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Tips for Photographing Pets at Weddings

12 min read

Photo by Sofia Camplioni

For some couples, pets rank high on the list of must-have shots for their wedding day. Including your clients’ pets in wedding photos can add a unique and personalized touch to their overall experience, not to mention the wall art and albums. However, it should be noted that photographing pets at weddings requires preparation and understanding. Use the following tips for photographing pets at weddings as a guide to prepare yourself and your clients for incorporating pets seamlessly into wedding day photos.

All images are provided by the photographers at Wedding Maps and used with their permission.

Tip #1. Communicate with the Couple About Pets in Advance

Photo by SMJ Photography

This goes for any wedding, really, but it’s imperative that you communicate with the couple ahead of the wedding about any must-haves or other details that they’d like covered in the photos. If they have pets, ask if they want to feature them (and how prominently) during the event, portrait sessions, etc. This early communication will help set clear expectations and allow you to plan accordingly. Understanding their vision and needs will enable you to over-deliver and capture those cherished moments perfectly.

Tip #2. Have a Handler Handy

Photo by Party of Two Photography

If the couple won’t be available to manage or handle the pets, make sure someone is available to commit to the task. It helps if the dog knows the person assigned to them, as it can help keep them calm and cooperative. If you’re lucky, the handler will also be able to assist in positioning the pet and keeping them engaged during the shoot as well.

Tip #3. Get the Pet Wedding-Ready with Grooming

Photo by Aidan Dockery Photography

Everyone should look their best at weddings, including the bride & groom’s pets. Having the pet groomed can help ensure they look sharp when it’s their time to shine. A well-groomed pet will help make the images look even more stunning. This small detail can make a big difference in the final results.

Tip #4. Use Treats or a Clicker for Focus

Photo by Laurentiu Nica

This next tip often works just as well for both children and pets. Try to have treats or a clicker/noisemaker available to help get the pet’s attention when needed. Also, make sure the couple is paying attention to the camera as well so that you don’t miss your shot.The last thing you want is to finally get a clean shot of the pet while the couple are looking away from the camera or making an unflattering expression.

Tip #5. Focus on the Pet’s Eyes

Photo by Ladman Studios

When photographing pets, focusing on the eyes is both crucial and easy to miss. Dogs, for example, tend to have longer snouts. Catching a detailed shot of their muzzle might be cute for one shot, but out of focus eyes tend to make the whole portrait look out of focus. In addition, pets, just like their human counterparts, tend to convey a lot of emotion and connection through their eyes. For this reason, be sure to dial in your autofocus settings accordingly and capture tack-sharp eyes.

Tip #6. Use Fast Shutter Speeds

Photo by TKM Photography

Pets can be unpredictable and quick-moving. It’s a good idea to lean into faster shutter speeds when photographing pets to avoid blur or soft focus from unexpected movement, unless of course you’re trying to capture motion. Because you’re capturing pet portraits at a wedding, there’s really no opportunity for a do-over, so help ensure sharper focus with a faster shutter speed.

Tip #7. Try a New Perspective

Photo by Laurentiu Nica

When including pets in the photos, aim for a variety of angles. Most of us know what it’s like to walk up and look down at a pet. Don’t be afraid to get down to the pet’s level. If possible, have the couple kneel or sit to be on the same level as their pet as well.

top down angle of dog eating a treat during bride prep
Photo by Kivus and Camera

Or, if you’re going to stand and shoot downward, try a top-down angle directly over the pet. You can see how it really adds a unique look to even the most mundane of situations.

Generally, capturing portraits from multiple angles makes for better storytelling and more visually compelling shots.

Tip #8. Capture Both Candids and Poses

Photo by Kivus and Camera

Include a mix of candid action shots and posed photographs. Candid shots capture the natural interactions between the couple and their pets, or by themselves or among guests, adding authenticity to the collection.

Photo by Vow of the Wild Photography

For posed shots, consider the following ideas:

  • V-Up Pose: The couple stands in a V formation, joined at the hips and slightly facing each other, with the dog seated on the ground in front, or they can hold the dog if it’s smaller.
  • Walking Together: Shots of the couple walking with their pet create a dynamic and loving scene.
  • Depth Shots: Place the couple in the background with the pet in the foreground for a creative depth effect.

Tip #9. Keep Calm and Be Patient

A mellow Voice and calm demeanor to avoid getting the pet overly excited. A relaxed pet will be more cooperative and easier to photograph.

Photo by WS Photography

On the topic of calm, it can also help to give the pet time to adjust to the location before starting the shoot, allowing them to feel comfortable in the new environment. If the pet has an adequate amount of time to explore and get comfortable with the location before starting the photoshoot. This adjustment period helps the pet feel more at ease, leading to better cooperation and more natural-looking photos.

Tip #10. Opt for Natural Light Whenever Possible

When it comes to lighting wedding photos featuring pets, natural light is usually the best the way to go. Natural light will provide fewer distractions for the pets and help keep them at ease.

Indoors

Photo by Joanna & Brett Photography

If you have any control in terms of where to set up the shot when shooting indoors, look for big windows or brighter areas that can sufficiently light your subjects, pets included.

Outdoors

Photo by In Love & Adventure Elopement Photography

When outside, look for open shade. If controlling the scene is not an option and you’re playing more of a photojournalistic role, then adjust your ambient exposure settings to provide adequate light.

Conclusion

Including pets in wedding photos adds a layer of love and personalization to the memories captured. By following these tips, you can ensure you’re well-prepared to handle the unique challenges and opportunities that come with photographing pets at weddings.

More Inspiration

Here are some more portraits of pets and other animals at weddings for your inspiration.

Photo by Vows & Peaks Elopement Photography
Photo by SMJ Photography
Photo by JCM Photography
Photo by Green Apple Photography
Photo by CITYLUX Studios
Photo by Michelle Arlotta Photography
Photo by Courtland Photography