How to Photograph Your Dog

Sponsored Post: I am being compensated by Look Who’s Happy for this post. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

The last time Rigby was hanging out on the blog, a few commented about how well-behaved he was for photos, and how their dog would never pose like that. I thought sharing a few of my “trade secrets” and tactics to get my challenging dog to pose might be helpful! Read on if you’re curious how I get Rigby to pose for my shutter snapping.

How to Photograph Your Dog with Look Who's Happy Treats / hellorigby seattle pet blog

How to Photograph Your Dog

1. Teach commands
I’m assuming most of your dogs know sit and down, but if they don’t, that’s just where you should start! Once they’ve mastered those two commands, I started working on “leave it”, “stay”, and “look”. For leave it, I taught by first placing tasty treats in my hand. Rigby would sniff at it, and as soon as he stopped he would get a click and a treat. (We train new tricks with a clicker, which if you’re unfamiliar with clicker training, check out this article!)  We worked up to putting treats on the floor and letting him sniff at it with my hand over the top until he left it, and then was clicked and treated. We worked on this over and over until he would leave the treat pile alone for extended periods of time.

For leave it, I taught by first placing tasty treats in my hand. Rigby would sniff at it, and as soon as he stopped he would get a click and a treat. We worked up to putting treats on the floor and letting him sniff at it with my hand over the top until he left it, and then was clicked and treated. We worked on this over and over until he would leave the treat pile alone for extended periods of time.

How to Photography Your Dog with Look Who's Happy Tempt'n Tenders Chicken & Pumpkin Treats / hellorigby seattle pet blog

For stay, I first put him in a down and then would work on slowly backing away and clicking and treating the longer he would stay in the down position. We also worked on stay a lot while feeding him for dinner. I’d put him in a down, have him stay back from the bowl, and added the “wait” command with a quick release at first, making the release longer and longer the more he got the idea.

For look, Rigby would get clicked and treated whenever he made eye contact with me, eventually working to pair it with the word. This became super handy when it comes to taking a photo since often he is distracted by other things going on.

2. Be patient
Commands are tricky, and sometimes dogs seem to “forget” them. I know this can be super frustrating, but try to not get too upset. If your dog isn’t getting it, say “oops” and try again. And if your dog just isn’t having it, try again later. Sometimes pets, like humans, just need a break or a nap. ;)

How to Photograph Your Dog with Look Who's Happy Treats and Clicker Training / hellorigby seattle pet blog

3. Offer really tasty rewards
Rigby is insanely food motivated which makes posing him for photos a lot easier. We’re using Look Who’s Happy Treats right now, which he is obsessed with. They smell like real meat jerky (probably because they are!), are grain free, and are made here in the USA. Ever since the controversy surrounding jerky treats made in China, I’m super careful to only purchase items made in the USA and also made with meat sourced from the USA, Canada, and New Zealand, which these are.

Look Who's Happy Fetch'n Fillets Venison Jerky Treats Review / hellorigby seattle pet blog

While working on training or for photo shoots, I generally like to have two treats on hand to mix things up and prevent boredom from the treats I’m offering, so I grabbed the Fetch’n Fillets Venison Jerky and the Tempt’n Tenders Chicken with Pumpkin. The Chicken with Pumpkin are super easy to break into smaller bits for posing during photos and working on training, and I like using the jerky treats for bigger rewards since they don’t break apart as easily. We highly recommend Look Who’s Happy treats and will definitely be re-upping our stock when we run low! :)

4. Pick a well-lit environment
I know this one sounds a bit strange, but having excellent lighting is a must for pet photos. Dogs move quickly, and if you don’t have enough light, your shutter speed will be much lower and you’ll end up with Fido turning out blurry. I always try to pose Rigby in bright daylight in front of a window, or outdoors on a bright day. Don’t forget to take a lot of shots too – just like photographing anything else, it’s better to have too many shots than not enough to work with!

Clicker Training for Photographing Your Dog / hellorigby seattle pet blog

5. Have fun
Yes, this sounds dumb, but don’t take it too seriously! Dogs aren’t humans and don’t fully understand what you’re saying… but if you seem angry, they’ll definitely understand that! Training should always be a fun and positive thing. Plus, you’re less likely to get what you want from them if you’re not making it rewarding for them too. I have a bad habit of getting frustrated, so I try to walk away from a training session before I ever get to that point. And don’t forget to get in on the action – try a variety of poses, shots, and angles. It’s important to enjoy your photographer role too!

Have you tried posing your pet for photos? What tips and tricks work for you?


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70 thoughts on “How to Photograph Your Dog

    1. Jenn Post author

      Haha, so true! Training cats “commands” is nearly impossible. I was just lucky growing up that my cats were pretty docile and enjoyed my “photoshoots”.

      Reply
    1. Jenn Post author

      Ah, sorry, should have explained that a bit better! For teaching new commands, I use a clicker which reinforces the behavior I’m trying to shape. So when I click I’m essentially saying “Good boy!” and then giving a treat. Before starting using a clicker, you click and provide a treat to the dog after every click to teach them that click = good. It’s a little bit easier to train that way with new tricks because you don’t have to use any words, just the clicker.

