Raise your hand if you are a crazy dog lady.
It’s no secret by now that I have a super soft spot in my heart for dogs. I wanted a dog my entire life and at the ripe age of 25 I finally got one – I made the fastest employee adoption record at PAWS Chicago and my life has never been quite the same (in the very best way possible). Sully, my rescue dog, is my very best buddy and my partner in crime. When it came time for my own engagement and wedding photos, it was so important to me that he was included in these special memories.
I’ve been so lucky to photograph some other pretty special pups over the years and wanted to share a few big tips to help incorporate your dog in your engagement session or wedding a breeze!
1. Bring a Friend! Especially on your wedding day, when there are a million things going on. Or consider hiring someone with the sole responsibility of caring for your pup – this is the route we went. This includes grooming before walking down the aisle, ensuring they have plenty of water, and transporting them to and from the wedding. My Maid of Honor walked Sully down the aisle and it was so special to have him there with us on our big day (Room 1520 is dog friendly by the way!), without having to worry about caring for him ourselves. For engagement sessions, we will typically include your pup in about 1/3 of the photos. I always tell my couples to bring a friend with so they can have the pup close when we aren’t shooting with them. I’ve tried to hold onto a leash and take photos but it just doesn’t flow smoothly for a session (and I just want to pet your dog the whole time). Having an extra set of hands to help keep your pup occupied is definitely the way to go!
2. Choose a Familiar Location! For engagement sessions, pick a place that your pup has been to before and is comfortable in. If you’ve never taken your dog to a crowded public place then we probably want to choose a more secluded park or beach they feel at ease at. If you aren’t sure or confident about shooting in public with your pup, then stay at home! Your home is definitely the one place that your pup is on home turf (literally) and will feel most relaxed at. While you can’t really alter your wedding location for your pup you can think of spaces at your venue that aren’t in the limelight and are away from the commotion.
3. Get Plenty of Pre-Session Exercise You know that wonderful “tuckered out” pup you get from a long walk or a dog park date? We want that dog at your session or wedding! Photos are exciting! But we don’t want an overly excited dog for your photos. By getting some of their energy out pre-session or wedding you’re more likely to have an obedient dog during our time together and won’t have to worry about exercising them in between shots.
4. Have Realistic Expectation I always tell my clients with pups or kids, to just roll with the punches. When you were 5 years old, did you ever want to sit still and smile for a photo? Probably not, it didn’t feel natural to you. I capture life, moments, interactions. Of course there will a few “posed” shots, but a lot of my work is getting the silly, funny, heartfelt, unexpected moments that happen in between those standard photos. So if your pup won’t sit, or isn’t looking at the camera, it’s ok. I’ve found that trying to force them to do so doesn’t usually end up well and just puts added stress and pressure on everyone. So, roll with the punches. If your pup just wants to snuggle or won’t stop barking, we’ll roll with it – and I promise you will still get photos from our time together that you will cherish.
5. Don’t forget the basics! Here’s a super simple checklist of things to bring to your session or wedding to enhance your photos and experience.
• A Leash: Keep your pup close at all times. Even if they’re obedient enough to be off leash, it’s best to keep during your session.
•Poop Bags: Just trust me on this one.
•A Lint Roller: Because shedding is no joke, and we want you to be looking your best.
•1 or 2 toys: One with a squeaker to grab your pup’s attention.
•Treats! We want to reward your pup for doing well and encourage good behavior.
•Accessories: Bows, bowties, matching leashes and collars, tuxes, tutus…. because your dog deserves to look festive for the celebration too!