Holiday Pet Photography: Golden Moments

Are you an amateur photographer or do you occasionally get the perfect shot of your dog?  With the holidays approaching opportunities abound to capture this festive season with our goldens.  The tips below will help you make the most of your shots. 

To Pose or Not to Pose

A picture of your dog lounging on a chair makes a great photo.  For a more dramatic shot, try getting down to your golden’s eye level.  If you wait long enough, they will get used to you and your camera. 

A dog playing fetch, chasing leaves, sitting in a field of flowers or romping in snow make interesting scenes.  But catching our pups zooming around the yard is difficult.  To capture them it may take a helper to call for the dog while you concentrate on shooting.   Pre-focusing on a particular spot helps; your dog runs to it and there you are, ready to snap the shot.  Experiment with fast and slow shutter speeds to create blur, which exaggerates movement. 

ImageMarley doing the dog paddle

A couple ideas to lure your dog out for indoor action shots is to find something your dog can’t resist like an open bag of dog food, an open screen door, or looking out the window.  Be creative and incorporate your dog’s personality.  Value the innate character of your pup.

 Fill the frame with your pet’s face and fur; close up shots often make beautiful animal portraits.  Unusual portraits featuring individual parts of your dog you love, i.e. feathered tail, expressive eyes or wet nose, is an option.   Try black-and-white shots.  Shoot a lot of pictures; you can select the best later.


Eye level picture of Frank – Sadie & Marley’s Cousin

 Timing is Everything

Wait to take a picture of your golden retriever after a walk or romp in the park.  She will be more relaxed and chances are you will get some great pictures of your dog.  At this point, your pup should be panting and looking up at you with that goofy, golden grin. 

Background Light and Color

Jeannine Frest of Frest Photography in San Francisco has experience taking engagement and wedding pictures of couples with their dogs.  She has some important suggestions for proper lighting. “If you are shooting outdoors, light in the early morning, late afternoon or evening is optimal.  The same goes for indoors, especially if you have a dog that likes to sit or rest in front of a window (anxiously awaiting Santa and his reindeer).”  Different rooms in your house get different light at different times. Make sure the room you use as a backdrop is at its brightest. If your kitchen gets bright morning light, capture photos during the breakfast hour. 

 For maximum detail in your pet’s coat, a bright sky when the sun is gently diffused by high clouds can work well. Also consider the background in relation to your dog’s color in order to create contrast.  A “red” golden shows up best against brighter or lighter colors and vice-versa.  Simple and colorful backgrounds bring your golden retriever into focus.  A blank wall, blanket, colorful rugs and toys will brighten up the photo.

To prevent those eerie glowing eyes, try not to use a flash.   Shoot in daylight or use high ISO, sports mode, and any low-light setting if you need to.

Trick or Treat

So you have considered your background, tired your dog out and are ready to take your best shots.  Still, your golden retriever is not cooperative.  Nothing works better than bribery.  Tease your pup first by giving him a few small treats.  Once he knows you have the tasty treats and you’re giving them out, keep them in your hand and near the camera while you start to photograph.  Holding the camera in one hand and the treat in the other requires practice, but bringing the treat from your golden’s eye level and up to the camera keeps them engaged.  Their expressive eyes make a great photo and capture your dog’s soul.  A squeaky toy also captures your dog’s attention. 

Holiday Greetings

 Whether you send out photo cards or just want some fun photos for the holidays, try these tips. 

  • Place your dog by a wrapped gift box or gift bag.  You can put a treat on top or in the box/bag to make the curious dog’s expression engaging.   
  • Have your dog sit or lie down and drape Christmas tree lights around the dog’s feet or neck.  It goes without saying that the lights should be cool to the touch, untangled and removed after the photo session.
  • Pictures with Santa are always fun.  Our two dogs never pose perfectly but the candid, goofy shots with Santa have given us a good laugh. 
  • If there is snow on the ground, make a “snow dog” or snowman and take a picture of your golden next to it.


Sadie by the Christmas Tree

Bring in the Experts

For times you want a special photograph, consult a professional photographer.  They typically will come to your home or shoot in the studio and are experts at making your dog feel comfortable.  Many donate their time to local humane and rescue groups to promote adoptable pets.   A photographer will capture your golden at a stage of their life that you want to remember and keep forever.  The photographer will work with you to find the ideal location, best time of day, ideal lighting and the ability to capture your pet’s best expressions. 

Now that you have some holiday photography tips, grab that digital camera and start your photo session today.

Happy Holidays from Just Love Goldens!    


Frest Photography:

Modern Dog:

Petfinder Pro:

Digital Photography School:

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