.

Choose a Dog-Friendly Location

The first step is to choose a dog-friendly location for your portrait session. Make sure to do your research so there aren't any surprises when you arrive. Kelsey chose Lake Louisa State Park in Clermont, FL and it honestly was the perfect choice for this country-lovin' couple. Miles of walking trails, beautiful sweeping views, a gorgeous lake. It doesn't get more perfect than that.

If you can't find a public park that allows pets in your area, you could always have the session at home! All you need is some sunlight and a pretty background.

Bring a Squeaky Toy

My main concern with getting good shots of Cooper was that I wouldn't be able to get his attention. Being a one-woman-show means I don't have an assistant to help with that while I'm taking the photos. Enter: Mr. Squeaky Toy—aka the key to getting dogs to look exactly where you want them to. To get your dog to look straight at the camera, make sure to hold the toy right above the lens.

Hot tip: Believe it or not, this technique also works with children.

Of course, sometimes you don't need to have the dog looking at the camera to get an adorable shot!

Bring a Tie-Down Lead

Inevitably you'll want a few photos without the dog too. Bringing a simple leash isn't enough because—unless you also have an extra set of hands—there won't be anyone to hold it. If you bring a tie-down lead, you'll be able to stake the lead into the ground and let the dog play while you continue with the portrait session.

Use Photoshop to Your Advantage

And finally, don't be afraid to use Photoshop. Sometimes a quick "head swap" is all you need to make sure everyone—including the pup—looks their very best!

A Picture Perfect Portrait Session

What do you guys think of these tips? Were they helpful? After all is said and done, the key to a successful portrait session is to have fun!


Thank you to Kelsey and Chase for choosing me to be their engagement photographer and for trusting me to capture these special memories with Cooper.

Courtney Reynolds Creative | Portrait Photographer | Orlando FL


Interested in booking a couples portrait session? Let's chat!


Orlando, FL

courtneyreynoldsphoto@gmail.com | 603-493-1209