How to Prepare for Your Pet Portrait Session
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Thursday 08 June
By Kristin Kozelsky
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How to Prepare for your Pet Portrait Session

Hey there! Although pets aren't always super excited about cooperating for a photo session (squirrel!), when we are patient and prepared and then get that perfect shot, it's always awesome. :)  Here are a couple of tips to help you get ready for the session:


1. Wardrobe - Fancy or Laid-back?

How formal would you like to be for this session?  Think about how you want your photos to feel when you look at them and that will help you decide which direction to go. Many people like to wear something one or two steps more formal than their everyday clothes, but the decision is totally up to you.  

Do you want to wear and elegant gown or tux, adorning your pet with a bow tie or collar full of bling? Or are you more of a casual type, wearing your favorite tee and jeans, matching the pooch with a bandanna or simple collar? Be sure that the collar harness you bring is clean and in good condition. If your pet normally wears a harness or a collar but you'd like the photo without his or her normal gear, be sure to bring a brush to help the fur settle into place once that harness or collar is removed.  Be sure your pet is comfortable wearing whatever item you choose by familiarizing your furball with the items before the shoot. 

Choose colors that complement the room or space where you plan to hang the photos, and give consideration to your pet's natural coloring as well!


2. What NOT to Wear

There are some colors to avoid if possible. Bright red and hot pink can be difficult for digital cameras to translate in certain lighting conditions, so I’d avoid solid pieces in those colors. Muted red/hot pink or red/hot pink patterns, or secondary colors are fine. Also, a couple of pointers for women specifically: 1) if you are sensitive about your arms, be sure to wear long or 3/4 length sleeves, avoid tank tops and short sleeves; and 2) while loose-fitting clothes may seem comfortable and like a good way to hide your midsection, boxy shirts and dresses actually tend to make you look bigger in photos, so stick with something that is a little more form-fitting.

I would recommend that you do not match each other in the photo - a sea of white shirts with a white ball of fur in the middle makes it harder to distinguish each pet and individual (not to mention the fact that you might get stepped on by your pet and end up with paw prints all over your white clothes!). Instead, opt for a family of colors. For example, choose from warm colors (e.g., brown, gold, pumpkin, maroon, tan, and purple) or cool colors (e.g., blues, greens, aqua, and grey).


3. Grooming and Preparation

Be sure to set up any appointments for yourself and your pooch ahead of the session. If you color your hair, ensure that the roots are touched up and schedule any nail or other appointments you'd like. Appointments for skin or facial treatments should generally take place no closer than two weeks prior to your session, depending on the treatment. Check with your aesthetician or dermatologist for more detailed information. I would advise against spray tans or Botox for photo sessions; neither tend to translate well to camera.  

Give your pup a bath or set up a grooming appointment if he or she requires a bit more primping than just a bath. Ensure claws are filed or trimmed and bring a brush with you if your buddy has long fur. Lastly, it is essential that all animals that come into the studio are up to date on their vaccines, so check with your vet if you are unsure whether your pet is current.


4. Picture Time!

When it's time for the session, you'll arrive and have a little bit of time to allow your pet to get acclimated to the space before we start working. If he or she is high-energy, it might be a good idea to give them some time to have a good play shortly before you arrive. Depending on the animal and its personality, I may not greet him or her when you first enter the studio.  

Patience is key when working with animals. Sometimes they are just going to do whatever they want to do, which is totally okay. We understand that's how they work, and so there's no pressure for them to constantly direct their full attention to the camera throughout the whole session. Lastly, I do not use flash so you don't have to worry that the sudden pops of light will spook your pet.  



When your buddy first comes into the studio, don't be surprised if I don't play with or greet the him or her; in fact I will most likely be a little standoffish toward your dog in the beginning. This isn't because I don't love or welcome your pup! This technique works to our advantage for the shoot because the session is usually a bit smoother when the dog thinks of me more as an uninteresting piece of furniture rather than his or her new best friend... but after the session I fully embrace all the cuddles, tail wags, and playtime! :)  

While it may seem like a good idea to bring treats or toys for dogs, I actually suggest leaving them packed up and hidden away until after the session. Once we bring the treats or toys out, dogs can get very excited or food-focused and it is usually so distracting for the our furry friend that we are unable to regain his or her attention. Instead, I've found that it's better to just be patient and know that dogs will be dogs - we can let them take breaks and do their thing from time to time, and then we'll be able to get their attention more easily or snap some fun natural photos when they're ready! 

While taking photos of your dog(s) alone, I may or may not have you inside the actual studio with me (but don't worry, there are some windows if you want to peek in!). Sometimes dogs work better when their owners are out of sight, and sometimes they work better when their owners are in the room.  We'll just have to see!



With cats, it's best for the owner to stay in the room and help because kitties don't usually like to stay put. We may have you help place the cat and keep your hands on him or her until we're ready to take the shot. It is also helpful to have a fishing pole toy to catch their attention once we get him or her into place. It is important to work very quickly with cats; our sessions will be planned out in detail before we bring kitters into the shooting space so that we can get as much done as possible in a short amount of time. 


Everybody Else:

Bring 'em!  From snakes to horses, we're ready!


5. When in Doubt, Ask.

I'm always happy to give advice for whatever you might be unsure of. I've been doing this for a long time, so I'm game for really new ideas or keeping it simple. Let's have fun!


P.S. - Our floors are concrete, most of the furniture has washable covers on it, and we have paper towels.  So we're prepared for any 'mistakes' that may happen! ;)


Want More? Inspiration for your pet photoshoot, this way!

Check out more exotic animal photos from my trip to the zoo!

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