Whoever thinks our pets aren’t integral members of our family is clearly misinformed. Cats, dogs, birds, bunnies, hedgehogs, lizards—we love our animals like they’re our own children…which is why it’s normal to feel like a family photo shoot isn’t complete without them. If you have a maternity or engagement shoot booked and you want to bring Felix or Fido on set, here are a few tips to ensure a successful shoot.

#1: Manage Your Expectations
While we may treat them like our children, they are first and foremost animals. Because of our fundamental differences, you might want to lower your expectations. We say lower because unless you have a trained circus animal, your cat or dog is likely going to come on set doing cat or dog things. Don’t expect your pets to smile (or even look at the camera), and don’t assume that they want to sit in one spot for an hour while you try and find the best pose. After all, the point of having kitty or pooch on set is to showcase their adorable and unique personality.

#2: Make Sure They’re Good and Tired
Sometimes our pets are inherently lazy or calm. And sometimes they’re monsters ready to pounce on anything they see. We recommend that you give them exercise before the photo shoot to ensure they’re more compliant and willing to pay attention. It’s especially important to tire them out if they’re young, otherwise, you’ll be so busy chasing after them that you’ll lose sight of the purpose of the photo shoot. As much as we totally get your infatuation—nay, obsession—with your pet, we still want to make sure you’re satisfied.

#3: Bring Their Favourite Treats on Set
A little bit of gentle encouragement never hurt anyone. The key to a well-behaved cat or dog is bribery. Load up a baggy of their favourite treats (the stinkier the better—think cheese and hot dogs) and if they start to lose focus, bring their attention back with a high-quality snack. Treats are a great way to get a dog to face the camera. By holding a treat just behind the camera, your dog will be so busy staring and waiting for it to drop that there will be plenty of time to grab a couple of adorable shots. If the treats are greasy, don’t forget to bring a couple of wet wipes.

#4: Let Them Do Their Thing
Who needs television when you have a dog? Each pooch has their own silly, strange, and hilarious personality. Let it shine. Try not to control them. Let them play, and be yourself with them. If your pet is important enough to include in your special photo shoot, you and your partner should embrace them for who they are. Those moments when a photographer captures your reaction to your fur baby’s funny gesture are pure magic.

#5: Give Them a Good Brush
You spend time and money looking your best for an engagement shoot. Maybe you got a fresh haircut or bought a new outfit for the occasion. So why show up on photo day with a smelly pet that may or may not have been rolling around in mud? Although you probably think they smell like roses, the rest of us only smell wet dog. Before the shoot, pamper your pooch and make their coat shine. Take them to the groomer or give them a bath and try your hardest to keep them out of rain, mud, or garbage before their glamour shot.

Cindy June is a photographer whose passion is to capture authentic moments…including the love of your pet. Are you and your fiancé interested in an engagement shoot with your pet? Contact Cindy June Photography today.