Taking your holiday pet photos at home

This is normally the time of year we start to see holiday photos of our friends and their pets – dogs and cats attired in their best holiday bandanas or funny elf or Santa get-ups.

But as the COVID-19 pandemic dictates the need to stay safe at home, taking the pet to a professional holiday photo shoot at a pet store or mall might not be the wisest course.

Let’s face it. Visits to such places offer a range of problems.

First, crowds of people and their pets waiting in line for their own memorable holiday photos are usually loud and chaotic. According to petcentral.chewy.com, if your pet isn’t accustomed to unfamiliar people, animals and smells, it can be stressful for everyone involved.

Second, a professional pet photo shoot can be a time killer. It takes time to get your pet(s) ready, drive to the shoot and wait in line. All for a photo that may or may not have your precious furry one looking into the camera lens.

Third, the cost. Many places give proceeds to an animal charity. This was always a positive for my family, regardless of how the photo turned out. Some places take at least two photos to give you a choice while others only take one. Some offer packages that include frames, key chains and choices of size and number of photos you want to purchase. Don’t forget the grandparents. Many like to put their animal “grandkids” photos right next to their human counterparts. Most pet parents end up spending more than they planned.

With a little prep work, you can take great holiday pet photos at home. My family considers four things when taking holiday photos of our pets.

First, photo equipment. Traditional or convenience? I’ve used both. The quality of the lens in most cell phones has improved over the years. The ease of taking photos with the cell phone over the 35 mm camera is obvious. I still like using my camera and downloading photos to make edits. But in a pinch, I’ll grab my phone to snap photos.

Second, location. Select an area of your home, inside or out, that your pet is the most comfortable. Even a favorite chair or sofa will work. You’ll get more natural expressions out of your pets when they are the most comfortable in their surroundings.

My husband, Ed, and I choose the backyard because our 6-year-old Lab, Teddy and our 1-year-old cat, Pip, enjoy being there. We pick a sunny day and I follow them around the yard snapping pics. Pip doesn’t care that I’m following, and, after a while, Teddy tolerates it.

Third, holiday attire. Anything goes, from costumes to simple holiday bandanas. Our crew hates costumes, headbands and hats. The key again is picking out items your pet is going to be comfortable with. Try them on ahead of time. Let your pet “play” in them. If it’s rolling around trying to get the Santa suit off you might want to try a headband or bandana. We ordered holiday bandanas from Etsy.com for the boys to wear.

Finally, props. Ribbons, ornaments or decorated theme trees. Again, how comfortable will your pet be around the items? And remember, the photo should be centered around the pet. Too many ornaments or other Christmas baubles can distract from the “star” of the photo.

Ultimately, you want the experience to be the least stressful for your pet. You’ll enjoy it more and you’ll get better photos.

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