How to Take Picture-Perfect Holiday Photos With Your Pet

By: Wendy Rose GouldUpdated:

Chewy Studios

How to Take Picture-Perfect Holiday Photos With Your Pet

So you want to include your pets in your holiday photos—after all, they are an essential part of your family! Easier said than done, right? Lucky for you, Chewy’s Head of Photography, Kornell Samuels—who literally spends his days snapping pix of pets (uh, can you say dream job!)—has more than a few tricks up his sleeves and he’s spilling all his secrets to help you capture the best holiday pet photos.

What You’ll Need:

Pro Tip: If you don’t have a tripod, you can easily DIY your own setup. Simply prop your smartphone against a wall, a small stack of books, or another sturdy surface and set the timer on your phone’s camera. Make sure your phone is on selfie mode so you can step back, see what’s in the frame, and adjust as needed.

How to Take Holiday Pet Photos: Step By Step

holiday pet photos

1 Choose Your Location

Find a photogenic spot that comfortably fits your family. Popular spots include:

  • Beside the fireplace
  • On the couch
  • Next to the Christmas tree
  • In your backyard

Solid color walls can make great backdrops, as can brick walls. You can even hang a bedsheet—but make sure it’s nicely pressed, without wrinkles.

You’ll want to make sure your location has good lighting, too. Pets don’t like flashes, so avoid using one for your photo.

Natural light tends to photograph best, and the light source should be in front of you. If you’re inside, open all the windows to let in plenty of light and then face the windows. Posing with your back against a window can create a silhouette effect that casts you and your pet in harsh shadows.

If you’re outside, find a spot with some shade so the sun’s not in anyone’s eyes.

holiday pet photos

2 Choose Your Wardrobe

Your style options are endless: If you’re going for chic Christmas photos with your dog, get everyone dressed to the nines and put your pet in an adorable bow tie. Aiming for an “ugly holiday sweater” vibe? We’ve got you covered.

But remember: Dressing up might not be as fun for your pet as it is for you. If your dog or cat isn’t accustomed to wearing clothing, practice with them in advance. Rewarding them with treats and praise can help them get comfortable. But be sensitive to their feelings—if your pet shows signs of stress, don’t push it. Instead, opt for a festive collar or bandana, or simply let your pet’s personality shine all on its own.

Frisco Buffalo Plaid Printed Personalized Dog & Cat Bandana
Frisco Buffalo Plaid Printed Personalized Dog & Cat Bandana
$13.24
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Frisco Red Buffalo Plaid Dog & Cat Bow Tie
Frisco Red Buffalo Plaid Dog & Cat Bow Tie
$6.99
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Frisco Deluxe Marled Fair Isle Reindeer Dog & Cat Christmas Sweater
Frisco Deluxe Marled Fair Isle Reindeer Dog & Cat Christmas Sweater
$17.99
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holiday pet photos

3 Strike a Pose

Arranging multiple family members for your photo? Use the "V" method. Line everyone up with the tallest people on the ends and shortest in the middle, so that the tops of your heads make a V shape.

For cats and small dog breeds, you may want a family member to pose holding them. That’ll prevent them from wandering off.

Pro Tip: Decide on your arrangement before you bring in your pets, and make the setup process as quick as possible. You’ll likely have about 5 to 10 minutes before your pet gets too bored or overwhelmed to participate.
holiday pet photos

4 Call Attention to the Camera

For many pet parents, the biggest challenge of taking Christmas pictures with dogs or cats is getting them to look at the camera. There are a couple different tactics to try, Samuels says.

One is to ask a friend to take your photo. If your pet already knows and likes this person, even better—they’re more likely to look up when your friend calls their name.

You can also give your volunteer photographer one of your pet’s favorite toys to hold near the lens. Once your pet locks eyes on that toy, it’ll appear that they’re looking directly at the camera.

Taking photos on your own? A dog selfie stick smartphone attachment can help grab their attention. The Pooch Selfie attachment, for example, looks like a tennis ball toy—and it even squeaks when you squeeze it.

Pro Tip: Give your pet lots of playtime and exercise before your photo shoot. A tired cat or dog is more likely to stay chill and still for photos, so make sure to work a long walk, game of fetch or feather wand session into your schedule for the day.
holiday pet photos

5 Break Out the Treats

One of the biggest hurdles of photo-taking with pets is getting them to sit still. Practicing your dog’s sit and stay skills in advance can help. (Get a refresher course here and here.) When it’s time to take the photo, give your dog the command, snap the photo, then reward them with a treat.

Hey, what about us cat parents? Your cat might not sit on command, but you can still use treats to encourage them to chill on your lap or in your arms.

holiday pet photos

6Remember to Have Fun!

Turn on some festive Christmas music to set the mood, tell some jokes to generate real laughter among the humans, and plan for something fun to do afterward as a nice reward, like walk outside or some extra playtime. Remember to take breaks when your pet shows signs of stress, like panting, vocalizing or acting standoffish. The real joy and togetherness you create in the moment will translate beautifully to your photo.

How to Share Your Holiday Pet Photos

Now it’s time to share your photo on social media or, if you’re going old-school, create some printed pet holiday cards. (You can upload your favorite pic to a site like Minted that’ll allow you to design your own cards.)

For extra holiday cheer, add a festive, pet-themed pun! Some of our favorites:

  • We Woof You a Merry Christmas / We Wish You a Meowy Christmas
  • Meowy & Bright
  • Pup on the Housetop
  • Deck the Paws
  • The Furriest Noel
  • Barkin’ Around the Christmas Tree
  • Happy Paw-lidays!
  • Jingle Paws

Want to do more with your holiday pics? There are so many ways to turn your photos into lasting mementos, including:

Malden International Designs
Malden International Designs "Here Comes Santa Paws" Holiday Picture Frame
$12.03
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Frisco Plaid White Personalized Coffee Mug
Frisco Plaid White Personalized Coffee Mug
$7.98
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Frisco Plaid Woven Throw Personalized Blanket
Frisco Plaid Woven Throw Personalized Blanket
$59.01
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Whatever you choose to do with your holiday pet photos, make sure to share them with us on social media at @Chewy. Happy holidays!

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By: Wendy Rose GouldUpdated:

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