How to Take Great Holiday Photos with Your Dog

For every year that our family has had a dog, we have taken a holiday photo with our dog (or dogs). I know we’re not alone in including our dogs in our holiday celebrations.

However, it isn’t every year that we succeed in getting a great holiday photo with our dogs. Sometimes our dogs in the “mood” to cooperate. Other times we need to use the flash and then they look like demon dogs.

Also, our dog Sadie has black fur. Because of her dark color, she just disappears into the background. Given all this there has got to be a way to take great holiday photos with your dog.

And there is.

Portions of this article first appeared on

dog holiday photos

Including pets in the holidays

According to a survey from BarkBox, nearly nine in 10—or 90%—of pet owners include their pup in holiday celebrations in some way. The most popular ways dog people include their pup in their holiday traditions?

  • 58 percent give them a special meal
  • 57 percent get them a dog Christmas stocking
  • 56 percent take holiday dog photos with their family
  • 30 percent sign their pup’s name—or put a paw print—into their holiday cards

This year we can all take a slightly different approach to holiday dog photos. That’s because I’ve gathered advice on how best to include your dog in that holiday family photo and ensure the dog looks great.

Taking Great Dog Holiday Photos

I spoke with Karolina Bazua, creative director of Barkem and Tailies in Boca Raton, Florida. Barkem and Tailies is a product and lifestyle creative agency that specializes in pet product photography.

Bazua is a dog mom herself, with three dogs. They are Astro and Aspen, red border collies, and Lola, a cockapoo. Her dogs double as models when shooting products for her clients. Clearly, her dogs are trained and well behaved.

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Bazua also takes dog holiday photos.

“I do photograph my three pups during the holidays in their little Christmas outfits because they’re just so stinkin’ adorable,” she says. “It definitely helps that we trained them at a young age to listen to basic commands. As long as there’s a treat involved, they’re committed.”

Here are some of Karolina’s tips to get the holiday photo with your dog that you want.

Best Time of Day to Take Dog Holiday Photos

Early in the day is sometimes the best since the dogs will have the most energy around that time. At the same time, shooting before they’ve been fed tends to entice them to cooperate for a few extra treats.

If you’re going to do your photo shoot outdoors, consider the time of day and weather. The best time to photograph outside is when the lighting is the softest and not directly overhead—that “bad” time is around noon.

Taking photos with your pets outside

The good times would be early in the morning (two to three hours after sunrise) or later in the afternoon (two to three hours before sunset). Also, a cloudy day can really work to your advantage. You won’t have to deal with squinting or harsh shadows and the clouds diffuse the light.

Here’s another benefit to photographing your dogs outdoors:

“If you’re in a well lit area, there’s no need to use flash,” she says. However, if you do find yourself needing the flash, just don’t have the dog look directly at the camera.

Or if you end up with demon dog eyes, you can always fix that with a photo-editing app. Even the editing settings on an iPhone can take care of red eye.

Must Have Props to Photograph Dogs

Always have treats on hand to reward good behavior. Another must have? Squeaking toys.

Squeaky toys are the key to getting your dog’s attention or that cute little cock of the head you want to showcase in your photo.

No toys on hand? Bazua recommends the app called WagCam.

“It pulls up your phone’s camera and plays various sounds that grab your pet’s attention,” Karolina says. “Nine times out of ten, you’ll get that cute little head tilt-eyes lit up-ears perked kind of shot.”

great dog holiday photos

(Karolina Bazua)

Believe it or not, you can use your Smartphone to get a professional-looking holiday photo with your pet.

“If you have a newer iPhone, I highly recommend using and experimenting with Portrait Mode. It’s a game changer,” she says. “It gives you that nice blurred background that makes your photograph look like you took it with a professional camera.”

Want to be sure to get your dog to look right at you? Be sure to use the Pooch Selfie–The Original Selfie Ball Stick for Dogs.

Best Backgrounds for Holiday Photos

Putting your pets by a Christmas tree or with holiday décor in the background is always nice.

“If you can get a bit of distance from the décor, you may even get a nice little blurred background, which gives your photo a nice creative and professional touch,” she adds.

Finally, if you’re looking to get a specific shot but the animal doesn’t want to cooperate, move onto the next shot and come back.

“Getting hung up and frustrated is counterproductive and shooting your furry friend should be fun,” she adds. “If they don’t feel like it in that moment, come back to it.”

But when you do get the shot: “Reward your pet.” You want to help them associate taking pictures with treats, affection or something else positive.

With these tips in mind anyone can create their own dog breed holidays cards featuring their own holiday dog photos.

Check out these cool Hanukkah presents for pet lovers.