Incorporating your dog in engagement photos

After you’ve selected an engagement location and decided what to wear, you might think about bringing your dog to the engagement session. During the past few years I’ve had several couples include their pup in the pictures. Here are seven tips to successfully include your dog in engagement photos.

1. Inform your photographer

While I enjoy dogs and am happy to incorporate them in your engagement session, that might not be the case with every photographer. I recommend discussing the idea with your photographer before the day of your session. Most photographers will put lots of time and energy into scouting locations and planning things around the light. Showing up unannounced with your pet can throw a wrench into the plans.

2. Choose a dog-friendly location

Now that you’ve informed your photographer about wanting to bring the pup along, you can all decide on an ideal location. While most public spaces are dog-friendly, popular locations can be busy and distracting for your pet. I suggest that you begin at a quieter place so they can focus. Choosing a location the dog is familiar with can also be helpful.

A couple walk with their dog during their Shrine Pass engagement photos

3. Ensure they get some exercise that day

A tired dog is a good (and photogenic) dog. It’s important that you get them outside to run around before the engagement session. Even a long walk can help them release some energy so they can relax during the shoot. The more calm your dog is, the easier they are to work with.

4. Remember to bring treats and accessories

Even the most well-behaved pups need an incentive, especially considering all of the commands we’ll request of them. It’s important that you bring an abundance of treats and water. Select a collar and leash combination that doesn’t distract from the rest of your outfit. Neutral items look best while high visability ones should be left at home. Don’t forget waste bags or anthing else the dog will need.

Chris feeds a treet to their dog Ella as Angie looks on during their Jefferson Park Engagement

5. Bring someone along to help

We will almost always begin the session with the dog. That means that we most likely won’t have time to take the dog home. Often we will constantly switch between including the dog and not so having a friend or family member there to take the dog for a couple minutes is essential. We can get everything we need with the dog at the first location so the helper can then take the dog home.

6. Set realistic expectations

While you may have been inspired by the thousands of images on Pinterest or Instagram of couples with their dog, it’s important to remember that we’re there to capture your natural interactions together. We will have limited daylight during the session so asking something of your dog that they’re not accostomed to might not be the best use of our time. Don’t get upset if your dog doesn’t want to sit and smile for the camera. Even the most well-behaved pups don’t want to be the center of attention some days.

Kate and Brian share a kiss near Kriley's pond as their dog Koda keeps a lookout during their Spring Golden Gate Canyon engagement

7. Get the dog groomed well in advance of the shoot

Everyone looks great with a fresh haircut, even your dog. If necessary, you should schedule a grooming session at least a week prior to the engagement shoot. The last thing you want is for them to still be shedding all over your carefully ironed outfits.