The holiday season is all about spending time with your loved ones, so you might want to take some cute pet Christmas photos! Everyone who owns an animal can agree that our pets are members of our family. Capturing the best moments with the entire crew means we can treasure them forever.
Pet photography is tricky. Animals are much harder to control than human models. Their spontaneity can cause unexpected problems even at the most carefully planned photo shoots. But, it’s also one of the best photography niches for experimenting and creativity.
In this article, we’re sharing our best tips for taking Christmas pet photos. You’ll learn how to use props, backgrounds, perspectives, and more to create the perfect portraits and action shots!
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1. Use Props To Enhance the Christmas Atmosphere
Who doesn’t love experimenting with various props and accessories for Christmas family photos with your pets? Santa hats, reindeer antlers, or wrapping paper reminds us of the season’s magic. They keep your pet photos feeling festive and enhance the image’s atmosphere.
It’s helpful if the pet is patient enough to wear a Santa hat for those few seconds while you take the photo. But, not all pets tolerate this! If your furry friend is putting up a fight, get a little creative. You can still take amazing Christmas pet pictures by placing them into wintry surroundings, as I did in the image below.
2. Avoid Distracting Backgrounds & Get Creative with Bokeh
A distracting background can take away your photograph’s essence. The more unnecessary details visible, the less the viewer can focus on your pet. So I recommend a location that’s as simple as possible.
You can take photos in front of an empty wall for studio-like simplicity. But for Christmas pet photography, try using some decor. Have your pet pose in front of the Christmas tree and blur the background. You’ll get gorgeous bokeh from the Christmas lights.
Creating bokeh and background blur is a good way to separate your subject from the backdrop. The shallower the depth of field, the smoother the setting will appear. This technique is an excellent tool for outdoor pet portraits, too.
To achieve this look, you need a wide aperture lens (around f/1.8) and a long focal length (over 85mm). This pose makes excellent pet photo Christmas holiday cards!
3. Include Other Family Members in Pet Christmas Photos
There’s nothing cuter than pets interacting with their owners. To create an authentic holiday atmosphere, you need love and compassion. Include other family members in your Christmas pet photos for all the warm and fuzzy feelings.
Candid shots in front of the tree create a cozy and warm atmosphere. But you can also try other poses, like kissing the pet, hugging them, or just sitting together for a portrait. Christmas family photos with pets show the love that we all feel toward our four-legged friends.
4. Use Pet Handling Techniques to Keep Them Relaxed
For pet photography, it’s crucial to have your subjects relaxed. Stress is often visible in photos. It’s best to avoid strong flashes so you don’t scare your pet. If they’re afraid of loud noises, such as the camera’s shutter, use silent mode.
You can also use common pet handling techniques to help create the holiday pet photos you want. Take pictures in a familiar environment where your pets feel safe. Practice poses beforehand or use treats and toys as incentives and rewards.
Use a Christmas blanket or pillow to make them as comfortable as possible. Not only will it benefit your pet’s comfort, but it will also add to the festive mood of the photo.
5. Enhance Your Composition with Different Perspectives
Generally, I recommend getting down to the pet’s level when taking a picture. This will make the viewer feel more like a part of the photo. It also creates a foreground and a more distinct background.
But for holiday pet photos, changing perspectives can also enhance the photo composition. Try taking a shot from above. If the pet is sitting and looking upwards, you’ll capture your every-day view. If your pet is bigger, stand on a chair to capture the full effect.
Wide-angle lenses also create a different point of view in your pet photography. They allow you to capture your pets from much closer while still including their entire body in the image. Capturing movement with a wide-angle will have outstanding composition results. I also use dynamic tension for more dramatic and interesting photos.
For pet photography, I recommend a wide-angle focal length between 20 and 35mm. This length won’t distort your subject too much, but it will create the effects mentioned above.
Combining perspective, lenses, and a well-chosen background will spice up your photos. It also helps make your Christmas pet photography unique.
6. Engage Pets with Fun Wrapping Paper Tricks
Pets — especially cats — love boxes and wrapping paper. Pets like to have fun, so using boxes and wrapping paper will engage them. And if they see that their owner is also playing, it will make them feel safe.
Try wrapping a large box and put your pets into it. This works with dog photography the best, as they are the most patient to stay in one position. Cats also love boxes, but you may need a smaller one. You can even add some lights in the background to create bokeh and enhance your cute Chritsmas pet photography.
If you don’t have a box, use wrapping paper and a bow to put on or around your pet. Crumple the paper or watch your cat attack the bow! Remember, the goal is to have fun. If you see your pet showing any discomfort, take the bow off or put away the paper.
7. Get Candid Shots Outside Playing in the Snow
Just like kids, your festive Christmas pets will find snow amusing. Their first encounter with snow is the best. Since they’ve never seen it before, they try to understand what it is! These moments are adorable to photograph.
Dogs sniffing, sneezing, or rolling in the snow make for unique, candid photo ideas. Take some props mentioned above to add a festive atmosphere. Snow always enhances Christmas pet photography.
First, let your dog run around in the snow (if the environment is safe). You can capture some exciting action shots, like when the dog is in the air. Try catching the snow flying around him as he jumps off the ground.
One problem with snow is that it’s too highlighted. It often gets blown out in the pictures. To avoid this, use manual mode or exposure compensation. It also helps to shoot in RAW, so that you can fix the strong whites in post-processing.
8. Set the Christmas Mood with Fairy Lights
Fairy lights are one of the most prominent symbols of Christmas. You see them everywhere before and during holidays. They’re on shops, streets, and your own home!
So why not incorporate lights into your Christmas pet photos to create a magical atmosphere?
Use a dark background with as little ambient light as possible. This will make the lights pop out from the backdrop. Have your pet stand in front of these lights. Use a wide aperture to blur the bright dots and create beautiful bokeh.
For this pose, the light will come from the background. You’ll need a gentle flash or softbox to illuminate your pet’s face. Add a stocking or fake snow for perfect pet Christmas holiday cards!
You can also put these lights into a jar and use them to illuminate your pet. This will create side lighting. When combined with a dark background, you’ll get dramatic, contrasty images. Plus, they create a magical atmosphere for your Christmas pet photos!
Even though pets are not the easiest models to photograph, working with them is rewarding. During the festive holiday season, there are so many opportunities for Christmas pet pictures. In the end, take holiday pet photos that you can use as pet photo Christmas cards or treasure forever.
We hope that these pet photography tips and tricks help you advance your holiday pet photos! Don’t be shy about getting creative, and use fun props for better images. Always consider perspective and composition, and try different camera settings for bokeh and action shots.