Family Photos With Your Dog: 6 Tricks for Aww-Worthy Shots

Taking family photos with dogs can be ruff, but these tips can make the process easier with great-looking results.

Updated February 2, 2024
Young man is playing with a dog and do selfie

If you're looking to get a great family picture, you probably want to include your pets as well, especially if it's for a special occasion. Getting a great photo with your dog takes a little planning, but you can certainly do it when you have some expert tips. Say cheese — or treat!

1. Choose a Great Location

Before you pick your location, you'll have to decide whether you want an indoor or outdoor shot. Outdoor areas can look more natural with a dog and have better lighting, but indoors, you won't have to worry about the weather or the wind.

Outdoor Locations

young girl taking selfie with dog

Dog behavior expert and author Wendy Nan Rees suggests avoiding busy areas and wide open spaces. She says, "Avoid taking pictures in open fields, busy roads, dog parks, high grassy areas, and sand dunes — unless you want your dog in action, of course." Many times, you can get great outdoor shots without even leaving your yard. Consider taking shots with your dog in these locations:

  • Enjoying the sun on a patio or deck
  • Sitting in the garden or among plants
  • Near a doghouse
  • Near a grill, if your dog begs for food
  • Laying near an attractive fence or gate

Being outside seems natural for pictures with your pooch, and you can get some great action shots with natural lighting. However, you are at the mercy of weather, wind, cloudy days, and, if you live up north in the winter, maybe even snow.

Indoor Locations

Young man with dog on bed

You spend a lot of time at home, and a homey indoor shot can send the perfect message of peace and comfort or an exciting scene of play and joy. When you're indoors, you don't have to worry about weather or the wind, but it's not as natural of a setting either.

Nan Rees suggests having a helper to get your dog in the right mood and position. "I have always found having a handy helper is the best way to go. They are great for squeaking the toys, helping control your animal, and retrieving the balls you've been throwing in the air. After an afternoon of photos, have a special treat for your handy helper and your pooch."

2. Get Great Lighting

Woman holding her black poodle

Whether you're indoors or out, lighting is essential for a great photo. The intensity of light, the direction it comes from, and the contrast and color of light all work together to create the most incredible pictures.

Wendy suggests, "For photo lighting, daylight works best. If you're going to be inside, make sure you set your lighting to avoid shadows. Try not to work with a flash, as this can sometimes scare your pet. If you must use a flash, I always suggest desensitizing your pet first. Basically, practice flashing the camera and rewarding them with "good boy" or "good girl" and a treat, so they become used to it."

3. Get Creative and Funny

Whether you are indoors or out, showing your dog's natural personality will give you the best photo of your puppy. Is your pooch more reserved? Go for a more placid picture. Are they more rambunctious? Get toys involved. Fortunately, there are some things you can do to get your dog to give a more interesting picture. Rees suggests:

Move Your Body

Try moving your body — stand on a chair, sit on the ground, lie on the ground, go behind a pole.

Quick Tip

Make sure you have good control of your pup if you're going to a public area.

Grab Some Peanut Butter

Use room-temperature peanut butter to elicit different expressions from your dog. Place a small amount of peanut butter in your dog's mouth, on the tip of the nose, and on the sides of the mouth. These different positions make for all different facial expressions.

If the peanut butter is sticky enough, it's also fun to watch their tongues stick to the roof of their mouth or the tongue reach to get at the tip of their nose. My favorite is when it is on the side, and they really have to reach their tongue out to get it.

Related: Is Peanut Butter Good for Dogs? What Types to Use (and Avoid)

Bring Their Favorite Noisy Toy

Take a favorite toy, ball, or anything that makes a squeaky sound. Squeak it, dangle it, and throw it up in the air for great action and head-turning poses.

Quick Tip

A set of car keys can work to get your dog's attention if you forget the toy.

4. Choose Who Takes the Picture

You want a picture of yourself and your dog, so you may think you have to wrangle a friend to take the picture. That's certainly an option. But you can also use a timer to take a photo on a tripod.

Holiday Photos With a Tripod

family mother father and kids with dog before Christmas

If you're taking holiday photos with your dog and need the whole family included, a tripod with a timer is an excellent choice. When using a tripod, remember these principles:

Make the Tripod Work for You

Don't let the tripod dictate framing and composition. Set the angle and scene you want first, and then make your tripod work from there.

Don't Forget About Leveling

Don't forget to level your tripod before you get all the shots. If your tripod isn't level, you won't get a quality photo, even if all the people and dogs behave.

Take the Camera Strap Off

Remove the camera strap if you're outdoors because a breeze can cause the camera to shake if the strap is attached.

5. Use Assistants for Posing With Multiple Dogs

It's hard enough to get one dog to behave, but photographing yourself with multiple pups can be a challenge. Some important ways to make a photo with multiple dogs work are:

Ask for One Person Per Dog

Have help! Try to have an assistant for each dog if possible. That way, each one has somewhere to look if they are confused. Use helpers that you don't need in the photo.

6. Start With the Simplest Dog

When positioning, start with the most obedient and patient dog and work your way down. The most wiggly and undisciplined dog should be placed last so that he or she doesn't have to sit long!

Hold Up a Treat

If you want all the dogs to look in the same direction at once, consider having one assistant behind the camera and holding up a treat — everyone will snap to attention!

Enjoy Your Photos!

Whether you use a tripod or have helpers who you don't need in the pictures, these tips will help you get the picture you're looking for. Perfect or not, the real purpose of taking great photos with your pooch is to capture their personality and have a great memento to remember that moment in your life. You can use the picture on holiday cards, frame them for the wall, or even keep them on your desk at work. In a photo, your best friend can go with you anywhere!

Family Photos With Your Dog: 6 Tricks for Aww-Worthy Shots