      Reply
  1. Ashlee

    No wonder you named a blog ofter that pup. Just look at that face. I’ll have to try these tips, ticks and treats.

    Reply
  2. Stephanie Volkert

    Rigby is so adorable.

    My hounds totally will not pose for photos. Vinny seems to have short term memory loss (likely from his past abuse), so he just can’t remember. He’s the friendliest, most loving dog ever though, so it’s okay. He can’t help it. Vern just gets way too excited. They both know “sit,” and “shake,” but that’s it. Neither has learned any new commands except “lick” in the years I’ve had them (four years for Vinny, five for Vern).

    I think it can just come with the territory of adopting previously abused dogs. Plus these two feed off each other’s excitement. It’s like trying to wrangle two toddlers who just want to play. I have to separate them if I want to try and photograph either of them.
    Stephanie Volkert recently posted…Macro Monday Mixer #6My Profile

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    1. Jenn Post author

      Thanks Stephanie!

      I imagine it’s much harder getting two to pose than one! Sounds like you’re great at working with them in spite of their past abuses, poor guys!

      Reply
  3. Jordyn

    These are helpful tips, it definitely helps to use treats. I always have a difficult time capturing my pup on camera, it’s like she looks away on purpose just to make me irritated. She’s not all about social media like me I guess (;
    Jordyn recently posted…June GoalsMy Profile

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  4. Becca

    It was REALLY easy to have Lucy pose for the camera, except sometimes she got in a mood where she’d turn her head the second I pulled out a camera. I’ve been thinking about getting a clicker for Twilight — do they work really well?
    Becca recently posted…Do Haters Really Hate?My Profile

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    1. Jenn Post author

      I love the clicker for training new tricks – it makes it super easy when you’re teaching something new so you don’t have to pair a word with it right away and can click for the right behaviors.

      Reply
    1. Jenn Post author

      Aw, thanks Alyssa! Haha, that is definitely true. He still has his moments, but we’re always working on it! ;)

      Reply
  5. Ashley Mason

    These pictures are adorable! I’m getting a puppy this week so I’ll have to try these tips with her when she gets older!

    XO
    Ashley
    privateschoolprepster.blogspot.com
    Ashley Mason recently posted…GraduationMy Profile

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    1. Jenn Post author

      Aw, thanks Ashley! Congrats on the new puppy – be sure to take a ton of photos and video… they grow up SO quick!

      Reply
  6. Chelsie

    Great tips! We trained Rosie to “leave it” the same way (sans clicker). She’s really smart and I have found that a good 15 minute training session will wipe her out just as fast as an hour long walk. We are currently task training to complete her service dog certification. She’s learning “brace” so that I can use her as a support when I need to get up or sit down on a low surface and she’s learning to open doors! She’s really motivated by Trader Joe’s treats right now; but gets bored of them quickly so I’ll have to look into this brand! Thanks for sharing
    Chelsie recently posted…I QuitMy Profile

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    1. Jenn Post author

      Trader Joes does have some great treats, but Rigby definitely needs a lot of options as I find he doesn’t work as hard when he’s “bored”. Training definitely is a great dog exhauster, and it sounds liek you’re doing awesome work with Rosie! :)

      Reply
    1. Jenn Post author

      Clicks just refers to clicker training – sorry, should have clarified that a bit better! Basically, when shaping a new behavior (or teaching a trick) it’s a quick and easy way to say “good boy!”

      Reply
    1. Jenn Post author

      Aw, thanks Hazel! Distractions outside are so hard! Trying to take photos of Rigby on walks when there are people and dogs around is so difficult. Tired dogs are definitely the easiest to photograph :)

      Reply
    1. Jenn Post author

      So glad to hear that, and I know what you mean. I definitely don’t get the perfect shot every time – dogs just move to quick! ;)

      Reply
  7. Shannon Hall

    Rigby is the cutest ever. I have been trying to teach Amaya to be good for pictures… she knows all the commands but she gets distracted so easily! I probably need better treats. Also, I am SO excited we got matched for the book swap!!
    Shannon Hall recently posted…The New & The Old: MayMy Profile

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    1. Jenn Post author

      Haha, it’s probably a little bit of the age factor too. Rigby was impossible to shoot when he was younger! I’m so glad too, I’m excited to see what you think of the books I picked! :)

      Reply
    1. Jenn Post author

      Haha! Rigby loves trying to crash all of my “staged” photoshoots too. I always snap a few with him in them, it’s too funny not to!

      Reply
    1. Jenn Post author

      Aw, thanks! Sorry you don’t have a pet to try it out on, but I’m sure someone will let you borrow theirs! ;)

      Reply
  8. Tiffani

    My dog is such a nut. She actually hates the camera, anytime I pull my phone out to snap a pic of her, or my camera, she runs away! It’s crazy! Your tips are great though, I’ll definitely try some of them out!
    Tiffani recently posted…Monthly Moments {May}My Profile

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    1. Jenn Post author

      Oh no! I’m sure with a little desensitization in the form of lots of treats will get her past that! ;) Good luck!

      Reply
  9. Kim Pincombe Cole

    Rigby is so photogenic! My best dog snaps come when they’re really tired & almost asleep. I know that’s kind of cheating…

    Reply

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