12 Tips for Including Dogs in Your Engagement Session

Do you want to include your dog during your engagement session?  Family members come in all shapes and sizes and some of them are extra furry.  You don’t want to leave your fluffy family members out of your photo shoot.  Here are my best tips and tricks to get your pet comfortable in front of the camera!happy dog introduces 12 tips for incorporating your dogs into your engagement photography session to dog engagement session

12 Tips to Get Great Photos with Your Dog

1. Bring treats:

Making sure to pack your pup’s favorite treats can really go a long way! It’s likely how you trained them to sit and stay, which you’ll probably want them to do at some point.

Image of the dog running through the leaves during this engagement session tips post

2.  Interact Normally:

It might sound like a no-brainer, but doing things that you normally would with them makes them comfortable and is a great start to the session. Candid moments tend to be the most well-loved shots, too!  Did I mention I love puppies??  Let’s get on to more dog engagement session tips…

Shippensburg couple walking their dogs for a family photo session 3.  Visit Familiar Places:

If your dogs love to swim in a certain lake or take a walk in a certain park, incorporate that into your session!  They’ll be happy and you’ll capture a special place in your photos, too.  It might not seem all that exciting to you for now, but the “twenty-years-from-now-you” will probably miss this place.

image of the puppies looking at the camera during this Dog Engagement Session

4.  Go Somewhere New:

I know, it totally contradicts my last piece of advice, but the truth is, every dog is different and what works for one pup won’t work for another.  Some love routine (my dog is like that) while others love adventures and exploration.  Go wherever your dog is happiest if they are the star of the show.

DC couple walking their dog on a farm just outside of washington

5.  Bring Toys (A Ball or Squeaky Toy):

Bringing something that squeaks is also good at getting their attention, especially if I can hold it in one hand and squeak it while I take a photo with my other hand. I still can’t get over their dog’s “smile” here!!

Image of the couple smiling and holding their dog as their dog smiles at the camera too during this dog engagement session

6. Allow Plenty of Time:

Hire a photographer that spends plenty of time with your pet.  I know mini sessions are popular and typically inexpensive, but if you want great photos of your pet, you will need time to get you two and your pet at their best.

I’m sure you’ve experienced this first-hand already with trying to get your own pet photos, it can be tough!  This will alleviate stress and result in high-quality photos.  For me, I also utilize the time to get creative angles and compositions for my couples or even try fun ideas that they have.

image of the couples hands on top of each other with the dogs paw showing off he engagement ring during this dog engagement session

7.  Connect with your Dogs:

Hug, kiss, or cuddle your pets, let them sit on your lap, and do their thing.  Even if you want them to face a certain way, don’t force it, let them be themselves.  It usually turns out better anyway!adorable Pennsylvania pups looking cute in black and white with a couple during their Dog Engagement Session

8.  Hire a Dog-Loving Photographer:

Dogs can pick up on emotion; ideally, your photographer will love dogs as much as you do.  If so, they will be able to bond with them from the start and capture some really sweet moments of your family in their element.  They will need to be the right combination of patient and spontaneous to really capture your dogs’personality.three dogs walking their owners during their family portrait session showing tips to incorporate dogs into family portrait sessions

9.  Let Your Dog’s Personality Shine:

Indulge them and bring out their uniqueness.  Don’t force them to be anyone other than who they truly are.  If they start mercilessly begging for belly rubs mid-session, go for it, capturing their sweet playful nature.

black and white dog belly rubs during a engagement session in pennsylvania

10. Don’t Force Traditional Portraits:

Getting a shot like this one might be the reason you are hiring a photographer in the first place, but believe me when I say it can’t be forced. When I photograph an engagement session like this one, it takes time. I actually try a few times throughout the session.  I take a few minutes here or there and get everyone settled and still and try it. In Kayla & Andy’s case, they were sure Maddy wouldn’t show up in photos, either to sit still or to have any features show as her fur is so dark, but I had some tricks up my sleeve and they were really happy with this shot:

Washington dc family tips for a great Dog Engagement Session

Even in this shot, we were contending with the intense sun, wind and all the other people that were also in Washington DC‘s Tidal Basin for the peek of the National Cherry Blossom Festival.  If you live in DC, you know what I mean.  There are tens of thousands of people, lots of puppy distractions, and background distractions, too.  I waited for wandering tourists to dissipate and had the couple hold their smiles as I waited for Finn to relax, and the wind to blow Ellen’s hair just right:

a washington dc engagement session with a couple and dog taken in spring during the cherry blossom festival in the tidal basin

11. Bring a Handler

Dogs’ attention spans are way shorter than humans. While a lot of my engagement sessions last a few hours, dogs are usually good for about 30 minutes. You can have someone bring your dog to the shoot and bring them back or hang out while you finish your shoot. Either way, it will go way better than you try to manage your dogs the entire time yourself.  Haaaa kisses for everyone!

Image of the couple kissing as their dog looks up at them with it's tough out giving kisses too

12.  Have Fun & Love your Dogs:

I’ve saved the best for last as this is my most important tip for successfully including your dog in your engagement session. If your dog wants to do something crazy (dig a hole in your garden, roll on her back in the dirt, chase a squirrel, cuddle on your lap, etc.) play along. Be free, and have a good laugh.  It’s all about real life, real love, and the real you with Rhinehart Photography.

unique image of the couple sitting on their gator with all the puppies around them for this Dog Engagement Session shoot

Looking for a Photographer who is Great with Dogs?

I hope you enjoyed reading my 12 tips for capturing an engagement session with your dog.  As a professional photographer with over ten years of experience, these are my go-to pieces of advice.  If you are looking to hire a photographer to capture your engagement session, family session, or even wedding, and want someone who loves dogs and has experience capturing authentic moments as you have seen above, please reach out to me!

tips for natural Dog Engagement Session photos in dc

Who Wrote This Article?

My name is Lisa Rhinehart and I’m an award-winning photographer who has been shooting for a little over ten years!  I’m a pet owner, too, and live in south-central Pennsylvania in a small University town.  I shoot often in PA, but also serve Washington DC, New York City, and well beyond. Distance is no problem as we can meet initially via video chat and can travel to you. You can read more about my engagement sessions here.  I have so many great options that I’m sure you’ll love. Dogs are family, too :).

Hungry for More?

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *