I always love getting to help my clients prepare for their engagement session; everything from planning their outfits and makeup, to picking a location makes me more even excited for their upcoming shoot. I occasionally have clients ask if I recommend bringing any props to their session and generally, my advice is no! I know that may surprise some people, but I want the session to be about the couple and not about something that may or may not go out of style in a few years. There is one huge exception to this rule and that is bringing your pet!! Okay, okay, a pet is not a “prop” per se, but it’s definitely something a little extra and I absolutely LOVE when they join us. Our pup, Granger, is a huge part of our lives and so I know it’s something really special to include them in such an important event such as your engagement or wedding.
The last thing I want it to be, however, is a bit of added stress! So to help alleviate that, I’m sharing a few tips that will make it even more successful!
1. Bring Treats!
If you take absolutely nothing else from this post except this, it will be a HUGE help! It’s no secret that most dogs love food, so I can hold up a treat behind the camera to grab their attention. This is the best time to break out the “good” stuff — pick really smelly, savory treats that they don’t usually get so they are extra excited about earning it!
2. Pick a Dog-Friendly Location
This is somewhat of a two-parter! First, we want to select a location that dogs are allowed because, well, if not, we will likely get kicked out! For instance, pets are not welcome above the stairs of The Lincoln Memorial, so that isn’t the best spot for your furry friend to join us. Secondly, you want it to be a spot where they can be themselves. Our dog is AMAZING in front the camera (her mom is a photographer, after all), but gets super stressed in the city and would completely fail if we tried to include her in a downtown session. Know your dog and pick a spot where they can feel relaxed and can focus!
3. Invest in a Nice Leash
You and your fiance are going to be all sorts of dressed up for your session, so your dog should be as well! You wouldn’t want that old, hot pink leash to clash with your fancy outfits, so try to find a nice complementary option at a local boutique or even PetSmart!
4. Practice, practice, practice.
It may feel silly, but it’s always good to try to practice getting your pup’s attention for photos at home before the session so they know what to expect! Find out what noises or phrases can catch (and hold!) their attention so that I can use them during our shoot! We will also do a little loose leash walking, so take a stroll around your neighborhood (with the new leash purchased in #3!) to give your dog some practice time.
5. Set Expectations.
Finally, head to the shoot without any of those Pinterest perfect photos in mind. Dogs are dogs which means they may not perform exactly as you would expect them to based on their behavior at home. They are in a new location, surrounded by new people, with a camera shoved into their face… it’s NORMAL that they are a bit out of their element! Trust me, I will 100% believe you when you say your pup doesn’t act like at home! Just relax and enjoy them as they are — I promise, the photos of them licking your face will be even more special than if they were perfectly posed!
One “extra” tip that I wanted to include that is especially important for couples who are bringing their dog to the wedding day — hire a handler! Find a neighbor or distant family member who won’t be involved in as much of the day as say, Mom, and ask if they wouldn’t mind looking after your sweet dog. It will take the stress off of you two to know they are in good hands. This is also something to consider for your engagement session if you’re bringing more than one or have a very strong dog; I can typically wrangle one while you get a few solo portraits, but more can be a bit much!